NASA recently shared an image of a snowy, icy expanse dotted by odd roundish features and challenged the public to figure out what it is.
While it has since been revealed that the photo, taken on April 14 as part of NASA’s Operation IceBridge airborne mission, shows the eastern Arctic Ocean’s Beaufort Sea, the apparent holes remain a mystery.
Don Perovich, a sea ice geophysicist from Dartmouth College, noted that the “ice is likely thin, soft, and mushy and somewhat pliable,” and suggests that the “amoeba” shapes could be a result of colliding floes.
“I’m not sure what kind of dynamics could lead to the semi-circle shaped features surrounding the holes,” Nathan Kurtz, a member of NASA’s IceBridge project, commented. “I have never seen anything like that before.”
It has also been posited that “the holes may have been gnawed out by seals to create an open area in the ice through which they can surface to breathe.”
Walt Meier, a National Snow and Ice Data Center scientist, stated, “The encircling features may be due to waves of water washing out over the snow and ice when the seals surface.”
“Or it could be a sort of drainage feature that results from when the hole is made in the ice,” Meier further said.
Making a determination on the strange formations’ origins will require additional research.