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This Hauntingly Beautiful 'Dragon-Skin' Ice in the Antarctic Looks Like It Came From 'Game of Thrones'

May 09, 2017 05:50 AM EDT
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GoPro video shows Antarctica from a penguin's point of view
Dragon Skin Ice
Polynyas are areas of open water surrounded by sea ice. It has strong winds known as "kabatic winds" that produce as much as 10 times as much sea ice as usual.
(Photo : Guy Williams/University of Tasmania via Wochit News/YouTube)

A phenomenon described as "dragon-skin" ice was observed on an ongoing voyage of the Ross Sea in the Antarctic.

Polar oceanographer Guy Williams of the University of Tasmania, alongside other researchers, began the daring voyage in coastal polynyas aboard the vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer in April.

CNET notes that the expedition is dubbed as the PIPERS (polynyas, ice production, and seasonal evolution in the Ross Sea) which includes scientists from eight countries and 14 universities and research institutions.

As explained by Williams in a statement, polynyas are areas of open water surrounded by sea ice. It has strong winds known as "kabatic winds" that produce as much as 10 times as much sea ice as usual. In short, it's an area where large areas of frozen water and fierce winds meet.

"Imagine your standard ice cube tray, filled once. After a week, you get one tray of ice cubes. But if you empty and re-fill the tray each night, you get so much more," William said. "That is what the katabatic winds are doing in the polynya, removing the ice, exposing the water and making more ice form."

What lead to the formation of the bizaare dragon-skin ice?

ABC Net expounded that the meeting of the fresh sea ice and intense winds force the edges of the ice up and together, forming rippled ridges that look like dragon scales.The team saw the dragon-skin ice as their vessel approached "ground zero" of a hurricane-strength katabatic wind event in Terra Nova Bay.

The researchers will also look further on the how the salty brine is excreted in ice formation. Studying the salty brine is important as it helps drive ocean currents and the nutrient is circled around the world, Science Alert reported.

The Antarctic is considered as one of the most mysterious places on the Earth. In 1911, Antarctica's famous "Blood Falls" was discovered. Over the years, scientists have not found an explanation for the phenomenon, until last April, when a research team from the University of Alaska Fairbanks claimed that the river is actually liquid rusts, formed by oxidized iron in salty brine.

READ: 'Blood Falls': Solving the Mystery of Antartica's Eeriest Waterfalls

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