Every family has an oddball. When it comes to the clan of melting structures in Antarctica, the strange kid is the Ross Ice Shelf. At first, it posed as normal, warming just like the rest. In 2017, scientists noticed pieces falling off and believed that it was indeed melting. A team then boarded the biggest floating shelf in the south to drill a hole for testing.
The results floored the researchers. Unexpectedly, the Spain-sized shelf was busy freezing. It was not the only thing that could not be explained. The inside surface of the shaft should have been smooth from being drilled with boiling water. Instead, the interior was made up of jagged ice crystals.
This unusual shelf is a good thing in a world facing a catastrophic rise in ocean levels. Indeed, if Ross and four other southern ice shelves disintegrate, ships would travel up to 3 meters (10 ft) higher than they used to.
From storybook snowcapped mountains to the poles, Earth’s cold spots make for an interesting experience. Ski antics and monster sightings aside, ice fields can produce things that scientists have never seen before, clues about history, and even far-reaching disasters that are born in the Arctic.
Tourists travel to remote places to witness fantastic events, while icebergs and shelves behave in ways that scientists cannot explain. But the frozen depths can also hold some of the most terrifying discoveries and disappearances in the natural world.