The coolest and creepiest Antarctic mysteries
Around 90 million years ago Antarctica was home to a sprawling tropical rainforest with all manner of exotic flora and fauna. However, everything changed once the Ice Age hit and it became the tundra that we are more familiar with today. With a landmass of 13.7 million square kilometres, the majority of which is completely covered by ice and snow all year round, there are plenty of mysteries that lurk beneath the service.
This Mystery Season, Sky HISTORY is showcasing a brand new factual series that goes to some of the most remote and inhospitable areas of our planet. Secrets in the Ice investigates the curiosities, some of which have been lost for millennia, to explore how they ended up in the desolate terrain and hypothesise what else could still be concealed.
To get you in the mood for icy adventures, here are eight of the most mysterious and creepy phenomena that exist all across the uninhabited continent.
To kick off this list is one of the sights that you would least expect to see nestled amongst Antarctica's pristine white blanket. ‘Blood Falls’ is an apt name for the gruesome red liquid that oozes out the side of Taylor Glacier, which was first discovered by geologist Griffith Taylor over 100 years ago. The cause of the surprising occurrence had scientists stumped for a long time. Taylor himself concluded that it was down to red algae. However, we now know it is an iron-rich salty liquid that forms beneath the glacier. Water freezes as it reaches the surfaces, but the ‘blood’ has a much lower freezing temperature due to its high salt content. While the scientific explanation isn’t as exciting as many might hope, ‘Blood Falls’ is a unique landmark that wouldn’t look amiss in any classic piece of horror cinema.
Antarctica’s largest ice shelf, a piece of floating ice the size of France that is connected to the permanent landmass, has an eerie way of communicating with explorers. The rough surface of the Ross Ice Shelf lets out an almost continuous hum of low tones as the wind passes across. The vibrations are too low to be heard by the human ear but accelerated recordings reveal the mysterious sounds of the ice. It has been likened to a didgeridoo and was first heard in 2018. Researchers must have been surprised by the never-ending drone and may have even questioned whether there was something else out there on the vast expanse.
Third Man Factor
Speaking of potentially not being alone, the harsh conditions and varying sunlight hours have been known to cause hallucinations. The Third Man Factor was alluded to in TS Eliot’s 1922 poem ‘The Waste Land’ and describes instances where explorers feel or see a presence as shadows are cast across the seemingly infinite plains. This specific reference was inspired by Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expeditions where every member of the group was believed to have the shared experience. The event is supposed to bring comfort to people who are going through the most desperate and traumatic times of their lives. Therefore, it’s not unreasonable to assume that it plays a big part in the final moments of some unfortunate people’s lives.
To describe the conditions in Antarctica as ‘harsh’ would be a massive understatement and, because of this, many of the first explorers perished in the 19th and 20th centuries. Thankfully the advancement of technology and other precautions has made visiting the continent much safer in modern times. It’s not known exactly many have died over the years, but it is certain that not every dead body has been retrieved. Hundreds of corpses are frozen and buried in the ice according to the most reliable estimations. Murder is also not completely unheard of, despite there being no permanent residents. There is an unconfirmed report that a Russian scientist murdered a colleague with an axe in 1959 after losing a chess match. Chess was allegedly swiftly banned following the incident.
There’s a whole host of dangerous animals that visitors need to keep an eye out for, such as leopard seals and orcas. However, it’s some of the smaller animals in Antarctica that have the potential to be mysterious and a little bit creepy. Thanks to its unique environment, Antarctica is home to some creatures that are found nowhere else on Earth. For example, a new species of translucent fish was discovered in the water in 2014. Top scientists used to think that nothing could live in the seas below the ice shelves, which are covered by more than half a mile of ice. However, this little fish defied the odds. It may not be the deadliest predator, but its see-through skin and visible brain are enough to give a few people nightmares.
The Giant Hole
What could be more terrifying than a giant icy landmass that stretches for miles on end? Perhaps an enormous gaping hole, spanning thousands of square miles, opening in the middle of this giant icy landmass. What’s more, no-one knows where this hole came from…or what’s in it. This is exactly what happened in 2017 when a polynya, the official time for a large ice hole, with an area of approximately 3,700 square miles was first observed. Over the next few weeks, it would increase in size by more than eight times. A polynya in the same place also appeared in the 1970s before eventually closing. Researchers now believe it was caused by a powerful cyclone passing through, giving us another reason to stay well clear of the area.
Everyone knows that compasses are designed to always point to the magnetic North Pole, but what happens as you travel across Antarctica and closer to the South Pole? Because Earth’s magnetic fields curve around the planet’s spherical shape, when they get closer to the top or bottom, they move much straighter. This means that compasses won’t be reliable or may not work at all around the South Pole. Luckily, all explorers are aware of this and have other precautionary measures in place to make sure they don’t get lost. However, some conspiracy theorists claim that the broken compasses are a deliberate ploy to stop people from visiting certain parts of the continent. If this is the case, what exactly is being hidden?
UFO Crash Landings
Could it be numerous alien spacecraft that have had less than successful landings? Various satellite images show suspicious formations and markings that some believe are evidence of extra-terrestrial activity. Currently, nothing has been proven and sceptics have come up with numerous explanations, such as shadows, mountains, or abandoned research facilities.