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'Brinicle' ice finger of death
November 23, 2011 4:08 AM   Subscribe

"In winter, the air temperature above the sea ice can be below -20C, whereas the sea water is only about -1.9C. Heat flows from the warmer sea up to the very cold air, forming new ice from the bottom. The salt in this newly formed ice is concentrated and pushed into the brine channels. And because it is very cold and salty, it is denser than the water beneath. The result is the brine sinks in a descending plume. But as this extremely cold brine leaves the sea ice, it freezes the relatively fresh seawater it comes in contact with. This forms a fragile tube of ice around the descending plume, which grows into what has been called a brinicle." A BBC film crew has recorded one of these freezing life on the sea floor.
posted by cosmac (47 comments total) 66 users marked this as a favorite

 
Whoa. Very cool.
posted by R. Mutt at 4:16 AM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Incredible.
posted by SageLeVoid at 4:26 AM on November 23, 2011


That time lapse was like something out of the Lord of the Rings.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 4:45 AM on November 23, 2011


Obviously, we must redouble our efforts at accelerating global warming, in order to end forever this senseless killing of innocents.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:46 AM on November 23, 2011


Sometimes I just wanna yell "I LOVE SCIENCE"
posted by Blake at 4:48 AM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


That is Lovecraftian levels of horrifying. *neversleepingagain*
posted by cthuljew at 4:55 AM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


That forlorn, single little white arm sticking up out of the brinicle at the end...
posted by likeso at 5:08 AM on November 23, 2011 [10 favorites]


How incredibly cool. Wow.
posted by Yellow at 5:09 AM on November 23, 2011


Fascinating - thanks for posting this!
posted by leslies at 5:11 AM on November 23, 2011


Why did it grow in a line along the ground, instead of radially?
posted by curious nu at 5:13 AM on November 23, 2011


Why did it grow in a line along the ground, instead of radially?

Because it came down at an angle and continued as a stream.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:18 AM on November 23, 2011


I'm sorry.
posted by oulipian at 5:18 AM on November 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, that last little arm waving was a nice touch.

"The first time I did a timelapse at the spot a seal knocked it over," said Mr Miller.

I have said it before; seals are assholes.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:27 AM on November 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


Mother Nature, she is one amazing, scary bitch.

That's why I stay home.
posted by shoesietart at 5:44 AM on November 23, 2011


That's so, so cool... [shivers]
posted by hat_eater at 5:50 AM on November 23, 2011


Wow. Super cool. Almost as interesting, though, was how clear the water was. It looked almost like air, with the brinicle coming down out of the sky. Amazing conditions for filming.
posted by marginaliana at 5:59 AM on November 23, 2011


I look forward to rolling my eyes in exasperation when trendy bartenders at trendy bars must admit to not having designer brinicle ice for my bloody ceasar.
posted by Kabanos at 6:14 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


That was an amazing video, and the narrator was very into the death aspect of it. "As it touches the sea floor, it KILLS! whatever lifeform it contacts...", at which point I was really expecting a "muahahaha!"
posted by Wolfdog at 6:15 AM on November 23, 2011


WHY DIDN'T THOSE STUPID STARFISH RUN AWAY?
posted by orme at 6:15 AM on November 23, 2011


...and since I'll be speaking, they won't know I spelled 'caesar' wrong.
posted by Kabanos at 6:16 AM on November 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Interesting decisions made with the sound effects. They added a lot to the creepiness factor, but they seemed a bit over the top to me. Either way, very cool. I had no idea this was a thing that happened.
posted by vytae at 6:17 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Watching starfish move like that is almost as creepy as the squid with elbows.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:41 AM on November 23, 2011


That's what you fucking get for living in the ocean in fucking Antarctica.
posted by swift at 6:48 AM on November 23, 2011


Poor little starfish!

(usually anything below phylum Chordata creeps me out, but at high speed, the little buggers look so damn cute...)
posted by notsnot at 6:50 AM on November 23, 2011


I love you so much, BBC. There is no other single production company that has spent so much time with me while I was in a dark room, naked, wrapped in blankets.
posted by Theta States at 6:52 AM on November 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


That was an amazing video, and the narrator was very into the death aspect of it.

He is not "the narrator." He is never "the narrator." Sir David is always simply "Sir David," and shall remain so for as long as we are lucky to have him.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:00 AM on November 23, 2011 [13 favorites]


"Brinicle" is my new favourite word.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:14 AM on November 23, 2011


That's what you fucking get for living in the ocean in fucking Antarctica.

Look, that is where they could afford to live, OK? Economic problems are global, and starfish are lucky to have jobs that even let them live in crappy overcrowded polar seabeds. Giant freezing columns of descending brine are just the most visible element of the wrenching dislocations caused by subsurface economic turmoil. I mean, the Atlanteans voted down that property tax increase, and the piscine school system is in dire straights right now....
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:20 AM on November 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


narrated by the voice of piglet? that really heightens the pathos.

that said, i e-mail this to my science teacher friend - very cool.
posted by Partario at 7:28 AM on November 23, 2011


It's like Bizzaro World lightning.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 7:42 AM on November 23, 2011


We're not supposed to call them starfish anymore.
posted by kinnakeet at 8:13 AM on November 23, 2011


Sir David is always simply "Sir David," and shall remain so for as long as we are lucky to have him.

I just came very close to thumping my fist on my desk and exclaiming, "hear hear!". I am not ashamed.

narrated by the voice of piglet?

I believe you're thinking of John Fiedler. The narrator in the case of the BBC clip is Sir David Attenborough (please see above).
posted by fight or flight at 8:33 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh Lord, as the starfish scurried around, deep in the back of my head I could faintly hear..."Bentoooon! Bentoooon! Jesus Christ! Bentooon!!"
posted by Xoebe at 8:57 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I feel it is necessary to point out that the first two lines of the article were linguistic travesties. Surely what they were trying to convey could have been written in a clearer way.
posted by polymodus at 8:58 AM on November 23, 2011


Okay, am I the only one who shouted, "Run, little starfish! Run!" at my computer screen?
posted by BlueJae at 9:40 AM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Like lightning, alright (must happen in pulses like spark leaders to get that shape).

I'm imagining a world where we're all puzzled by spontaneous human freezings, in which people aren't heard from for a while, and when police break into their houses they're found vitrified in their armchairs in front of the fireplace.
posted by jamjam at 9:50 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are starfish actually killed by freezing? Some starfish can regenerate a new animal from just an arm and a little bit of the center.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:16 AM on November 23, 2011


The sound effects really made a huge difference. I remember being constantly aware during the whole of the Private Life of Plants just how much the sounds were being effortlessly built into my understanding of the events unfolding, though they were 100% artificial. Part of me feels cheated, and the other part is grateful for the virtual reality of it all. . .
posted by stonepharisee at 10:55 AM on November 23, 2011


Wow, imagine all the crazy shit going on under the Europa ice
posted by Tom-B at 11:07 AM on November 23, 2011


Stunning as always BBC. I'll probably watch that six more times (today).
posted by troublewithwolves at 11:52 AM on November 23, 2011


I watched this while I had some Kashiwa Daisuke playing. I highly recommend the combination.
posted by spitefulcrow at 12:04 PM on November 23, 2011


It's a timelapse video — do we know how long it took to film? Was the brinicle formed in a matter of hours, days, weeks?
posted by hypotheticole at 1:20 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


The article said 5-6 hours but it took multiple attempts between seals knocking equipment over and other mishaps.
posted by leslies at 1:34 PM on November 23, 2011


(usually anything below phylum Chordata creeps me out...)
posted by notsnot


fucking spinist.
posted by COBRA! at 1:40 PM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I too, was astounded by the clarity of the water.

The concentrated brine miscing (that's a real word, ok) with sea water is beatiful and a much more dramatic demonstration that what I see in graduated cylinders or when mixing out concentrated stock solutions of buffers.
posted by porpoise at 8:00 PM on November 23, 2011


Music video set beneath the Antarctic sea ice

Observation tube under the Antarctic sea ice
posted by homunculus at 3:59 PM on November 24, 2011


If you'd like to see brine miscing up close, take a swim in Mono Lake.

At first I was puzzled to see a shimmering around my hands and arms; I figured something oily was coming off. But it continued. Eventually I figured it out: the brine in the lake was osmotically sucking water out of my skin.

I think.

It's really cool to see; my skin actually liked it. Highly recommended.
posted by nickp at 7:10 PM on November 25, 2011


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