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Mysterious chunk of wood spotted on iceberg
January 23, 2011 5:49 PM   Subscribe

An Australian journalist on board an icebreaker has spotted a mysterious piece of wood sitting on top of an iceberg in the Antarctic, posting photos reminiscent of the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Cue crazy theories about its origins.

The reporter's Antarctic blog has plenty of more traditional Antarctic fare: penguins; icebergs; albatrosses; sunsets; and, oh, scientific research mixed in too.
posted by puffl (110 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Cue crazy theories about its origins.

I'd be willing to wager it was milled from a tree of some sort.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:51 PM on January 23, 2011 [45 favorites]


". . . And I alone am escaped to tell thee."
posted by Countess Elena at 5:53 PM on January 23, 2011 [10 favorites]


reminiscent of the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Be real. The proportions are all wrong.
posted by yeti at 5:53 PM on January 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I put it there.
posted by HuronBob at 5:54 PM on January 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


That's the distinctive side panel of a Roman senatorial desk. What mysteries lie hidden within its drawers, now buried in the ice?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:55 PM on January 23, 2011


It's full of stars.
posted by fixedgear at 5:56 PM on January 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


Be real. The proportions are all wrong.

I dunno. It looks fairly close to 1:4:9.
posted by saturday_morning at 5:56 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


mysterious piece of wood sitting on top of an iceberg sounds so much cooler than the lame picture it links to.
posted by Neekee at 5:59 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


A milled piece of timber on top of something at sea? It must be that "over board" that those sailors keep yelling about.
posted by zamboni at 5:59 PM on January 23, 2011 [13 favorites]


Without anything to mark scale against, any speculation seems entirely futile.

Without any prior findings-of-objects-on-icebergs to mark novelty against, saying it is novel seems rather ridiculous.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 6:00 PM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Due to budget cuts, the part of monolith normally played by the Big Black Obelisk will instead be played by this piece of scrap wood we found in shop class.
posted by dr_dank at 6:01 PM on January 23, 2011 [36 favorites]


dr_dank for the win.

I'm guessing it is either some arboreal space creature or something that washed up with the last rogue wave. Maybe both.
posted by aniola at 6:05 PM on January 23, 2011


Does this have something to do with a Lost movie?
posted by Bonzai at 6:05 PM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's the last remaining piece of Woodhenge.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:07 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe it was a seed crystal for the Steampunk Fortress of Solitude?
posted by PlusDistance at 6:07 PM on January 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Has anyone heard from Santa lately?
posted by Bonzai at 6:07 PM on January 23, 2011 [9 favorites]


Dude with a helicopter, a Flickr account and a sense of humor.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:08 PM on January 23, 2011


A wooden box on top of an iceberg is just like a monolith of unknown composition buried beneath the surface of the Moon for 4 million years.
posted by DU at 6:09 PM on January 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


My first assumption for pretty much everything passing odd these days is viral marketing for JJ Abrams' next project.
posted by elizardbits at 6:09 PM on January 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


HuronBob this time your office pranks have gone to far. I expecty desk will be back in it's traditional place on Wednesday when I return.
posted by humanfont at 6:09 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ohhh, that's where I left that!
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:11 PM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maybe it took Viagra?
posted by punkfloyd at 6:12 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


It was left there by a polar bear.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:13 PM on January 23, 2011


This is no surprise to me. Scientomologists have long predicted that the polar caps are in fact made of wood.

Among the worst effects of global warming will be our need to apply an odourless waterproof varnish to the entire Antarctic continent every three to five years.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 6:16 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


The iceberg is just excited.
posted by not_on_display at 6:17 PM on January 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


Holmes, this is entirely baffling! A piece of wood on an iceberg--do you realize how unlikely that is? I mean, wood would have to be floating in the ocean and washed up atop the iceberg by some kind of wave or something. Clearly, some mysterious group must be the culprit. Perhaps Moriarity--

--Holmes? Why are you picking up that revolver? You know Mrs. Hudson hates it when you--

--Holmes ::koff:: I really :koff:: don't think that "Medice, cura te ipsum" is very ::koff:: amusing...
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:17 PM on January 23, 2011


Whoever planted this must be mad that it wasn't discovered until now. 2010 is supposed to be the year we make contact!
posted by kmz at 6:22 PM on January 23, 2011


Rosebud....
posted by milkfish at 6:30 PM on January 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Perhaps it's another box of Scotch.

To the naysayers: there are obvious explanations (waves; timber left behind) but the pure randomness involved make these ideas even more interesting to me than the "aliens" stuff.

Best explanation I've seen so far comes from the comments on the site, suggesting it's part of the timber detritus left behind by Douglas Mawson's original crew from the 1911-1914 Antarctic Expedition. That's more awesome than a "monolith".
posted by puffl at 6:30 PM on January 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Did that balloon kid land yet?
posted by philip-random at 6:31 PM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


You may think that photo looks innocuous, but I think it's just the tip of the iceberg.
posted by Challahtronix at 6:37 PM on January 23, 2011 [21 favorites]


That's no scrap of wood, that's a box, or maybe a drawer. I believe we have finally found where all those socks that go missing in the dryer end up.
posted by Quietgal at 6:39 PM on January 23, 2011


If its wood, wouldn't it be a monodendron and not a monolith?
posted by chambers at 6:40 PM on January 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


finally found where all those socks that go missing

ummm...socks don't go missing in dryers, dryers make socks, that's why your sock drawer is always full
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:41 PM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's more awesome than a "monolith".

It's really, really not.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 6:43 PM on January 23, 2011


Are you suggesting that pieces of wood are migratory?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:44 PM on January 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


something something Minecraft.
posted by speedo at 6:44 PM on January 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


...not at all. It could have been carried by an Antarctic Swallow.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:45 PM on January 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


Paging Miss Smilla.
posted by nickyskye at 6:46 PM on January 23, 2011


I believe we have finally found where all those socks that go missing in the dryer end up.

No, that puzzle was solved a long time go. It turns out that socks are the larval form of wire coat hangers.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:46 PM on January 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


Remember that Antarctic icebergs used to be attached to the land mass, so this could be some sort of explorer's or researcher's platform that broke off and drifted out to sea.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:46 PM on January 23, 2011


Slow news day, eh?
posted by paisley henosis at 6:48 PM on January 23, 2011


Looks like a piece of garbage about to enter the pelagic stage of its life cycle.
posted by ryanrs at 6:51 PM on January 23, 2011


Pepsi Brown(tm)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:51 PM on January 23, 2011


I don't know what it is. But I now know the comments on Australian Broadcasting's site are about 1000 times more clever than those on US news sites.
posted by NorthernLite at 6:53 PM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Presumably it is a small chest or casket containing the second and altogether stranger part of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.

Tekeli-li!
posted by Idler King at 6:58 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


The author exhibits ICP-esque understanding of magnetism:

Since it is lifeless and non-magnetic, its baffling position won't be due to the fact that we are very close to the south magnetic pole.

Normal compasses don't work in this region. The one I have brought on board is now confused by all the iron in the ship.
posted by plastic_animals at 6:59 PM on January 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Looks like the door to a secret underground chamber to me. Definitely a supervillain involved. Maybe Lex Luthor? Or better yet, Captain Nemo!
posted by puny human at 7:03 PM on January 23, 2011


Yup. Minecraft.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:03 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


When the first Mad Max film came out, a critic likened a shot over an overturned motorcycle to spacecraft zoom in 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Sorry, no reference).
posted by ovvl at 7:11 PM on January 23, 2011


Hey jerks. How cool is the crazy thing you found on an iceberg? Oh, what's that? You ain't found shit on an iceberg be it somewhat mysterious or otherwise? Well maybe you oughta shut the fuck up.

Damn Metafilter people bad mouthing some crazy thing on an iceberg. They think they're so hot.
posted by ND¢ at 7:12 PM on January 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Oh, shit. Alright, hold on, be right ba
posted by dubitable at 7:14 PM on January 23, 2011


It doesn't look particularly rugose, so that's good news.
posted by Mister_A at 7:14 PM on January 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


We can't rule out Vikings, for anything, ever. Think on it.
posted by Mister_A at 7:15 PM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


>o
There is a chest here; open it?
>y
The chest contains:
(f) a Harold Holt corpse.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:18 PM on January 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Viral marketing for the upcoming 3D Narnia/Lovecraft crossover, In the Wardrobe of Madness.
posted by No-sword at 7:23 PM on January 23, 2011 [8 favorites]


Is anyone else concerned that apparently Confess, Fletch has been on the receiving end of all our missing socks all these years?
posted by Navelgazer at 7:27 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Damn it. Uh, I mean whatever it is it's not my stashbox.
posted by loquacious at 7:27 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


50 bucks says it is made of gopher wood.
posted by stp123 at 7:31 PM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


If there is a ape on the other side of that iceberg with a femur in his hand, leave him alone. Trust me on this.
posted by roquetuen at 7:32 PM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Winner from the comments on [Aussie]BC:

The piece of wood is being post modern.
posted by notion at 7:35 PM on January 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's the missing piece of Pine Gap.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:35 PM on January 23, 2011


1. Grow tree
2. Craft monolith
3. Dump on iceberg
4. ....
5. Realize I need a new desk
posted by arcticseal at 7:37 PM on January 23, 2011


Man, the Narnia kids must have been ticked off to come out here.
posted by zippy at 7:37 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a trap left by The Thing.
posted by bwg at 7:41 PM on January 23, 2011


It doesn't look particularly rugose, so that's good news.

Yeah, it's way more Cyclopean than rugose.
posted by stet at 7:45 PM on January 23, 2011


Problem is we can only see one side of this "object".

If you were to turn it over, you would sense its strangeness, the carvings of strange, starfish-like creatures with five long tentacled arms, and the bas-reliefs of bizarre structures, whose "walls" were constructed as if based on some form of non-euclidean geometry...
posted by Windopaene at 7:46 PM on January 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


It could be part of a disgorged observation station.
posted by unliteral at 7:47 PM on January 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Davey Jones' locker.
posted by Curious Artificer at 7:51 PM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's Noah's ark. What? People were much smaller back then.
posted by nola at 8:01 PM on January 23, 2011


This is stupid. Icebergs don't start off as icebergs. Would we be excited and confused by a piece of wood on an ice shelf? What about a piece of wood in the ocean?

This lonely piece of timber was spotted on the top of a small berg at 66 degrees south, just north of Commonwealth Bay.

Commonwealth Bay on Wikipedia leads to Cape Denison which leads to Mawson's Huts. It's pretty windy there and the huts are made of wood. According to the second article there were excavations around that area in December.

Apparently I hate fun. I didn't know that until now.
posted by doublehappy at 8:08 PM on January 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've seen that picture before!

That's not a block of wood on an iceberg in the southern ocean. That's "$350/wk, 1-2 bdrm, close to amenities, quaint and quirky fashionable location, suit young professional couple". She's pinched it from the SMH's Domain section.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:12 PM on January 23, 2011 [10 favorites]


Ocean views and all day sun in Summer, as featured on abc.net.au!

Clearly I don't read comments before I post: puffl got there first, and cited.
posted by doublehappy at 8:16 PM on January 23, 2011


It's a cryonic abode, prepared especially for Jack Lalanne, who just died at 96. Inside are 1000 years of wheatgrass seeds and a holographic juicer.
posted by nickyskye at 8:17 PM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Disguised shoggoth.
posted by Nattie at 8:20 PM on January 23, 2011


Jack Lalanne, who just died at 96.

Pussy.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:21 PM on January 23, 2011


and the winner is....

Davey Jones' locker.
posted by Curious Artificer
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 8:26 PM on January 23, 2011


Commonwealth Bay on Wikipedia leads to Cape Denison which leads to Mawson's Huts.

Which leads in turn to Rube Waddell and their song Mawson's Will (the link is near the center bottom of the page).
posted by LarryC at 8:26 PM on January 23, 2011


The penguins have been buying armaments. I, for one, welcome our new etc etc etc
posted by ninazer0 at 8:27 PM on January 23, 2011




I think the bigger mystery is why it is that somebody on that massive and beautiful boat didn't get into a dinghy-thing, paddle over there, climb up the vertical mass of the iceberg and find out what the hell the damn thing is! I mean really, who can look at something like that and not do their utmost to find out? Even if it turns out to be the most mundane thing in the world.

I'm extremely disappointed.
posted by ashbury at 8:42 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


you know when you're throwing stuff off your timeship in the overlap of the worlds trying to become dense-less so that the nega-matter beast doesn't consume you and by extension the whole of multireality you don't really care where it lands, got it?
posted by The Whelk at 8:52 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a non-trivial amount of random junk down there, especially along the peninsula. I took these photos of wood debris last year. People have been sailing in Antarctica for well over 100 years, and it's only been fairly recently that anyone cared in the slightest about environmental conservation and avoiding littering. There really are few places in the planet where finding a frickin' piece of wood would be at all surprising.
posted by zachlipton at 8:59 PM on January 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


"The penguins have been buying armaments. I, for one, welcome our new etc etc etc"

Cute, waddling, wooden club using overlords.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:00 PM on January 23, 2011


It's full of stars.

Stars on ice?
posted by mazola at 9:04 PM on January 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Cute, waddling, wooden club using overlords.

My stuffed Donkey has told me that the penguins are trying to operate the frozen soviet nuclear sub.
posted by The Whelk at 9:12 PM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's full of splinters...

(LarryC! I got so excited when I saw your Rube Waddel Reference; I thought you might be Larry from the band... But history is cooler than cool and teaching even more so!)
posted by artof.mulata at 9:40 PM on January 23, 2011


The leopard seals better watch out.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:55 PM on January 23, 2011


This is the "Chest of Zorathus" with plans for the future.
posted by clavdivs at 9:57 PM on January 23, 2011


Oh shit, get your box ready
It's about to go down
Everybody in the place hit the fucking deck
But stay on your motherfucking toes
We running this, let's go

I'm on a iceberg, I'm on a iceberg
Everybody look at me
'Cause I'm sailing on a iceberg
I'm on a iceberg, I'm on a iceberg
Take a good hard look
At the motherfucking iceberg

I'm on a iceberg motherfucker, take a look at me
Straight flowing on a iceberg on the deep blue sea
Busting one knot, wind whipping out my box
You can't stop me motherfucker, 'cause I'm on a iceberg

Take a picture, trick, I'm on a iceberg, bitch
We drinking Santana champ 'cause it's so crisp
I got my swim trunks and my flippie-floppies
I'm flipping burgers, you at Kinko's
Straight flipping copies

I'm riding on a box, doing flips and shit
This box's splashing, getting everybody all wet
But this ain't Boxworld, this is real as it gets
I'm on a iceberg, motherfucker, don't you ever forget

I'm on a iceberg and it's going really slow and
I got a nautical themed, Pashmina Afghan
I'm the king of the world, on a iceberg like the B-15
If you're on the shore, then you're sure not me, oh
Get the fuck up, this iceberg is real

Fuck land, I'm on a iceberg, motherfucker
Fuck trees, I climb buoys, motherfucker
I'm on the deck with my boys, motherfucker
This iceberg don't make no noise, motherfucker

Hey ma, if you could see me now
Arms spread wide on the starboard bow
Gonna fly this iceberg to the moon somehow
Like Ernest Shackleton, anything is possible

Yeah, never thought I'd be on a iceberg
It's a big blue watery road
Poseidon, look at me, oh, all hands on deck
Never thought I'd see the day
When a big iceberg coming my way
Believe me when I say I fucked a leopard seal

I'm on a iceberg, I'm on a iceberg
Everybody look at me
'Cause I'm sailing on a iceberg
I'm on a iceberg, I'm on a iceberg
Take a good hard look
At the motherfucking iceberg
posted by Xoebe at 10:23 PM on January 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Similar to Fiasco's comment above, my favourite from the comments on the article:

I knew the Australian housing bubble was making it hard for buyers to get a house close to Sydney CBD, but this is RIDICULOUS.
posted by harriet vane at 10:56 PM on January 23, 2011


it's a plankton
posted by orme at 12:50 AM on January 24, 2011 [10 favorites]


I didn't find the hunk of wood all that intriguing, but I certainly did submit that page to Photoshop Disasters. That hair!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:06 AM on January 24, 2011


I think we should stop staring at its chest
posted by milkfish at 3:09 AM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Worst tree ever.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:42 AM on January 24, 2011


The iceberg merely responded to some spam and got the promised wood.
posted by srboisvert at 4:46 AM on January 24, 2011


It looks board.
posted by orme at 4:55 AM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is there any estimate as to the actual size of the thing?
posted by Thorzdad at 5:41 AM on January 24, 2011


"I am done with man!"
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 5:55 AM on January 24, 2011


Since it is lifeless and non-magnetic, its baffling position won't be due to the fact that we are very close to the south magnetic pole.

Can we please institute some sort of basic science literacy screening for journalists before they're allowed to put a byline on anything?

Like, immediately? Pretty please?
posted by ook at 6:23 AM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


It looks board.

Nah, it's just trying to be cool.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:49 AM on January 24, 2011


The plank done walked.
posted by memewit at 7:35 AM on January 24, 2011


Damnit, Jack LaLanne deserves his own FPP. He does NOT deserve to be jammed on an iceberg with a coffin way too small for his superhuman 96 year old bod.

.
posted by chavenet at 8:26 AM on January 24, 2011


It is the Answer. The volume of said object will be determined to be precisely as much wood as a wood chuck could chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood.
posted by Debaser626 at 8:55 AM on January 24, 2011


It's obviously Captain America.
posted by lumpenprole at 10:01 AM on January 24, 2011


This definitely requires us to think outside the box.
posted by kinnakeet at 10:35 AM on January 24, 2011


Damn Metafilter people bad mouthing some crazy thing on an iceberg. They think they're so hot.

Metahaters are a lot cooler.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:50 PM on January 24, 2011


Either it's taller than that, or it can't have been there very long -- dark-colored objects atop ice under sunlight have a distinct propensity to burrow into it.
posted by eritain at 5:52 PM on January 24, 2011


Underneath that piece of wood is the lede of this post.
posted by mendel at 9:30 PM on January 24, 2011


Apparently I hate fun. I didn't know that until now.

Yes, but this made me laugh inappropriately loudly. So, there's that.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:49 AM on January 25, 2011


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