Imagine you live near the ocean and wake up one morning to see hundreds of ice balls littering the beach. That’s what happened to residents of a remote village in northwest Siberia.

Nope, they’re not alien eggs. Or the beginnings of a mass snowman making competition. It’s just nature doing its thing with slush and frazil ice.

The water’s movement prevents frazil ice from growing into a traditional sheet. How it forms depends on the conditions. If the conditions are just right, we get the ice balls we see below.

Similar ice balls washed ashore in Lake Michigan February 2013. Each one was about the size of a basketball and weighed close to 50 pounds.

ice balls lake michigan

Credit: Leda Olmsted via EPOD

How do they form? The rolling wave action shapes the collection of slush and frazil ice into nice, round lumps of ice. In perfect conditions, these balls of ice continue to grow until the waves push them ashore.

You may have seen this same kind of ice in a different form. Ever seen pancake ice?

pancake ice

The gentler waters of a lake or river can lead to pancake ice.

Residents of the remote village told local news sources they have never seen such a sight. It is rare. One of those sights where you have to be at the right place at the right time. What’s crazy is how many ice balls there are and how large they are.

When the ice balls rolled onshore in Lake Michigan in 2013, Tom Ulrich, Deputy Superintendent from the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, was struck by how big they were.

These ice balls are cool and all, but it still doesn’t top ice heaves as one of nature’s craziest ice phenomenon.



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