Antarctica can sometimes be a spooky place, and it’s not just because of the countless conspiracy theories that surround it.
While exploring the icy continent, a group of researchers who were studying the behavior of glaciers managed to record a creepy, mysterious sound that is apparently caused by Antarctic ice and snow.
The Ross Ice Shelf
The Ross Ice Shelf is the largest ice shelf of Antarctica (as of 2013 an area of roughly 500,809 square kilometers (193,363 sq mi) and about 800 kilometers (500 mi) across, which means that it’s about the size of France.
It is several hundred meters thick.
The nearly vertical ice front to the open sea is more than 600 kilometers (370 mi) long and between 15 and 50 meters (50 and 160 ft) high above the water surface.
Ninety percent of the floating ice, however, is below the water surface.
Under ‘global warming conditions’, scientists are monitoring the Antarctic glaciers to assess their displacement, thickness, and behavior.
To control the processes related to the Ross Ice Shelf, experts placed 34 seismic detectors that allowed monitoring the “life” of the glacier between 2014 and 2017.
Thanks to the peculiar structure of the glacier, its surface has several dunes, covered by layers of snow.
Once scientists observed the data they had gathered, they discovered something unexpected: a weird sound was coming from Antarctica.
Scientists got to the bottom and found that the aforementioned layers of snow experienced a permanent vibration. Therefore, near the largest dunes, there is a kind of noise.
When scientists accelerated the obtained recording it resulted in a sinister music constantly changing tones:
The changes in sound are caused by the transformation experienced by the dunes.
Scientists explain that the structure of these dunes is really something like a flute.
“It’s kind of like you’re blowing a flute, constantly, on the ice shelf,” says geophysicist and mathematician Julien Chaput from Colorado State University.
As explained by Science Alert, variations in wind strength (due to things like storms) and changes in air temperatures can both impact the snow layer, and in so doing affect the pitch of the seismic hum detected.
It turns out that the air flow generates different sounds as it passes through the cavities of the dunes and ice.
“We discovered that the shelf nearly continuously sings at frequencies of five or more cycles per second,” the authors explain, “excited by local and regional winds blowing across its snow dune‐like topography.”
The findings are reported in Geophysical Research Letters.