Brinicle is known by various other names like ‘finger of death’, ‘ice stalactite’, ‘underwater icicle’ etc. They form in extremely cold ocean environments in Antarctica and the Arctic. The salty water of the ocean has a lower freezing point than fresh water.
Seawater in the Arctic and Antarctic regions has been recorded at negative 1.9 degrees, and colder. Brinicles look like upside-down cacti blown from glass. They are formed underwater and freeze everything they touch. Eventually, they hit the ocean floor.
Fast Facts: –
- Brinicle is denser and heavier than the surrounding seawater so it pools and migrates through cracks in the floating sea ice.
- They are not dangerous to humans but divers take precautions to avoid hypothermia and other cold water injuries.
- Bottom-dwelling creatures like starfish and sea urchins are not able to move quickly enough to escape and they become encased in ice.
- Andrew Thurber is one of the few scientists who has seen Brinicle growth firsthand.
- Due to the high salinity of seawater the brines are super-cooled since salt-rich water freezes at lower temperatures.
- The concentration of water in the Brinicle is lower than the seawater. Since water moves from high to low concentration, they attract water.
- This process starts in the winter when the sea ice begins to form, the water molecules make up the solid ice.
- The brine itself is colder than the freezing point of seawater.