Sea Ice Mystery

The aliens aren’t living up to their normal artistic standards: they’re not crop circles. But still interesting. Clathrate wells?

I think this is a puzzle, not a mystery.

What I find puzzling is the mystery of the difference between a puzzle and a mystery.

Did you miss this? Is The El Faro A Mystery Or A Puzzle?. To solve a puzzle you just need more information.

In my experience the trick to solving the puzzle of unusual forms or shapes in the ice or snow is more observations. If you see something in a different stage of freezing or melting you can figure out how it was formed.

Don’t over-analyse would be my advice.

I was once sent in my patrol boat to a distant islet in the Timor Sea, much to the disgruntlement of the crew who knew the place to be ten times more boring that the existing patrol plan.

Surveillance aircraft (a recent innovation this far afield at the time) reported mysterious underwater circles distinctly visible in the shallow waters adjacent to the islet. They were dubbed “moon circles” as they looked like the moon’s surface with craters. They even had photos which mystified the intel gurus at HQ and suspected something alien. We checked the photos and sure enough, they looked strange. Perfect circles on the seabed = not natural.

So a few days steaming later we got there and found the circles. In the centre of each was a stick driven into the sandy bottom and some had a bit of old rope still attached.

The able seamen who conducted the investigation (involving swimming with the sharks, sea snakes and stingers that make this place a less than desirable spot to cool off - and the reason we officers had more important tasks aboard) and came back to the ship with their report.

It was nothing more than a food preservation device. Indonesian traditional fishermen frequent the place as they have done for centuries and fish for beche de mer, trochus shells and the like. They’ve previously buried crew that died aboard leading to the water well being infected with cholera - another point on the place’s drawcard. But a particular delicacy are turtles which they can catch in the shallows. They keep them alive by tethering them to the stick with a rope and the turtles swim in circles clearing the bottom of sea grass.

We’d never noticed them before from our low height of eye, but everyone learned a lesson, even the highly trained photo intel guys whom we never heard from again, their work being highly hush hush.

We had later very interesting missions there too to erect a wooden sign about the cholera (gratefully disassembled and burnt by the Indons) and to survey the prevalence of rattus rattus (translation = rats), but that’s another story.