Researchers recently uncovered a startling phenomenon — a set of teardrop-shaped lakes in Antarctica that mysteriously move, jogging along at a pace as fast as 5 feet (1.5 meters) per day.
The lakes sit atop the George VI ice shelf — a massive floating plain of ice larger than Vermont, composed of the mingled fronts of glaciers that flow off the edge of the continent and rest on the ocean.
Glaciologist Doug MacAyeal at the University of Chicago, and student researcher C.H. LaBarbera, noticed the traveling bodies of water while studying satellite images of 11 ice shelf lakes captured between 2001 and 2010.
"We compiled 10 images for the last 10 years and literally made a movie," MacAyeal told OurAmazingPlanet, "and as we looked at the loop, the lakes moved up the coast."
The discovery was something of shock, he said. "We walked into our research with an expectation that has been completely defied by what we observed."
MacAyeal said he had expected the lakes to move over time, but only because the ice shelf underneath them also moves, as ice flows from the interior of the continent out to sea.
Instead, "we found a subset of lakes that defied this in a spectacularly curious and interesting way, by moving parallel to a coastline of the George VI ice shelf," MacAyeal said. Read More: