The crack started in the center of an ice shelf, which isn't normal for the Petermann Glacier.

Mysterious holes spotted in Arctic sea ice stump NASA scientists

NASA scientists are perplexed about what caused the ice holes spotted last week in the Arctic during an annual mission.

According to NASA’s Earth Observatory, researchers noticed the mysterious holes on an April 14 flight above the eastern Beaufort Sea, north of Canada. The flight was part of an Operation IceBridge mission, which tracks changes in sea ice at the North and South poles every year.

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The curious formation appears in Arctic ice at 69.71° North and 138.22° West, about 50 miles northwest of Canada’s Mackenzie River Delta.

"We saw these sorta-circular features only for a few minutes today," mission scientist John Sonntag wrote in his field observations. "I don’t recall seeing this sort of thing elsewhere."

“It’s definitely an area of thin ice, as you can see finger rafting near the holes and the color is gray enough to indicate little snow cover,” IceBridge project scientist Nathan Kurtz added to the NASA statement. “I’m not sure what kind of dynamics could lead to the semi-circle shaped features surrounding the holes. I have never seen anything like that before.”

What caused the holes is still somewhat of a mystery, according to scientists. It’s possible that seals may have created the holes by chewing through the icy surface to breathe, but the holes could have formed as drainage features, too.

Learn more at EarthObservatory.NASA.gov.

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