Just a few weeks ago, a rare weather phenomenon in Finland had the whole world talking. Most people across the globe have seen ice in one form or another, but few folks had ever seen the mysterious ‘ice eggs’ that washed up on a Finnish beach before.
Ice comes in many forms, shapes and sizes, from huge glaciers and icebergs to the tiniest of snowflakes. It even serves as the theme for some of the world’s best casino online games! With that said, only a few lucky people have ever stumbled upon a field full of football-sized ice eggs in their lifetimes. Nature is eternally mysterious, and for a while, the rare event had scientists and the public stumped.
A Remarkable Discovery
Amateur photographer Risto Matilla discovered the unique phenomenon when he went for a Sunday walk along the Marjaniemi beach at Finland’s Hailuoto Island in November this year. He quickly took some pictures of the eggs, which spread like wildfire across social media channels in the weeks following his find.
According to Matilla, he was with his wife at the beach when they stumbled upon the thousands of glittering ice eggs. He says that the weather was sunny but cold at around -1 degree Celsius, and that it was a fairly windy day as well. He noted in a BBC interview that the snow and ice eggs were visible along the beach near the water line.
The Finnish local said that a stretch of around 30 metres of sand was covered in the frozen ice spheres. They reportedly ranged in size from golf balls to footballs, and everything in between. He further said that he had never seen anything quite like the eggs in his 25 years of living in the area.
How Ice Eggs are Formed
The strange discovery might look like the aftermath of a professional snowball fight, but the ice eggs are actually more closely related to the hailstones that we are all familiar with. The formation of the eggs requires an almost perfect set of meteorological and weather conditions; the weather must not be too hot, too cold, too windy, or too calm.
To start the process, a body of water needs to be relatively still. It also needs to be just cold enough to allow ice to form. The next condition needed involves small pieces of grit or ice crystals floating in the water. The close-to-freezing water needs something to cling to in order to start forming the ice eggs.
Similarly, hail is formed when water condenses and freezes around particles that are blown into storm clouds. As the tiny hail stones rise and fall, they collect more layers of ice until they finally become so heavy that they drop from the sky, creating a classic hailstorm.
Nature’s Miracles on Display
In the case of the ice eggs, it was not the blasts of rising air currents that facilitated a slow ice built-up, but rather the gentle waves of the sea and a stiff wind that helped layers of ice to form on the floating balls as they rolled across the chilly ocean currents.
With enough time, these frozen rocks can become massive! Similar giant snowballs appeared on a beach in Siberia in 2016, some boasting diameters of over a metre each. The Siberian eggs covered a whopping stretch of 18km along the coastline of Nyda. More recently, another batch of icy eggs has also washed up on the banks of Alaska’s Wulik River, giving even more people a chance to see nature’s awesome powers at play.