In 1887, a glacial geologist named George Frederick Wright was hiking across the Muir Glacier in southeast Alaska when something strange caught his eye. Just as the daylight began to fade, the previously uninterrupted expanse of white snow around him began to develop what appeared to be a five o’clock shadow. These wriggling “whiskers” grew rapidly end emerged from the solid ice, leaving the snow crawling with an astonishing number of small black worms. Within approximately an hour there were tens of thousands of them criss-crossing the snow as far as he could see, leaving nary a square inch unwormed. A few hours later they began to slip effortlessly back into the ice, ultimately leaving nothing but pure white snow behind for the morning sun. The ice scientist brought news of these strange ice worms back to polite civilization, yet even over a century later little is known about the intriguing organisms.
Thursday, November 17, 2011