A Skull in the Landscape Announces the Tragic Melting of Antarctica

A skull appeared in the Antarctica and is a sign of the sad reality facing the world's coldest region.

Isabel Cara

Pareidolia works its magic when it comes to finding patterns in shapes we don’t recognize, but when it comes to a remote island in the Antarctic Peninsula things get worrisome. Ironically, a skull heralds the melting of Antarctica, yet another sign of the change that is happening all over the planet.

By mere survival or by the deception of sight, pareidolia is present in the human mind. Perhaps to recognize faces in the dark of night in the middle of the jungle or for some other purpose, the fact is that we have developed the ability to find faces in diffuse figures. Try shadows and lights, and you will see that you will immediately find faces looking directly at you.

Antarctica melting skull formed 1 - a skull in the landscape announces the tragic melting of antarctica
[photo: esa]

The Announcement of Thawing Ice in Antarctica

This is how observers of a satellite image found a skull that is evidence of Antarctic melting. Vega Island is the piece of land you can see in the images, which is located on the Antarctic Peninsula and was formed by a series of volcanic eruptions. The remote island is the northernmost of the group of islands known as James Ross, measuring just 27 kilometers long and almost 10 kilometers wide.

It is a scene of polarities, for Vega’s volcanic rock makes its surface dark, but being far to the south pole, it is covered by pristine ice that contrasts with the dark background. In ancient times the ground was not visible; however, rising temperatures as a result of climate change are melting the ice sheets and have exposed the outline of the darkened ground.

As if it were the outline of a drawing, the melting of snow and ice has formed a pareidolia that can be seen in the center and at the top of the island. A huge skull seems to pose sideways and smiles to the right. Although the view deceives us, in reality, the skull’s ‘huge eye’ is a nunatak, a mountain peak protruding from the Devil’s Bay glacier. Nunatak are usually isolated mountain peaks that are largely surrounded by an ice field, which is why from the heights it looks like a big eye.

Antarctica melting skull formed 2 - a skull in the landscape announces the tragic melting of antarctica
[photo: nasa]

A Very Warm Austral Summer

Last February, right at the end of the austral summer that recorded unusually warm temperatures, satellite images revealed that the eastern end of the island was free of snow and ice; in addition, the western area had lost almost three-quarters of its snow extent. This is just evidence of how the Antarctic Peninsula is warming faster than the Earth’s average, in fact, records show that the summer extended up to 20 days longer than average, causing additional thaws.

The statistics of the last austral summer are not isolated data, they are part of a trend in historical records that show a rise in the average temperature of Antarctica. The thermometers on Vega Island rose to over 12ºC, a very high temperature considering that this is the coldest region on the planet.

It seems that the downward trend of ice will not change unless drastic measures are taken regarding carbon emissions, and even so, there are experts who assure that there is no turning back to keep the planet as we knew it. It remains for us to do our bit and appreciate the beauty of Mother Nature.

Story written in Spanish by Alejandra Martínez in Ecoosfera