The name “icicles of death” sounds pretty terrifying, right? Well, that’s perfect, because the phenomenon is exactly as horrifying as the name suggest. And it’s something much more complicated than icicles falling down and killing people (although admittedly that would also be pretty scary).

Brinicle definition

The real, scientific name of icicle of death is brinicle. It’s a combination of words “icicle” and “brine”, which pretty much sums up what brinicle is – a long tube of ice made out of seawater. It is most common in polar oceans, where temperatures allow for its formation. Such formation can be created when seawater freezes, expelling salt brine from ice. Because of its density and temperature, the brine sinks, slowly coming toward the ocean floor in form of an extremely cold plume. Along the way it freezes the seawater, it comes in contact with, causing an icicle to grow.

Ok, that seems interesting, but what about sinister “of death” part? In the end, that’s the main focus point in here. As those sea stalactites grow, they eventually reach seabed. But this doesn’t stop them. They continue to freeze everything they come in contact witch – but this time it’s not only water. Everything touched by the brine will be frozen to death, including living creatures, like sea urchins and starfishes.

Brinicle video

You can observe this phenomenon on a time-lapse video, created by BBC filmmakers. This amazing sight was caught on camera in Antarctica in 2011. It took the brinicle over 12 hours to reach the sea bed and once there, it spread for over 6 m (20ft).