As mysterious places around the globe go, the North and South Poles are fairly up there in terms of the strange and unusual. There's not too much that is known about these frosty ice caps other than the fact that their magnetic direction is entirely unique and their average temperature is below freezing. The South Pole is much more mysterious than the north, however, as Antarctica is essentially one massive ice layer that we consider to be a continent. In stark contrast, the North Pole consists of the Arctic Circle, which encompasses some land masses in the northern hemisphere, making it a bit easier to conduct research. With all of that ice, snow, and their downright frigid conditions, both Poles hold some interesting secrets and surprises.
Anything from wildlife to microbes seemingly stands apart from the rest of the world in terms of evolution when it comes to these two ends of the earth, and we've found some of the strangest. If intrigue is something that you're interested in, coupled with a bit of nature education, then you're in the right place. Here are some of the most unusual, albeit extraordinary, things that stand out about two of the most mysterious places on earth.
20 North Pole: A Virus That Can Survive The Frost
Speaking of finding strange new bacteria under sheets of ice, something similar was discovered in the North Pole. Fortunately, this type of virus does not prey on humans, but it was odd to find all the same. This virus was named the Mollivirus and Business Insider referred to it as a "behemoth".
It was estimated to be roughly 30,000 years old, and the scariest part? That wasn't the only virus of its type that scientists were uncovering.
Luckily, these new discoveries infect only amoebas so it's unlikely that they'll ravage the planet.
19 South Pole: "Sea Pigs" Exist And They're Strange, To Say The Least
Yes, Sea Pigs are actually as weird as they sound -- But would you expect anything less out of the South Pole? They're not actually "pigs" although they dwell in the sea and realistically, they don't really resemble pigs at all. They likely get their name from their bulbous shape and pink coloring, but they're actually a species of sea cucumber.
These ocean inhabitants crawl along the ocean floor and go by the scientific name of Scotoplanes.
They suck up organic nutrients with their tube-like appendages and often stay to themselves, eating things that have fallen from the ocean surface and settled to the bottom.
18 North Pole: The Wolly Mammoth Was Once Prevalent
You've all heard of them and seen them depicted in numerous movies and if you're lucky enough, you may have even seen a replica in a museum. The Wolly Mamouth once walked this earth just like any other species in the wild and one was found, as perfectly preserved as it could be, not too long ago.
In Siberia, scientist dug out what they believed to be the 39,000-year old remnants of a female Wolly Mammoth, which was displayed in Tokyo post-discovery.
In addition to the perfectly preserved body and bone structure of this animal, scientists were able to take a blood sample, too.
17 South Pole: Arachnophobes Take Cover, Antarctica Has Their Version Of Spiders, Too
Okay okay, they're not really "spiders", per se. They are totally creepy, though, if you're not about that sort of thing -- And they're actually members of the crab species.
These long-legged, seemingly arachnoids, are bottom-dwellers that live in the depths of the world's coldest oceans, feeding on small fish and microbes.
Sea spiders have the same exoskeleton as any other crustacean but have adapted to live in cold waters just as soft-shell and blue claw have adapted to living in warmer waters.
16 North Pole: You Can't Escape Sharks That Easily
These massive sharks are native to Greenland (and also called the Greenland Sharks) are unlike the Great White and Tiger sharks, they're not one to be feared in the water. While they are roughly the same size as a Great White, Sleeper Sharks move through the water in a very lackadaisical, easy-going way, eating things that have fallen off the ice shelf above along with crustaceans.
According to BBC, these sharks are super slow-moving -- hitting a going rate of only.8 MPH. They also can't see very well, making them even less of a threat than any other shark.
15 South Pole: The Infamous "Blood Falls"
You've likely heard this story before, the one about researchers finding a "bleeding glacier". Nicknamed "blood falls", this discovery was nothing more than classic chemistry that had a rather grotesque-looking result. Even eerier, it seems to echo the cries of global warming from scientists.
In reality, the liquid pouring out of the Taylor glacier was nothing more than a sign of a high level of copper-rich nutrients in the water.
This unusual red spill served no harm and was one of nature's unusual illusions, caused by something that's naturally occurring.
14 North Pole: Strange And Unexplained Holes
These strange crater-like holes in the Arctic were discovered in April of this year and according to National Geographic, scientists still have no idea as to what caused them. Due to the color change in the ice, it would appear that these holes are a result of something melting the surface... However, exactly what that remains a mystery.
The holes were discovered during an annual flyover and became a large question mark, leading scientists to draw the conclusion that rapidly-melting ice caps contribute to these odd holes.
13 South Pole: Frozen Waves Are A Nod To The Insane Temperature Drops
Antarctica is a barren and dangerous, yet unimaginably beautiful place in the winter months. With these below zero temperature come a plethora of features that can only be created when moisture hits an unbelievably low temperature, and ice waves are one of them. These structures become frozen in time during sudden temperature drops and form massive walls of water, seemingly stopped right out of thin air. In addition, ice can be frozen in the shape of tubes, resulting in a prismatic, aqua-colored chamber.
12 North Pole: A Skunk Bear Sounds Mildly Unpleasant
Surprise! A skunk bear is actually just a wolverine, and we don't mean the kind from X-Men. This cute Arctic mammal is of the weasel species and though it sounds like something three times its size, it's relatively harmless in the tundra aside from its razor-like claws. These animals were built tough in order to withstand the outrageous cold and have the ability to go on for up to 15 miles per day, according to Insider.
They're also related to the otter family and the resemblance is fairly clear if you examine their facial features and body shape.
11 South Pole: Frozen Tunnels That Extend Well Past 800 Feet
While there are "frozen tunnels" that researchers use to travel the frozen land in the South Pole, there are also tunnels that are not man-made. We're talking about ice caverns formed by frozen waves back in 2013. These incredible frozen structures are actually a result of compressed ice which casts a brilliant aqua hue when sunlight is filtered through it. They freeze in such massive shapes and remain frozen solid to the point where you could slide through them without about one crashing down on you. It's an amazing thing to witness.
10 South Pole: Trees That Are 280 Million Years Old Hidden Under The Ice
It's hard to believe that the South Pole was once warmer than the below-freezing temperatures we've just grown to accept as normal today, but it was. Almost 300 million years ago, Antarctica once had trees and earlier this year, scientists found fossils to prove this theory. Trees, just like anything else, leave behind a biological footprint in the form of a fossil when the conditions are just right. Buried underneath tons of snow, scientists found ferns that would have been roughly 40 meters tall, according to CNN.
The brilliant thing is that these trees would have been able to adapt to the ever-changing light conditions in order to bypass the winter freeze and darkness.
9 North Pole: Norway's Arctic Circle Was Once Home To Iron Horses
The northernmost parts of Norway transverse the Arctic Circle and as such, hold some secrets of their own. One of which is the discovery of an iron age horse buried under the ice in its high-altitude mountains. This fossil discovery of a horse used during the iron age filled in a period of the history of which scientists were able to draw the conclusion that this working horse was crucial to survival during that period.
The horse likely would have been used to deliver supplies, including reindeer meat, down to the villages below. Who knows what else will be found as these glaciers melt?
8 South Pole: Believe It Or Not, Scientists Have Found Fossils In This Tundra
Roughly 200 million years ago, dinosaurs claimed the earth as their own, long before human beings were the most dangerous predator. This was proven to be true when scientists discovered fossils as far south as Antarctica, perfectly preserved and encapsulated in layers upon layers of ice. In addition to dinosaurs, scientists also discovered a cat-like creature back in 2009 that had the ability to reproduce via egg-laying. It was presumed that this strange animal had migrated and adapted to life in a much colder environment.
7 North Pole: Mummies Found As Far As Siberia
In 2017, a Siberian discovery rocked the mummy world as we know it when scientists discovered something unlikely within its frozen depths. A Russian woman, estimated to be roughly 900-years old, was found in the permafrost not too far from the Arctic Circle. Said to be of a medieval civilization, she became the first woman to be discovered in that area amongst a society of mostly men.
Additionally, scientists found the mummified remains of a baby not too far away, leading to a breakthrough in prior knowledge of this Arctic civilization.
6 South Pole: A Meteorite Found Its Way South... Way Down South
Meteorites are not particular to any one region and have a tendency to fall out of the sky and land where they will, but this one, in particular, was discovered in the South Pole back in 2015. The discovery was made by NASA and turned out to be much older than anyone could have guessed. The meteorite landed there roughly 13,000 years prior and came from Mars, making it a unique specimen in and of itself. Upon close examination, scientists found tiny microbes that were specific to the planet itself -- not to Antarctica.
5 North Pole: New Islands Have Been Exposed
Near the Fjords lies an island that had surfaced back in 2013. This island was a result of the split of Northbrook Island, thus creating a similar, smaller island. With the effects of global warming slowly taking hold, it would seem that new structures are appearing and disappearing all the time. As the ice melts and breaks off, both of the polar ice caps are facing growth and loss and changing in shape. This means that we might see more discoveries in the future along with land masses we didn't previously know about.
4 South Pole: Pyramid-Like Structures Were Perhaps One Of The First
While it resembles something that you'd find in modern-day Egypt, this "pyramid" is actually a mountaintop. While many people speculated about early civilizations and societies that were the Arctic equivalent of the Egyptians, according to IFLScience, this pyramid is simply just a nunatak. That means that it's a section of rock that stands out above a glacier and as for the shape of it? It's just a funny coincidence that it's so triangular in shape and form. However, you can find similar mountain peaks in the Alps as well as in Iceland.
3 South Pole: An Entire Mountain Range Under The Ice
The exact name of this 750-mile long range is called the Gamburtsev Mountains and it was only recently discovered roughly 50 years ago. Comparatively, this range is the equivalent of some mountains you'd find above-ground all over the world, with peaks reaching upward of 10,000 feet. According to Grunge, the closest thing on earth that scientists could compare this incredible natural wonder too is the Alps.
They speculate that this range dates as far back as the prehistoric era, meaning there could be clues to what life was like over 100 million years ago.
2 North Pole: The Permafrost Itself Is Quite Interesting
Permafrost is essentially frozen ground that remains frozen throughout a period of two years. This constant thawing makes up roughly 9 million miles in the North Pole and takes up parts of Siberia as well as Alaska. You'll notice it primarily amongst higher altitudes where the temperature, on average, falls below freezing. This ground will remain frozen underneath your feet for years due to the inability to thaw and really is a trademark of the northern hemisphere due to the fact that it has more landmass than the southernmost pole. Imagine walking outside in the middle of winter and finding that your entire front yard is under a sheet of frozen snow and ice -- This is what you'd experience with permafrost indefinitely since it rarely thaws.
1 South Pole: Life That Exists In A Subglacial Lake
A lake that exists under solid layers of ice (two miles deep, to be exact) might sound like something out of The Thing, but it was not a Hollywood scenario by any means. Scientists discovered a massive subglacial lake back in 2012 in Antarctica set beneath the frozen tundra. It was dubbed Lake Vostok and it held some interesting secrets which scientists were surprised to discover. Underneath this frozen mass deep within the water, they found species of bacteria that were able to withstand the unbelievably cold temperatures and deep freeze, as well as small jellyfish and actual fish. These new discoveries were major advancements in learning how microbes adapt and learn how to survive, albeit somewhat nerve-wracking that we didn't know they were there in the first place.