A section of Finnish coastline on the island of Hailuoto, which sits in the Gulf of Bothnia between Sweden and Finland, has been swamped by “ice balls”. Ranging in size from hens’ eggs to footballs, these remarkably surreal and beautiful formations are covering a large swathe of beach.

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On the coastline on the island of Hailuoto © Sirpa Tero

“I have seen ice balls before, but never covering such a big area,” said local resident Sirpa Tero. “It’s amazing, and it’s is attracting many people who want to take photos.”

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The rare phenomenon attracted a lot of attention locally © Sirpa Tero

Experts believe that this phenomenon needs various elements to fall into place. For starters, a thin ice sheet must be blown onto a relatively gently sloping shore during particularly cold temperatures. At this point continual, yet moderate wind and wave action is need to roll these fragments of the broken ice sheet into the balls. The longer the conditions persist, the larger the balls will become.

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The ice balls range in size from hen's eggs up to footballs © Sirpa Tero

Previous occurrences of ice balls such as these have not only been found in the Gulf of Bothnia, but also in America, on the shore of Lake Michigan in Illinois, and in the far east of Russia. In September 2017, a huge mass of the ice balls covered the coast along the Gulf of Ob in the Kara Sea of northwestern Siberia. On that occasion, some of the balls were almost one metre in diameter.

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