Weird ice balls in London?

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I received the following communication yesterday from Martin John Callanan, the (ahem) artist in residence at University College London's Environmental Institute:
Here is some important news I must share with you.

Late last night I began hearing reports of strange icy objects in a part of east London (UK) commonly referred to as Victoria Park. It was too dark to investigate and the park was locked until this morning. At dawn I set out to investigate, having only just returned to my office, this is the first email I write. What I discovered was so strange and unusual the first step was to upload the documentation to my website and contact you as a matter of urgency.

Within what appeared to be a rather contained area of roughly 200 acres coinciding remarkably with the boundary of Victoria Park, I found and recorded more than 300 occurrences of what I refer to as “ice balls”. These are roughly spherical objects ranging from ~30cm to more than ~150cm diameter. For now, until more information becomes available to me, I must surmise these “ice balls” are similar in origin to hail. Perhaps this exaggerated scale is the latest phenomenon associated to our rapidly changing climate.

I enclose a few images here, with the remaining 300 online at a special new website: http://iceballs.greyisgood.eu

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  1. You can clearly see that these ‘ice balls’ were rolled up snowballs, ala the base of a snowman. The ground in the background has a clear layer of snow, and the balls clearly have dirt marks on them from being rolled to pickup all the missing snow in the foreground…

  2. I suspect those green paths in the snow are where those balls were rolled to get them as big as they are. I used to do that all the time as a kid.

  3. ice balls…that were obviously created from the strips of missing snow evident in the photos.

    Step 1: make snow ball
    Step 2: roll along ground
    Step 3: render giant “ice ball”
    Step 4: profit

  4. Umm… Is this a joke? About snowballs? These show up within minutes of snow falling on the college campus where I work. It’s like making the first part of a snow man. If you get a few people pushing, or have access to a hill you can make ’em really big before they get too heavy. If the snow is the least bit wet, or if the temperature goes up you get ice. I especially like the partially melted ones with stick-arms poking out of them.

  5. Me thank mister Pescovitz. Me thot “ice balls” was condition i suffer when roaming Arctic tundra.

  6. Those are just rolled balls of snow. Most of them look like they’ve begun melting/refreezing already. In several pictures you can see the melted tracks.

    I wouldn’t be alarmed. It happens all the time here in Minnesota when it snows. Police and paranormal investigators surmise it’s the work of an alien entities known as “children”.

  7. For serious? If things this big fell from the sky, wouldn’t you expect to see at least one crushed passerby who had been sqooshed by enormous falling ice balls?

    We used to have things like this on the lawn of my high school, albeit not more than 1 or 2 at a time. They were big, about 3-4 feet in diameter. They were made by students.

  8. I think it’s funny you people are pondering this. Scroll the images and you’ll see some with hats, branch arms and hats. This is a joke post. Man, you scream “global warming” and people go retarded.

  9. I was the creator of such balls in regents park the problem occurs when one tries to lift the oversize lumps of ice on top of each other.

  10. wow… I suppose this proves that Londoners don’t ever see snow. #4 is definitely right on about the green paths–this is easily the work of a bunch of kids and /or adults who have had a lot of spare time in the past week due to all the school / work cancellations.

  11. but who is making these snowballs/anatomically-challenged snow-people in the air and just dropping them within the enclosed area?

  12. Beep, beep, beep…it’s the clue bus, and it’s beeping just for you. Thanks for the laugh this morning.

  13. It appears to be a man made phenomenon. Some busy people to make 300.

    But surely if something this large fell from great height it would either shatter or cause a crater on impact. and as interesting as the giant hail theory is, Hail is caused by updrafts and it would take some crazy updrafts to lift a sphere of that size.

  14. #1 – you beat us all to it. Since it doesn’t snow much in England, what they do get is likely to be rather wet and sticky, just the thing for rolling out big snowballs like that.

    A ball of ice falling from the stratosphere would have burst open on impact, and made quite a crater. Or possibly smashed someone’s car to smithereens.

  15. Anyone who actually out of their house on the snow day in london would have noticed that people were making snowmen everywhere.
    Considering that most people never see snow in london, and the fact that school and work was effectively cancelled that day, kids and grown-ups alike descended on the parks of london and built snowmen. Some of them were huge, I witnessed at least two or three snowmen in excess of 6 feet in height.
    The next day, and the day after, these eventually collapsed (or were kicked down), and absorbed the infamous london pollution. Thus clusters of giant snowballs such as those seen in the photo were a common sight in the days following the snow day.

    At least that’s what the gub’rn’nt want you to think…..

  16. Ugh. Those things are gross.

    Citizens of London:

    Next time wait for the second once-in-a-century snowfall (just after the first one) before making those things.

    That way you’ll have a nice solid base and your snowballs won’t look like something Paul Bunyan pulled out of his nose.

  17. I think posts like these are just Easter Eggs for we Canucks and our northern neighbours in the US. This is the best one I’ve seen since the guy who didn’t know what ski trails looked like.

  18. Wow, creepy, these things have been appearing in the fields all around my house, too. Maybe it’s a nationwide phenomenon!?

  19. I live near this park and they were EVERYWHERE! The day after the snow there was these metre diameter dirty ice balls all over the park.

    Me and my girlfriend thought they were like crop circles for snow.

    I’m sorry, as a eye witness, I can’t offer more. Oh, except they weren’t there when we went to bed, but when we got up…dirty ice balls!

    I’m Australian and my girlfriend is Japanese and we thought maybe its some wierd London custom.

  20. @#35 Desprez: So true! I think the original post was funny, but reading so many of these folks seriously pointing out what the “mysterious ice balls” really are is just killing me! :D

  21. I gotta say, I thought that the BB community was possessed of more clues than are in evidence today. How did so many manage to think this was serious?

  22. I live in Vermont and my Kids make Giant Snow Balls anytime there is wet sticky snow then they usually get me help them to lift them to make their snow men .So this is almost a daily thing around my house .

  23. I have to laugh and laugh at people who’d unsubscribe to BB over this post.

    I didnt realize that dirty giant snowballs are such a offensive, contentious topic. They’re made of frozen water and dirt, you know. They aren’t actually yeti anatomy.

    Geez :p

  24. These are ready,staged snow balls made by ancient Britons after the completion of Stonehenge. The question archeologist are asking is where are the completed Druidic snowmen? And the search is on.

  25. Missing from the photo is the 600 gallon glass of scotch to drop them in- this is a country which takes its humor and drinking seriously.

  26. is it bad that i clicked through to this story from my RSS reader just so i could see all the comments from people who didn’t get the joke?

  27. While I too at first thought we were seeing an ominous manifestation of accelerating climate change, the phenomenon “coinciding remarkably with the boundary of Victoria Park” caused me pause. This indicates some sort of intelligence behind the ice balls and opens up the possibility of an alien or, more likely, terrestrial foreign power. (Chinese? Russian? Iranian???!!!)

    I can only hope the British authorities are taking this seriously as a potential new and mysterious salvo in the ongoing war on terror that grips us all.

  28. We have these at my local (West London) park too. The only surprising thing is that there are so many which are just one ice ball, with no hats or attempt at snowmen. I wondered if the park keepers (or similar) made them in partial snow clearing efforts.

    Me and my mates were playing in the park, and smashing them up. It took a lot of doing to break them up actually.

  29. How did so many manage to think this was serious?

    This? I can think of a dozen posts in the last week alone where something similar happened.

    I guess it’s all about who you take seriously, and how far.

  30. OOoooooh. *groan*

    Pescovitz…you gave us his webpage?

    …on which I see we can track his physical location 24h a day? (He appears to be waiting for the tube atm)

  31. reason to create account:
    could not stand boingboing-unworthy snowball-posting. this is straightforward iceshit. may the incredible meltman hunt you down in your dreams.

    thanks NOT for posting this, get back to quality.

    dismissed.

  32. Actually the photos are nice, and his artifice in calling them something other than what they are, well, that’s art.

  33. Actually the photos are nice, and his artifice in calling them something other than what they are, well, that’s art.

    And even if it’s not art, this thread proves it’s wonderful. Sure makes ya’ wonder.

  34. This is a hilarious thread. Do you really think the guy is that ignorant?!?!? He’s making fun of the crop-circle wackies, is how it looks to me.

  35. this was not an isolated incident. they were all over London Fields too. and there was one on the school oval.

  36. Obviously this is a joke. Pics #39 & #40 clearly show an attempt at a snowman. In #40, you can actually make out twigs that were stuck to it.

  37. I have no idea what’s going on, so here’s an ascii bunny with a pancake on its head:
    _ _
    \ \ __ / /
    \ \(__)/ /
    \ \ / /
    | * * |
    | T |
    \ ^ /
    —-

  38. What the hell has happened to the BRAINS of people as of late? First it’s the Mysterious Lincoln Era Emoticon now it’s “Mysterious Ice Balls”

    Clearly the trifecta will be complete when we get a post about “Mysterious Black Spots on Sidewalks”

    Pescovitz, are you guys seriously posting this stuff thinking it’s real? Or are you doing it for laughs? If it’s laugh, that’s great. If it’s for real, then you need to get out of the house more often :^)

  39. They are obviously speckled dragon eggs:
    when consumed, they confer magic resistance
    and reflection and are quite rare. Each requires
    2 1/2 elves to portage and they will fetch you
    ~550gp at the local market should you be so lucky
    to get past the brigands in the nearby forest.

  40. *points to the (ahem) in the original post*

    Of course Pescovitz didn’t think it was “real”.
    While I found the post to be humorous, I find the reactionary posts of people who just don’t “get it” to be hilarious!

    Since when is boingboing supposed to be serious and real? It’s a “directory of wonderful things!”

    I’m praying for mysterious black sidewalk spots now!

  41. #39 “Troll-eggs” and #59 “Katamari” – thank you anonymouses for making me crack up :D

    This thread is indeed glorious, though I do admit it veers scarily towards mere /b/-style “made of win” instead.

  42. They may be called “snow rollers.” What happens is the temperature gets cold enough to form a crust on top of the snow. A chunk will break off and the wind will pick it up and start rolling it end-over-end until it makes these giant swiss cake roll looking things.

  43. Step 1: Take photos of something a little unusual.
    Step 2: Write a press release.
    Step 3: Send a copy to BoingBoing.
    Step 4: Watch my hit count skyrocket me from obscurity into a sensational new ‘artiste’.
    Step 5: Profit.

    I, for one, welcome our new snowball overlords.

  44. I am just hoping this discussion of where giant snowballs come from can get as many hits as the mannequin with speakers in its boobs.

    And seriously people, eggs would be in a more protected spot, not out in the open like this. Also, very few eggs are made of snow.

  45. Wow. Occam’s razor must need sharpening.

    Big balls of snow in a field of snow.

    Paths of bare grass in snowy field behind said big balls of snow.

    The obvious conclusion: Must be giant hail balls!!!

    Maybe it’s only funny to someone who grew up around lots of snow?

  46. mrfantasy (#69) — I completely agree: “Actually the photos are nice…” I’m somewhat surprised more people haven’t commented on how visually striking the pictures are. I think they’re beautiful.

  47. Noone has given me a reason as to why these only seem to occur in parks or grassy areas.

    After extensive research I’ve uncovered the truth. All london’s parks were created over areas of ver high magnetism, this high magnetism prevented building on them as the metal tools used int he building trade would cease to work and/or be glued to the floor.

    Now over time this magnetism has faded (which is why you don’t see people’s phones being drawn to the ground in londond parks nowadays) but something about the cold causes the magnetism to “flare” up again. I think it’s to do with changes of charge in the ionosphere.

    Unknown to most people the snow we get in england has a very high metal content, due to centuries of heavy industry pollution and car fumes. The swirling edies of magnetism in the parks draw in this metallic snow and roll larger and larger balls of it until they’re too larger for the field to influence any more.

    Hence these weird looking snow balls. Simple when you think about it, isn’t it?

  48. What a wonderful sense of “humor” the “artist” has. Mysterious ice balls? Not worthy of posting…

  49. #98 – What a wonderful sense of “humor” the “poster” has. Uncommonsense? Not worthy of posting…

  50. I’m normally sceptical about paranormal phenomena, but today I was walking down Camberwell New Road, and in a small park near a council estate, one of these miraculous balls was still there, even though the snow around it had melted in the rain.

  51. The person that wrote everything that is in quotes in this post, s cmplt fl, nd likely has never rolled up a damn snowball.

  52. I don’t think we are going to make it, unless someone can produce an image of these “balls” with speakers in them.

  53. If this was posted in jest, I suggest the poster sticks to the daily job and does not launch a career as a comedian.

    If it wasn’t I recommend er, nothing really…

  54. Have you never been a child or what ? I remember created stuff like these ones with my brother: we simply roll small snowballs until they are too big too move.
    Nothing to see here.

  55. oh I knew they hadn’t forgotten us down south! our mother country is rolling us snow balls to keep us cool in the 40+ heat in Australia – thanks guys thats sooo sweet :)

  56. It’s Art, you wouldn’t understand.

    I suppose this proves that Londoners don’t ever see snow

    Seems to be quite a lot of ignorance about the British weather here.

    It’s really not that unusual for it to snow in London- it gets a least a little snow most winters; and there was unseasonal lying snow in London in April and October 2008.

    The quantity last week was somewhat exceptional, though…

  57. Wow! Mysterious white stuff rolled into balls onto[ of mysterious green stuff by mysterious beings who are neither adults nor babies.

  58. …and Redshirt77, they do lay their eggs in the middle of a field like this. Be very careful not to go near their eggs – they protect their eggs by swooping on anyone who comes near and see how their eggs are all icy, well you don’t want to know what they do when they swoop on you!

  59. Nice snowball photos. Very Andy Goldsworthy-ish, especially with the negative-image snowless trails leading up to them. Note: Anonymous @62 also pointed out their Goldsworthiness.

    Circa86 @104, I’m in sympathy; that style of punctuation has always set my teeth on edge. Still, it’s better form (and more deniable) to make your description your review, and leave it at that.

    Lobsterfancy @101 thinks this reads like an article from The Onion. I’m more inclined to think it’s the comment thread that meets that spec: AREA COMMENTERS CAUTION OTHERS AGAINST MISSING “IRONY” IN GIANT SNOWBALL ARTICLE.

    Finally, I think we owe Jonobo @68 and UncommonSense @98 a debt of humble gratitude for setting us all straight.

  60. @#84 I thought your bunny was cool and just what this thread needed!

    @ everyone else bitching about this thread as being “not worthy” or whatever, when did you get so damn high and mighty as to think that everything on Boinb Boing was meant to be serious? Stop growing up, take a deep breath, crack a smile and enjoy the rest of the day…! :)

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