Nature’s 'icy finger of death' caught on tape for first time

Filmed for the first time, the icy “finger of death” is an unprecedented look at nature’s beauty -- seen at its devastating worst.

Called a brinicle (or brine icicle), cameramen Hugh Miller and Doug Anderson used a time-lapse camera to capture this awe-inspiring event beneath the Antarctic ice shelf for the upcoming Discovery Channel special series, Frozen Planet.

“We were just blown away by how beautiful they were,” producer Kathryn Jeffs told Jeffs was in Antarctica with Miller and Anderson to capture the unique event. “We were exceptionally excited and we knew we had something that had never been filmed before, never been seen before. No one has really seen the formation of a brinicle.”


This magnificent yet terrifying phenomenon is caused by brine, or naturally occurring salt water, which tends to be denser than the surrounding seawater and has a lower freezing point. When super cold brine trickles down, the warmer seawater surrounds the cyclone with a brittle layer of ice.

But capturing the event on tape was no easy feat, as the crew battled brutal conditions, technical challenges, and even seal attacks.

“Because there have been so few studies on the brinicles, it’s really, really difficult to tell when and exactly how they are going to form,” Jeffs explained to “They do have a tendency to form when the ice is being disrupted, or in extremely cold conditions -- which disrupt the inner channels and sets in motion the flow of brine.”

Following this hunch, Jeffs and her crew ventured out to the foothills of Mount Erebus, a remote volcano in Antarctica, where the team dealt with subzero temperatures and incredibly harsh conditions.

The area also happened to be a seal habitat, notoriously territorial creatures. “We finished the first dive only to find the next morning that a seal had knocked over the camera,” Jeffs said.

In the end, the team found success, to stunning effect, capturing not only the brinicle formation but also, what Jeffs refers to as the “river of death” flowing in front of it.

“It was pretty emotional when we saw that we got it,” Jeffs told, adding that some of the crew were close to tears.

“We’re really proud of the achievement.”

Frozen Planet premiers on the Discovery Channel on March 18