Apparently we human beings have a brain that is specialised in understanding and interpreting faces. Carl Sagan believed we are "hard-wired" from birth to identify the human face because it increases our chances of survival if we're able to discern friend from foe quickly. This allows people to use only minimal details to recognize faces from a distance and in poor visibility but can also lead them to interpret random images or patterns of light and shade as being faces (a psychological phenomenon called pareidolia).
A very famous instance of pareidolia is the Face of Mars, and not a week passes by where somewhere around the world someone claims to have seen the face of Jesus Christ in some object or other. They see them on Google Earth images, ultrasound pictures, pieces of pizza, Sussex hawthorns, chicken feathers and IKEA toilet doors. What, you've seen the Lord's face in some shroud? Boring!Look what I saw when I opened a jar of Marmite this morning.
I'm not writing this blog post to inform you that I've seen our Saviour's face appear somewhere in the Arctic sea ice (although I probably could if I wanted to), but it is definitely funny to see facial patterns when looking closely at the MODIS satellite images. Here are some examples:
Towards the end of last year's melting season I was keeping a close watch on the northeastern part of Greenland because the fast ice was breaking off from the coast in quite a spectacular fashion. I did some animations of that when a piece of ice the size of Corsica broke off, gyred a bit and then completely disintegrated. At a certain point I clearly discerned the face of a king en profil. A lovely aristocratic nose, a stiff upper lip and goatee to match.
This year is looking very promising. Ever since the ice has been blown away from the Siberian coast, or perhaps even started to melt due to high air temperatures, increasing amount of insolation and relatively warm river discharge, I'm seeing all kinds of huge faces where the land-fast ice contrasts starkly with the deep blue sea water. Take for instance these two:
On the left I clearly see a little monkey nibbling away at the ice. You like that, don't you, monkey boy? No nibbling on the other image though. This fellow opened his big mouth all the way to shove in as much ice as he can. And well he should. Who knows how long the ice will remain there in front of his nose?
Speaking of which, this gentleman is having a sniff with his big nose before taking a bite. "Hmm, will this be tasty or not", he wonders:
But here's my absolute favourite, a piece of art. I can almost hear this guy talk: