Brinicles are the most bizarre phenomena below sea ice. They grow like stalactites, but much faster and in absent of other forces eventually touch the sea floor freezing all creatures to death in their path. In 2011 the BBC team filming for 'Frozen Planet' captured these 'icy fingers of death' for the first time.
In a recent paper Julyan Cartwright at the University of Granada in Spain and colleagues describe in detail the chemistry of brinicles, and their most interesting observation is that brinicles also create chemical gradients, electric potentials and membranes - all the conditions necessary for the formation of life.
The paper concludes: Understanding the formation of brinicles goes hand in hand with understanding the process of salt rejection in sea ice. The concept that salt rejection works in a similar way to semipermeable membranes is an idea that can have several implications in many related processes.
But perhaps the most important application of salt rejection is that related with the theories for a cold origin of life on our planet or elsewhere in the universe. The origin of life is often proposed to have occurred in a hot environment, like the one found in hydrothermal vents. It is proposed that chemical-garden processes are involved in the mechanism. But there is a different school of thought that presents sea ice as a promoter of the emergence of the ﬁrst life. ...
The take-away message is: We'll probably do not have enough time to find out which lifeforms waiting for discovery are going to disappear with the Arctic sea ice. And don't you think a mechanism capable to turn inorganic compounds into self replicating molecules earns some form of respect?