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Video: Life aboard an Antarctic icebreaker

Two months breaking ice (in under five minutes)

Life aboard an icebreaker isn't always the most exciting thing: sometimes it means days plowing through pack ice, moving slowly as the frozen sea outside creaks and howls against the hull of the ship. But for Cassandra Brooks, one of the researchers aboard the Antarctic icebreaking vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer, there was magic in the ice, and a video uploaded to YouTube on May 2 illustrates, in perhaps the most fascinating way, the mystery and majesty of the sea at the bottom of the world.

"There is ice that streaked, and shattered like glass," Brooks narrates. "Ice splitting along hidden seams. Grease ice, forming as a thin layer as the winds whip and scream. Ice forming like pancakes, first small, then growing in size, often growing golden-green with algae. Then the pancakes freeze together, forming pack ice which breaks into floes."

Over the two months at sea -- condensed to a convenient and captivating five minutes for the YouTube crowd -- the ship sometimes makes easy progress through thin ice and open water. Other times, it's shown ramming its way through a tough stretch, or even sitting still, temporarily stuck fast in the thick slabs of solid water around it. The ship was in search of "polynyas" -- patches of open water surrounded by ice -- to examine phytoplankton blooms and their effects on the Antarctic ecosystem.

But enough talk. Check out the hypnotizing video, and be sure to watch out for penguin crossings.