300-Foot Wide Floating Saucer of Ice Forms on a River in Maine

iStock.com/Onfokus
iStock.com/Onfokus

People are crowding the banks of Presumpscot River in Westbrook, Maine to see a strange natural phenomenon. As temperatures in Maine have plunged, a giant, floating ice disk has formed on the river's surface, NBC News reports—and it's gaining worldwide attention.

The ice disk appeared when a cold snap hit the Portland, Maine suburb earlier in January. It isn't unusual to see ice chunks floating down the Presumpscot River this time of year, but this floe is notable for its size (roughly 300 feet across!) and shape. From land, it looks like a near-perfect circle, prompting comparisons to flying saucers and the moon. And as of Wednesday, January 16, the disk had been slowly spinning counter-clockwise.


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The uncanny sight is actually the result of a natural process. According to experts, the disk likely formed when a chunk of river ice got caught in a vortex powered by a waterfall 100 feet upstream. As the ice spun it would have bumped into the shore continuously, smoothing out its rough edges into a smooth circle.

CBS 13 reports that the giant ice pancake stopped spinning on Wednesday after getting caught on another piece of ice near the the riverbank. It continuous to attract spectators and serve as a landing pad for local ducks.


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[h/t NBC News]

An Underpass for Turtles in Wisconsin Is Saving Dozens of the Little Guys’ Lives

Dmytro Varavin/iStock via Getty Images
Dmytro Varavin/iStock via Getty Images

Why did the turtle cross the road? Because an underground tunnel made it safe to do so.

In 2016, the Wisconsin Departments of Transportation and Natural Resources partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to construct a tunnel beneath Highway 66, hoping to cut down on high turtle mortality rates, reports Robert Mentzer for Wisconsin Public Radio.

The tunnel, with Jordan Pond on one side and wetlands on the other, was a noble venture, but the turtles had no way of knowing it was a crossing point rather than a dark and potentially dangerous hole. So Pete Zani, herpetologist and associate professor of biology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, installed aluminum flashing outside of each opening, which would reflect the sky and let turtles know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Zani also installed grates above the tunnel to make it less shadowy, and a small cul-de-sac in a nearby piece of the fencing to encourage turtles who had missed the tunnel to turn around.

Zani and his team found that in the first year after construction, 85 percent fewer turtles were killed on the road, and no baby turtles were among the casualties. In the last few years combined, only 40 turtles died, compared to 66 deaths in 2015 alone.

That’s great news for local turtles, of course, and it’s great news for local humans, too. The intersection in question is always busy with truckers, commuters, and families en route to Jordan Pond, and turtle crossing can exacerbate traffic congestion and increase the chance of accidents.

Not all turtles have caught on, however, and it looks like some might never get the memo. Zani found that about 30 percent of snapping turtles and 20 percent of painted turtles make it through the tunnel, and those numbers have been consistent each year since construction. “They either get it or they don’t,” Zani told Wisconsin Public Radio.

Other animals are getting it, too. As part of the experiment, Zani set up a turtle-wrangling program in which students monitored trail cameras for turtle activity outside the underpass. In photos captured by the cameras, they noticed that rodents, mink, skunks, raccoons, and even house cats were traveling by turtle tunnel.

[h/t Wisconsin Public Radio]

Canned Aquafina Water May Be Coming to a Store Near You

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Like boxed cereal and egg cartons, bottled water is one of the most pervasive and familiar examples of consumer packaging around. But PepsiCo, which produces the LIFEWTR and Aquafina water brands, is looking to change that. The company recently announced a new strategy that would reduce its use of plastics and ultimately wean consumers off bottles entirely, turning them on to sipping water from aluminum cans instead.

According to The Takeout, Pepsi says it plans to change how its water is packaged in significant ways begining in 2020. The LIFEWTR brand will use plastic bottles, but the company plans to source those containers from 100 percent rPET, or recycled polyethylene terephthalate. Its bubly sparkling water line, meanwhile, will be sold in cans, rather than in both bottles and cans, as it currently is. So will Aquafina, one of the leading bottled water brands, though it will initially be offered in cans only at food service establishments while the company tests retail preferences. If all goes well, retail consumers will eventually be able to buy Aquafina in cans, too.

Such alterations would make for sweeping changes to the bottled water business, which has exploded in recent years. In 2016, the average American drank 39.3 gallons of packaged water per capita, edging out soda’s 38.5 gallons.

The move to cans stems in large part from consumer habits. Over half of all beer and soda cans are recycled compared to just 31.2 percent of plastic bottles.

PepsiCo expects the changes will result in saving more than 8800 tons of virgin plastic and 12,125 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. The company is looking to make all of its packaging recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable by 2025.

[h/t The Takeout]

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