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Spinning ice disc: Mesmerising footage shows 20ft wide circle turning on a Chinese river


Mesmerising footage shows 20ft wide ice disc spinning non-stop on a Chinese river due to rare natural phenomenon

  • The spectacle appeared yesterday in Genhe City, China’s ‘pole of cold’
  • Footage shows the circle going anti-clockwise on a partially frozen river
  • Genhe has an annual average temperature of minus 5.3 degrees Celsius 
  • The phenomenon occurs when water flow creates a vortex under an ice disc

By Billie Thomson For Mailonline

Published: | Updated:

A large ice disc has been spotted spinning slowly and continuously on a river in northern China.

The piece of circular ice – formed by a natural phenomenon – had a diameter of about 20 feet, according to Chinese state media.

The spectacle appeared yesterday in Genhe, a city known as ‘China’s pole of cold’.

The piece of turning ice appeared yesterday in Genhe, a city known as ‘China’s pole of cold’

Footage circulating on social media shows the frozen circle gradually turning anti-clockwise on a partially frozen waterway. 

It was spotted on Wednesday morning near a neighbourhood in the western suburbs of Genhe in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, reported Chinese state news agency Xinhua

The temperatures there ranged between minus four and minus 26 degrees Celsius (24.8 and -14.8 degrees Fahrenheit) on the day.


Ice disks, also known as ice circles, have been known to appear in the Arctic, Scandinavia and Canada.

They occur at bends in the river where the accelerating water creates a force called ‘rotational shear’, which breaks off a chunk of ice and twists it around.

As the disc rotates, it grinds against surrounding ice – smoothing into a perfect circle.

Residents in Genhe were treated with a similar sight last November. A smaller ice disc, measuring two metres (6.6 feet) wide, appeared to spin on its own in an anti-clockwise direction on Genhe River.

Situated near the border between China and Russia, Genhe is known for its harsh winter, which usually lasts eight months.

Its annual average temperature is minus 5.3 degrees Celsius (22.46 degrees Fahrenheit) while a wintry day can be as cold as minus 58 degrees Celsius (minus 72.4 degree Fahrenheit), according to Xinhua

Ice discs come into being due to the fact that warm water is less dense than cold water, therefore when ice melts and sinks, the motion creates a vortex underneath the chunk, causing it to turn, according to National Geographic, citing a 2016 study. 

The ‘whirlpool effect’ slowly erodes the plate of ice until its edges are smooth and its overall shape is perfectly round.

One of the most famous ice discs in recent times was sighted early last year in Presumpscot River in downtown Westbrook, Maine.

The spectacle was said to be about 300 feet in diameter and likely the largest spinning ice disc on record.


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