March 15, 2018
We’ve all heard of the famous crop circle phenomenon, haven’t we? Strange, perfectly concentric circles appearing mysteriously overnight in farmers’ fields around the world. They are especially prevalent in my home county of Hampshire in England. Many different theories abound as to how these are made or who made them; including people who claim to have made them by hand. But of course the most popular, and controversial, is that they are the work of aliens.
But have you ever heard of them appearing on ice?
Well imagine my surprise one Sunday afternoon in March as I took my kids for a walk around Lake Bled. As usual I drove to the western side of the lake, known as Zaka, which provides the best views of the lake, church and castle. As we rounded the corner my son suddenly called out in excitement, “Daddy, daddy look. It’s frozen!” I looked, and it was. But then I did a double take, because what I also saw was even more exciting: a series of perfectly concentric circle embedded in the ice.
I managed to regain control of the car before swerving into an oncoming vehicle, pushed the accelerator pedal a little harder than I should have and pressed eagerly on to the car park next to the campsite. I whisked out the kids; my two-year old having just woken up and looking a little perplexed.
Immediately I herded my kids towards the little jetty that sits beside the small beachfront there in Zaka for a closer look. There were a number of perfectly concentric rings scattered across the frozen surface, but only in the little bay area of Zaka. It was a strange and surreal sight to behold, and certainly something I can honestly say I’d never seen before. Subsequent conversations with many Slovenes revealed that most of them also hadn’t. A few had, but couldn’t explain the reason behind them, except one.
Some investigation was needed.
It seems that the ice circle phenomenon is not limited to Lake Bled. In 2009 giant ice circles were spotted on Lake Baikal in Siberia from the international space station. Ice circles are apparently nothing new to the Russian government, which has documented many of them over the years.
Experts claim it’s the result of methane emissions from the lake bottom, which apparently creates a rising mass of warm water. This mass begins swirling in a circular pattern because of the Coriolis force, the phenomenon caused by the Earth's rotation. When the warm water reaches the underside of the surface ice it begins to melt the ice in a ring shape.
But are there really methane emissions in Lake Bled?
It seems that ice circles often form on river bends caused by circulating water known as eddy currents. As the swirling water freezes the outer flowing water carves the circle. These ice circles spin in the water.
Eddies can also form in lake estuaries where an obstruction causes the current to circulate, forming a mini vortex. There is a small stream that runs down beside the campsite and out into the lake which might support this theory.
The priest on Lake Bled’s island church has a simpler explanation though. When asked about this, he replied that it is how the lake freezes. It starts freezing in small circles of ice and works its way outwards.
Of course a popular, if somewhat controversial explanation is that the circle phenomenon is the result of alien visitations. In England, the crop circles invariably appear near to ancient, mystical and mysterious landmarks such as Stonehenge or Avebury stone circle. Many theorise that these circles are left behind as a message to others in outer space.
But Lake Bled?
Well, according to local folklore, the island where the church now stands was once just a hill in the middle of a green and fertile valley. It was the dwelling of the Slavic goddess and fairy queen Živa, who along with her fairies danced around the hill at night. But the local farmers angered her when they refused to stop allowing their cattle to graze upon the hill. In retaliation, she gathered the fairies on the hill one night and together they conjured up all the water from the surrounding mountaintops and flooded the valley, turning this hill into an island in a lake.
So Lake Bled certainly qualifies as an ancient and mysterious place. Of course, it could simply be that Bled is growing in popularity and is attracting more and more tourists from far flung places. Maybe word has also reached a galaxy far, far away and the aliens popped by for a look, leaving the circles behind as a message for others to come and visit.
Perhaps they got wind of Bled’s famous cream slice (kremšnita).
You can enjoy more of Ian's travel writing and photography elsewhere on Total Slovenia News, or on his website.