If you ever get the opportunity to travel to the Arctic, you should stop by this strange island in the Franz Josef Archipelago. Champ Island, Russia, is one of the world's most remote locations, covering 374 square kilometers (144 square miles). It was named after William C. Champ, who led a relief operation in 1905 in search of the Fiala Zeigler polar expedition.
Few would have noticed this location if it hadn't been for its odd concretions. Stone balls ranging in size from a few millimeters to several meters clutter the bleak terrain of this remote island. These unusual structures have been termed "monster marbles" or "footballs of the Gods" by some tourists.
They appear to be made by humans who once lived on the island, but it has never been populated.
The stones must have appeared naturally, according to scientists, but it's unclear how. Every geologist who has visited the island seems to have their own explanation for this strange occurrence.
Some speculate that the balls began as boulders washed ashore by coastal waters, which could explain the origin of small rounded spheres but not the massive balls discovered on Champ Island.
Another popular theory is that stone spheres are formed underwater and have an organic core in the center. "I believe they formed in sea water, in soft deposits from the remains of shells that once drowned and became stuck in the sandy bottom," said Sepp Fridhubera, an Austrian geologist. "The shells consisted of quartzite, a sedimentary rock that takes the form of a crystalline structure under the influence of heat or pressure, and marcasite, a mineral that is a compound as a result of chemical reactions of iron and sulfur," he says, adding that analysis revealed that marcasite was the main connecting element in the balls. Due to the rise of Franz Josef Land from the depths of the sea, sedimentary deposits eroded, forming these stone forms.
The balls are made of sandstone, according to Russian polar researcher Viktor Boyarsky, indicating an organic origin: "This is soft sandstone that can be destroyed." Those who have visited the island have noticed that some large stones have broken in half, and the largest stone is crumbling more each year."
The island's unique formations have made it a popular tourist destination in the Arctic. Tourist flows, like wind and water, may cause further gradual disruption of the concretions. Not only because of excessive touching or selfies, but also because some tourists dared to take a few stones as a souvenir.
Similar natural phenomena have been observed on Heiss Island in the same archipelago, as well as in Crimea, Kazakhstan (Torysh), the United States (Rock City, Kansas), and New Zealand (Moeraki Boulders).