Ice Worms of the Alaska Klondike

In 1898 a young man named E.J. "Stroller" White was struggling to make it as a journalist in Dawson, Alaska. He got a job with the Klondike Nugget on the condition that he increase sales. Luck was with him, because a huge storm soon hit the area, and in the wake of the storm White excitedly announced that a new creature had been discovered: ice worms.

The ice worms that White described were quite bizarre. Being cold-loving creatures, the extreme chill of the recent storm had apparently caused them to crawl out of their holes in a nearby glacier in order to "bask in the unusual frigidity in such numbers that their chirping was seriously interfering with the slumbers of Dawson's inhabitants."

The worms soon became the talk of the town and sales of the Klondike Nugget soared as White continued to write about them. People went out on expeditions to find them, carefully listening for their characteristic chirping. And bartenders in town began serving a drink called 'Ice Worm Cocktails.' These were prepared by pulling a long skinny worm out of a piece of ice and dropping it into a customer's drink. Of course, some skeptics suggested that the bartenders were actually pulling pieces of spaghetti out of blocks of ice, and in a few cases this allegation may have been correct, since many bartenders were known to pass off fake ice worms on ignorant out-of-towners who didn't know what the real thing looked like.

As the years passed and the ice worms retreated back into their home inside the glacier, the tiny creatures became something of a legend, often depicted on local postcards. For this reason, many suspected that the worms belonged more to the realm of fantasy than reality. But the existence of ice worms is definitely pure fact. If you doubt this, then just check out this press release from the Jason Project about current scientific research into ice worms. But it should be noted that the ice worms described by White are a rather distant cousin to the ice worms investigated by the Jason Project.

Every year the town of Cordova, Alaska celebrates the ice worm with a winter carnival that is held during the last week of January or the first week of February. The festival includes the election of an ice worm king and queen.