Fact Check

Does This Video Show a Real Ice Sculpture Made During the Polar Vortex?

There are some very cool things you can do with water when it's cold outside.

Published Jan 20, 2024

 (TikTok User QueenChelsea)
Image Via TikTok User QueenChelsea
Claim:
A video posted to TikTok and Instagram during the January 2024 polar vortex shows a woman in Canada making a helix out of ice by pouring it on the ground in a spiral pattern.

Every few years, when the cold, arctic air of the polar vortex plunges south, internet users around the globe are treated to viral videos about the cold snap. Examples include frozen sculptures made of ramen and clothes as stiff as a board. You can even throw hot water into the air and watch it turn into a white cloud of steam and ice.

TikTok user QueenChelsea wanted to take it a step further in January 2024, posting a video to her TikTok and Instagram page showing her pouring water on the ground and creating a helix out of ice. The video quickly went viral, with over 13 million likes on TikTok (with 191 million views) and over 5 million likes on Instagram. The frozen sculpture looked real enough to fool many commenters, and Snopes received emails inquiring if the video was real.

@queenchelsea Meanwhile in canada… ?? #vfx ♬ original sound - chelsea vfx

Unfortunately, Canada being cold was the only real part of the video. Sorry to burst anyone's bubble (another great thing to play with in sub-zero temperatures), although it is certainly a testament to QueenChelsea's editing prowess that some people believed the ice sculpture was real.

QueenChelsea, whose real name is Chelsea Laufer, is a Canadian content creator who makes short viral videos using clever editing tricks and incredible visual effects. She included the VFX hashtag in the captions on both the TikTok and Instagram posts, and her bio on both platforms includes the sentence, "I like making impossible things."

Snopes reached out to Laufer for comment, and she replied via email.

"I’m a visual effects content creator so all of the videos I post are edited with a sort of magical realism in mind," she wrote. "I'll also add that the response to this video has been absolutely astounding! I made this video as a way to practice working with 3D CGI, and I never expected so many people to see it."

On Jan. 18, she posted a video to TikTok breaking down how she made the effect.

@queenchelsea I accidentally tricked half the internet… ? #vfx #behindthescenes ♬ original sound - chelsea vfx

Sources

Frozen Pants in the 2019 Minnesota Polar Vortex. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/shorts/uWvSr9KW-ms. Accessed 18 Jan. 2024.

Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/p/C18A_UJMKRC/. Accessed 18 Jan. 2024.

Polar Vortex: Soap Bubble Freezes and Breaks in Arctic Chicago Cold. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LG5nSxgd9SI. Accessed 18 Jan. 2024.

The Science behind the Polar Vortex: You Might Want to Put on a Sweater | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 29 Jan. 2019, https://www.noaa.gov/multimedia/infographic/science-behind-polar-vortex-you-might-want-to-put-on-sweater.

TikTok - Make Your Day. https://www.tiktok.com/@laneyroux76/video/7323351891100896518?q=frozen%20ramen&t=1705604090676. Accessed 18 Jan. 2024.

---. https://www.tiktok.com/@queenchelsea/video/7322611233415531782. Accessed 18 Jan. 2024.

---. https://www.tiktok.com/@queenchelsea. Accessed 18 Jan. 2024.

Wisconsin’s Polar Vortex Causes Boiling Water to Freeze Midair in the Cold. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvgefs7J1rY. Accessed 18 Jan. 2024.

Jack Izzo is a Chicago-based journalist and two-time "Jeopardy!" alumnus.