Fact Check

Was This Video of an Ice Spiral Made During the January 2024 Polar Vortex?

The video had an astounding 200 million views on TikTok

Published Jan 27, 2024

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

In January 2024, as the arctic air of the polar vortex plunged south into Canada and the United States, the internet enjoyed a long-standing tradition — videos of people in sub-zero temperatures demonstrating just how cold it can get. Think frozen sculptures made of ramen, clothes as stiff as a board, and watching hot water turn into a cloud of steam and ice while still in the air.

TikTok user QueenChelsea wanted to take it a step further, 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, gaining over 13 million likes on TikTok (and a whopping 200 million views) and over 7 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, 2024, Chelsea 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


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.