I found some huge objects that are way too big to be inuksuks, in my opinion.

The object on the right is very odd because the arms are not straight like they are in most images of inuksuks. and there are huge piles of rocks that look so unnatural. Can any geologist or anyone explain this?

These are the coordinates: left: 68°41'52.47"N 124°53'41.18"W right: 68°45'59.09"N 125°10'6.76"W

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ I don't see why you would refer to inuksuks. This question is basically What am I seeing here?. $\endgroup$ – Jan Doggen Jul 2 '17 at 13:01
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    $\begingroup$ Yes what are you refering to, I just see a photo of a random section of stream, I see no piles of rocks. $\endgroup$ – John Jul 2 '17 at 21:06

I can engage in some educated speculation about what you think you see, but I'm confident you were fooled by the shadows in the image, which are caused by a low sun angle and distorted by the terrain. These are not inuksuit (which is the correct plural of inuksuk). They are all natural, not man-made.

Let's point out a few things we know and can see on the imagery:

  1. It's in the Low Arctic.
  2. The uplands away from the river are snow-free, except in a few pockets. There is even some greening of new tundra vegetation.
  3. There is broken-up ice along the sides of the river.
  4. The trees in the uplands all have very long shadows, so other shadows are likely to be elongated.

Together, #1, #2, and #3 tell us that it's probably early summer just after the river ice has broken up.

The tooth-like features in the left image are simply erosional remnants sticking out of the riverbank. They could be bedrock (not likely), ice wedges, unmelted permafrost, or simply dirt. They are on the outside of a meander, so the river is actively cutting into them, and so the river-facing faces are quite sheer and high compared to the slopes in between. The right side might be white because the conditions there had left the snow unmelted when the image was taken. And of course their shadows are longer because the river channel is at the bottom of the bluff.

If you use Google Maps or Earth to go downriver a bit (up and to the left), you will see similar features sticking out of the riverbank, but because they're at a different angle from the features in your image, the fact that they're natural is more readily apparent.

Although the terrain is much less regular on the right side of the image, again the long shadows tell the tale. There are some round lumps that may be pingoes. The shadow that looks like a man is just a coincidental jumble of shadows from the broken terrain. If you look closely at the lump that is supposed to be the "man" (which would technically be an inunnguaq) does not have any protrusions that correspond to the "arms". The "arms" are the shadow of a little cliff or shelf past the lump, which is overlapped by the lump's larger shadow.

Erwin Raisz eat your heart out

It's similar in effect to the infamous misinterpretation of a Viking orbiter image of a natural feature on Mars as a "Face on Mars".

This is a good example of the complications of image interpretation, specifically, understanding the conditions under which the image was taken. It's also a good time to emphasize the importance of doing ground truth when interpreting images. So when you go there, let us know what you find.

  • $\begingroup$ Great answer, I agree mostly, except the pingo interpretation, I think more investigation would be require to reach this conclusion - here is an actual pingo near Tuktoyaktut google.ca/maps/place/Pingo+Canadian+Landmark/… $\endgroup$ – Etienne Godin Jul 7 '17 at 20:48
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    $\begingroup$ @EtienneGodin Agreed; it's just a working label for something round that produces a shadow in the Arctic. That's why the sketch has a question mark next to "pingo". $\endgroup$ – Spencer Jul 7 '17 at 22:06

Your "Inuksuk" is simply a lucky combination of the sun's angle grazing an erosional remnant of the adjacent riverbank. If you go upriver, you'll see the same erosional remnant, now with sunlight at a perpendicular angle....not so mysterious, right?

enter image description here

Far more curious, to me at least, is why the riverbank has been incised in such a way. I suspect that permafrost riverbanks erode differently than the usual garden variety riverbanks.


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