Photographer Joshua Nowicki was exploring the shores of Lake Michigan in St. Joseph when he stumbled across something strange. Little pillars of sand on the beach seemed to have sprouted from the shore overnight. They ranged in height from a few inches to over a foot, making the beach look like an ancient desert.

These formations occur when the shoreline freezes. The strong winds blowing off the lake then blow away some of the frozen sand. Mechanically, it”s the exact same process of erosion that forms the massive stone formations in the deserts. However, this is done on a much smaller and faster scale than desert formations, and with the help of frozen water. Temperatures have to be below freezing for these to form.

(via Colossal)

Nowicki returned to the area the following day to capture more photos, but, despite to the cold, the overhead sun was strong enough to have melted the formations away. While the beach was transformed for a day into an alien landscape, the next day saw the beach return to normal. Luckily for us, Nowicki had his camera, so we can view the phenomenon from afar. You can see more of Nowicki”s photography on his Facebook page.