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Friday, May 21, 2010

Breathtaking Images of Frozen Waves

Frozen wave

Photo: Tony Travouillon

All images by Tony Travouillon were taken at the Antarctic base of Dumont D’Urville.

Though spring is going by fast, there are certain parts of the world that are covered by snow and ice even during the summer months. In fact, it is so cold that even waves seem to freeze in midair. But can waves freeze over as word on the Intertubes would have us believe? Sorry folks, if you’ve thought yes then you’ve fallen prey to an urban myth.

Frozen wave

Photo: Tony Travouillon

Care to surf this wave?

Photo: via ragingdebate

Frozen wave

Photo: via delightnature

Frozen waves are actually formed over time in a process called glaciation. Yup, they are nothing but beautifully shaped glaciers found all over the world - the polar regions of course but also in the mountain ranges of every continent, even in the tropics. According to Wikipedia, a glacier is a “perennial mass of ice which moves over land.” On its journey, the ice gets compacted and uplifted in the process and, as seen in the images below, often gets shaped beautifully through constant exposure to the elements.

Frozen wave

Photo: Tony Travouillon

Inside frozen wave

Photo: Tony Travouillon

Frozen wave

Photo: Tony Travouillon

And, quite contrary to intuition, the formations in the images shown here were formed through melting, not freezing. The downward parts on the ice that look like breaking waves are actually icicles, and the different colours are the result of how quickly the ice has frozen before melting: Rapidly frozen ice will look opaque while transparent ice is the result of ice frozen over time. Melting then produces the smooth, polished surfaces that remind us of waves.

Like a wave but…
Frozen wave

Photo: Tony Travouillon

Don’t be fooled, this is a real wave:

Did you know that glaciers are the largest reservoirs of fresh water on Earth? They form the second largest reservoir of total water on Earth, second only to the oceans. Amazing, isn’t it? So what we call frozen waves or waves of ice are not only beautiful to look at but also important water resources crucial for human survival.

Frozen wave

Photo: Tony Travouillon

Inside frozen wave

Photo: Tony Travouillon

Frozen wave

Photo: Tony Travouillon

If you want to know why ice can have different colours ranging from turquoise, green and blue to black, you will find the answer in our article on Stunning Marbled Ice Growlers.

Sources: 1, 2

© Simone Preuss

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