Caves can form within glaciers as a result of water running through or under a glacier. They are often called ice caves, but the term more accurately describes caves in bedrock that contain ice throughout the year. Water usually forms on the glacier’s surface through melting, before flowing down a moulin (vertical to nearly vertical shafts within glaciers or ice sheets) to the base of the glacier. Glacier caves can also form as a result of geothermal heat from hotsprings or volcanic vents beneath glaciers, such as the Kverkfjöll glacier cave in Vatnajökull glacier in Iceland, or where glaciers meet a body of water, with wave action.
Glacier caves can collapse or disappear because of glacier retreat. For example, the Paradise Ice Caves on Mount Rainier in Washington had 8.23 miles of passages in 1978. However, it collapsed in the 1990s, and the section of the glacier that contained the caves retreated between 2004 and 2006. Prior to collapse, caves can be used to access the interior of glaciers for research purposes, with the study of glacier caves sometimes known as glaciospeleology. Others also serve as popular tourist attractions due to their beauty.
As climate change continues to impact world glaciers, adventure athletes are taking sports to an extreme at famous glacial settings. Ever heard of glacier boarding, for example? It’s just one of the bizarre sports now being played at glaciers near you.
As GlacierHub reported in 2014, canyon guides Claude-Alain Gailland and Gilles Janin took boogie boards to Altesch glacier in Switzerland, coasting through a freezing channel carved into the ice. If that doesn’t look like fun, in 2007, Kealii Mamala invented another new sport: glacier surfing. He became the first person to surf a wave caused by a calving glacier at Alaska’s Childs Glacier.
Even the world’s most prominent athletes are participating in the new sporting trend. In 2013, tennis superstars Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokoviche played an exhibition match at the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina. While, in reality, the match took place on a man-made court on a nearby barge, we’re pretty sure it’s the closest a game of tennis has ever been to a glacier. This Photo Friday, enjoy images of some bizarre glacier sports.
Each week, we highlight three stories from the forefront of glacier news.
Holes in Glaciers May Harbor Unique Flora
From Czech Polar Reports – Masaryk University:
“Cryoconite holes are small, extreme habitats, widespread in the ablation zones of glaciers worldwide. They can provide a suitable environment for microorganisms including bacteria, cyanobacteria, algae, fungi, and invertebrate
s. Diatoms have been previously recovered from cryoconite holes of Greenland and of Svalbard, and recent findings from Antarctica suggest that cryoconite holes may harbor a unique diatom flora distinct from other aquatic habitats nearby. In the present study, we characterize the diatom communities of Nordenskiöld glacier cryoconite holes in Billefjorden (Svalbard, Spitsbergen), and multivariate approaches were used to compare them with three freshwater localities in the immediate vicinity to investigate possible sources of the species pool.”
Read more about what may be using holes in glaciers as habitats.
Wedding Inside Icelandic Glacier
From Iceland Magazine:
“The first wedding ceremony to take place inside Langjökull, Iceland’s second largest glacier, happened last week when British couple Anthony and Mari were joined in marriage.
Travel organiser Pink Iceland assisted the couple with their wedding plans, which began over a year ago. The bride and groom and their guests stayed at Hótel Húsafell, West Iceland, and the wedding location was kept secret up until the last moment. “After breakfast we made sure all the guests were well dressed. Then a number of super jeeps picked up the group and drove them up onto the glacier,” Eva María Þórarinsdóttir, one of Pink Iceland’s owners, told Vísir.”
“Argentina’s massive Perito Moreno glacier this week began the process leading to its cyclical rupture, a spectacular event involving the collapse of huge masses of ice that draw thousands of tourists and that has not happened since 2012.
“The Perito Moreno Glacier began its breakup process. We’re waiting! (We) came to experience it firsthand!,” said the Tourism Secretariat of El Califate, a city some 80 km (50 mi.) from the glacier, Tuesday on Twitter.
Before the big show, a huge number of tourists and the news media began arriving at the Los Glaciares National Park in the southern province of Santa Cruz, which receives some 700,000 tourist each year.
“It’s not known how long it’s going to take. We only know from earlier experiences. In the last breakups starting from the moment when the outflow starts, which is what happened this morning, the process normally takes … three or four days,” park official Matilde Oviedo told EFE.”
See more of the video here and read more about the event here.
On both sides of the Andes, glaciers form the Patagonian Ice Field, the third largest area of land ice in the world, after Antartica and Greenland. The tremendous ice sheet extends from Chile to Argentina, home to over 300 glaciers. Some of its glaciers are located within the Glacier National Park (Parque Nacional Los Glaciares), a world heritage site acknowledged by UNESCO. The glaciers Perito Moreno, Mayo, Spegazzini, Upsala, Agassiz, Onelli, Ameghino are the major glaciers in the Park, and Glacier Upsala is the largest glacier in South America.
The pictures of these Argentinian glaciers were retrieved from Glacier Photograph Collection provided by National Snow & Ice Data Center. This specific collection called Astronaut Glacier Photographs presents pictures taken by astronauts on the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle Endeavor. They may provide you with a fresh and unique view of Argentine glaciers.