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Frozen Wave / Ice Wave / Striped Icebergs - Analysis


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LIKE A whispered phrase passed from person to person in the children's game "Telephone," forwarded texts tend to accrue inaccuracies over time, and in the present case a set of authentic photographs of Antarctic icebergs has come to be identified as depicting a "frozen wave" or "ice wave" observed in Lake Huron or Lake Michigan, in North America.

The photographer, astrophysicist Tony Travouillon, confirmed via email that the pictures were actually taken near the Antarctic coastal base of Dumont D'Urville in 2002.

They patently do not show "a wave frozen in mid-air." One can discern wave-like features, to be sure, but those "waves" are the weathered facades of massive, solid blocks of ice which could not have frozen instantaneously, contrary to what is claimed.

The phenomenon captured in the images, Travouillon explains, is called a blue iceberg. The ice is bluish because it is denser and contains fewer air bubbles than the more reflective white ice visible nearby. The tinting can be the result of an accumulation of marine (saltwater) ice on the bottom of a floe which has tipped over, revealing its translucent, polished underside, Travouillon explains. Or, according to other sources, it can be the result of an iceberg partially melting and refreezing. Still other sources cite as a possible cause the extreme compression undergone by ice originating from deep inside a glacial mass.

In any case, the "blue bergs" of Antarctica are gorgeous natural phenomena in their own right and deserve to be appreciated for what they really are.


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Sources and further reading:

Tony Travouillon Home Page
California Institute of Technology

Have You Caught the Wave?
Flint Journal, 13 March 2008

Reality of Internet Photo Freezes Mr. Rude in Place
Cheboygan Daily Tribune, 18 March 2008

How Icebergs Work
HowStuffWorks.com, 5 March 2008

Iceberg Color
Environment Canada, 19 March 2003

Iceberg Q&A
University of Birmingham School of Physics and Astronomy

Blue Ice: Why Is Ice Blue?
Benjamin Drummond, Carleton College

Antarctica
By Jeff Rubin (Lonely Planet, 2005), p. 263


Last updated: 02/14/13


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