Crystal Cave – Svínafellsjökull in Skaftafell, Iceland

I found these breathtaking pictures on flickr.

Pictures from Iceland, taken by ovaratli.

Some of the magic beauty of glacier ice lies under its outer surface. One either needs to strip the surface layer or go underneath it to see its real beauty.

The centuries old ice coming down the slopes of Öræfajökull via Svínafellsjökull glacier has had almost all of the air pressed out of the ice. Once air has been pressed out the ice turns into this magically blue crystal like ice. The outer surface of this ice (the surface of the glacier) gets bombarded by weather, sun-rays, dust and other things and it transforms the crystal blue ice white. Hidden under the white surface is the blue ice.

This blue ice can be seen however under certain circumstances. It can be seen in winter after long periods of rain when the surface layer of the glacier has been washed away. It can be seen in ice-caves like this one (unsafe in summer) and on floating icebergs that have recently rolled over.

This ice cave is on the edge of the glacier where it enters into a lagoon. It is only possible to access it when the lagoon is frozen. Ice caves are in general unstable things and can collapse at any time. They are however much more stable in winter when the cold temperatures harden the ice. Even so we could hear constant cracking sounds inside the cave. It was not because it was going to collapse but because the cave was moving along with the glacier itself. Each time the glacier moved a millimeter loud sounds could be heard.

This is the popular black lava sand beach below the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon where the river outlet dumps smaller icebergs that flow down the river. The magic of photographing this popular location in January is that the sun rises to the south and you can let it shine through the crystal clear ice just as it crosses the horizon. The colorful sunlight scatters throughout the ice illuminating the whole iceberg. In summer one would have to stand in the sea or river to be able to get a shot like this.

The centuries old ice has almost all of its air pressed out of it. And during mid winter the surface of the ice does not get destroyed by the ultra violet rays of the sun. These colors and structures can only been seen in summer when an iceberg reveals it bottom side when it has recently rolled over. In summer the sun destroys it in a day, in mid winter this takes weeks. Here some sand blown by the strong northern wind has enhanced the shape of the ice.

We waited one full day in bad weather to be able to photograph this mountain. The aim was to shoot the close by waterfall with the mountain in the background but it turned out that the fjord with the still weather gave much more interesting view of it. The waiting in snowfall for 24 hours also added a thick fresh layer of snow over everything making the scene much more interesting than without it. It is not often that snow falls evenly over everything here in Iceland. Usually it is blown into large piles complimented with large snow free areas.

Pictures and texts by orvaratli. All rights reserved.

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