Icebergs have been known for their immense size and astonishing shapes but a rare few earn their stripes by, well, sporting spectacular stripes! This selection of striped, streaked and striated seafaring snow mountains show that there’s much to be gained by freezing between the lines.
Big Rock Candy Mountains
Not exactly rare but more uncommon than not, striped icebergs have only recently caught the public eye. A recent Antarctic research expedition encountered a number of distinctly patterned icebergs in the frigid Southern Ocean, photographed for posterity by Norwegian sailor Oyvind Tangen. The flowing lines on the 150ft long by 30ft high floe above were recorded by Tangen about 1,700 miles south of Cape Town, South Africa, and 660 miles north of the Antarctic continent. Commented Tangen, “It reminds me of striped candy I bought as a child.” To which we reply, “Bah, humbug!”
Humbugs are a type of hard, minty candy of English origin that typically are clear or white with chocolate-brown stripes – like the eye-catching icebergs above. The dark, earthy color of the stripes are formed either by blown dust or volcanic ash falling onto the berg’s origin glacier that is then covered by new snow, or by sediment and debris clinging to the glacier or iceberg’s underside that becomes covered by new snow or ice. As the iceberg melts, it often rotates to expose contrasting layers of ice and dirt at unusual angles.
(image via: Way Cool Dogs)
Slightly more plentiful though just as incredible are blue-striped icebergs. While new ice usually looks white due to the effects of multitudinous microscopic air bubbles, blue ice stripes are caused by freshwater that fills cracks in ice; then freezes very quickly. Actually quite transparent, the ice looks blue because light from the blue end of the spectrum is reflected while red light is absorbed. The “bar code” berg at above left is exceptionally odd as it sports evenly demarcated striations on just half of its visible area.
(image via: Ideaphore)
Just for the record, not all striped icebergs originate in Antarctic waters. The delicately scribed berg above was seen in the North Atlantic ocean off Cape St. Francis Light, Newfoundland.
(image via: Infognito)
Above is another bar-code berg, captured up close and personal as it waits to begin its long voyage north from chilly south polar waters to a watery demise hundreds of miles north. One possible explanation for the regular blue striping is that they reflect seasonal differences in snowfall and temperature – in effect, striped icebergs like this are somewhat like felled trees whose rings record growth through changing seasons. The ephemeral nature of striped icebergs (and all icebergs, actually) only adds to their beauty.
Icebergs Go Green
So-called “jade icebergs” are also formed from very old or otherwise bubble-free ice that takes on a beautiful emerald or jade green cast. Unlike blue ice formed from relatively pure frozen meltwater, green ice results when seawater freezes inside cracks beneath ice shelves. On rare occasions when a calved iceberg flips over, the verdant bands are revealed causing these bergs resemble giant spearmint candies.
Steve Nicol: Jaded He’s Not
(image via: Audubon Magazine)
Above are a few exquisite striped jade icebergs photographed by Steve Nicol, leader of the Australian Antarctic Division’s Southern Ocean Ecosystems Program. Over the past 20 years, “berg-meister” Nicol has made eight research voyages to the berg-studded seas off East Antarctica and the wider world is privileged to share in some of the wonders he’s witnessed.
Embryonic Striped Bergs
(image via: Hoax-Slayer)
Glacial ice that undergoes many freeze/thaw cycles compounded by crushing pressure from overlying ice tends to become more transparent and, at the same time, riddled with cracks and fractures. The “frozen tidal wave” above will eventually reach the ocean and beget striped jade icebergs to treat the eyes of future Antarctic voyagers and visitors. For now, we can thank scientist Tony Travouillon for capturing the “wave” before it crashes. Surf’s up!
Stripes & Solids
This striped berg is solidly locked in sea ice for the long Antarctic winter. Whether it will be released into the Southern Ocean the following summer or remain literally frozen in place for another year, decade or century is a function of the wind, tides and temperature. The lower image of the land-locked berg above adds in the human element of the Australian Antarctic Division and their bright yellow Hagg snowcat tractor.
Weathered & Worn Striped Bergs
(image via: Joelmbenge)
The battered bergs above come from cold Canadian waters between Ellesmere Island and Greenland, and are much the worse for wear after countless collisions with other icebergs in the narrow Nares Strait. The one at top is a virtual smorgasbord of stripe types with the wide blue diagonal resulting from a filled-in crevasse and the thinner brown stripes probably due to blown dust & debris that was then snowed over.
Stripe Up The Bands!
(image via: Trek Earth)
Looking like giant “aggie” marbles, these aged icebergs have had their once linear stripes twisted and contorted into graffiti-esque curves. The incalculable forces that cause solid ice to flow like rivers can also bend and fold thousands of years worth of accumulated ice like silly putty.
Icebergs Out Of Line
(image via: Ikool’s Blogbed)
(image via: WOHBA)
Sometimes all the explanations in the world just seem to fall short and you just have to sit back, take a deep breath and say “wow… just wow.” Not that this is a bad thing – just like icebergs, we all need to chill out every once in a while.