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Glaciers and Ice

December 20, 2017 | Allison Silvaggio

Did you know that about 10% of land area on Earth is covered by glacial ice? Antarctica is the world’s largest ice sheet, and is so large that it even covers mountain ranges and a bunch of volcanoes. Yes, volcanoes… underneath the ice. So as the world’s fifth largest continent, and on average, the highest AND coldest out of the seven, Antarctica and its glaciers are a sight to see. Just don’t forget your long underwear!

After travelling North to the Arctic and South to the Antarctic aboard expedition vessels, I have seen my fair share of ice & glaciers.  However, I never get tired of the beauty and the different sizes and shapes.

Glaciers are a fascinating attraction when travelling to these areas.  Formed by the accumulation of snow, the deeply buried snowflakes become more packed together. This can cause the snowflakes to change shape, and the more densely packed, they will then lose the air trapped between the grains.  The pressure from the layers of the new snow above, can cause some melting, and then slowly recrystallizes, forming glacier ice.  This can take several decades to hundreds of years, as highly dependent upon the amount of snowfall.

Icebergs then form when chunks of ice calve, or break off from glaciers, ice shelves, or a larger iceberg.

It is shown that approximately 80-90% of an iceberg is under the water, and on a clear day, with clear water, you can see just how enormous they are.

The ice appears blue when there are less air bubbles and the light can penetrate through.  When icebergs have gone through a few melting and freezing cycles, it will appear more white due to the air bubbles trapped inside.  Smaller Icebergs are known as “bergy bits”.

If travelling to these areas, try and have a quiet moment to either enjoy the peacefulness, or to possibly listen to the ice moving, cracking or possibly calving.