The Crystal Grotto
Rare enduring icing conditions in cold season Iceland offer favorable photographic opportunities. Outside temperatures below 17°F (-8°C) for a long period of time allow the lagoons to freeze over with ice thicknesses beyond 1.6 ft (50 cm). Additionally, the icy conditions stabilize the fragile ice caves at least to some extent so that short term access can be risked. However, the glacier itself is not slowing down its movement in winter. Driven by gravity the ice creeps down the slopes of the ice cap at a remarkable speed up to 1 m per day. This ice cave in Svínafellsjökull glacier in Skaftafell, Iceland follows this movement accompanied by constant cracking and crushing sounds while the frozen ice of the lagoon is pressurized onto the shore. At the end of the glacier the ice is about 1000 years old. Several horizontal black layers intersect the ice that were deposited during volcanic eruptions. The ash repeatedly fell upon the snow onto the ice cap that slowly transformed into glacier ice and started its long journey downhill. The deep blue of the ice indicates that it is strongly pressurized and contains few to none air bubbles. The frozen bottom of the ice cave contains the meltwater stream and the glacial lake itself. Sojourning inside this awe-inspiring crystal grotto of 164 ft (50 m) length, 33 ft (10 m) width and 23 ft (7 m) height and the view from inside out against the sunset colored sky is an unforgettable experience.
January 2011
Canon 5D MkII, Canon L 16-35 mm, f/16, ¼ to 15 sec, ISO 100, tripod