WHAT LIES BENEATH A photographic tour of ice caves in Alaska


Few places on Earth offer the luminous frozen exploration of ice caves like Alaska. An otherworldly blue playground awaits discovery by bundled up hikers, skiers, ice climbers, and paddlers across the Great Land. Melting sculptures formed from the inside out, carved by movement and pressure and changing temperatures, provide caverns of impermanence. Caves collapse, sink, and form anew. Icy rivers lead visitors into cathedrals where celestial light reveals patterns and textures found only in this natural world and only truly frozen for a moment in time. Though images of ice caves might seem similar, no photograph is identical, because each cave was formed under different conditions inside an ever-changing landscape. The color blue is a trick of the eye, caused from dense ice squeezing out bubbles, leaving the blue wavelength of light as the most visible to humans—and creating an artistry of ice for us to witness.
Inside a Mendenhall Glacier ice cave, a hiker stands beneath a vertical shaft called a moulin. Credit: Chris Miller/csmphotos.com
Hoarfrost covers the ceiling of a tunnel inside Canwell Glacier, accessible via foot or bike over a rough road from the Richardson Highway in the Alaska Range. Credit: Steven Miley/alaskastock.com
Of this self-portrait taken at Byron Glacier, near Portage, the photographer says, “What a surreal moment shared with my pup and best friend as we stare out into the vast Alaskan wilderness from the inside of a glacial ice cave.” Credit: Tyler Bryan/tylerbryanphotography.com
Footsteps reveal solid ice beneath a thin layer of glacial silt in this tunnel carved into Black Rapids Glacier by a meltwater stream. Credit: Steven Miley/alaskastock.com
Ice climbing at Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau. Credit: David Job/alaskastock.com
Jacob Schultz, a guide with St. Elias Mountain Guides, in a cave on Root Glacier in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Credit: Michael DeYoung /michaeldeyoung.com
Sunlight penetrates through and reflects off of ice at Black Rapids Glacier, dubbed the “galloping glacier” for its tendency to occasion- ally advance rapidly and then retreat. Credit: Steven Miley/alaskastock.com
A sea kayaker paddles through an ice cave among giant icebergs near Bear Glacier in Resurrection Bay. Credit: Doug Demarest/ alaskastock.com
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Alaska Magazine MMN