One of the most amazing sights in Antarctica is its stunning blue ice. It glows like neon and and is visible for miles. Compared to so called regular ice, blue ice is relatively rare, covering only around one percent of Antarctica. It is like nothing I have ever seen anywhere else in nature. Antarctica is the only place on Earth with this incredible blue ice.
Blue ice has a crystalline structure that scatters blue light. The ice on the glaciers that calve off the icebergs has been there for a really long time and has been compacted down so that its structure is pretty different from the ice you normally see. Glacial ice is a completely different from the ice you get from your freezer.
Blue ice is some of the oldest ice. In Antarctica scientists have dug up blue ice that is 1 million years old, and researchers are searching for even older ice believed to be possibly 5 to 8 million years old.
Antarctica’s blue ice turns out to hold a rare treasures as well. More than 25,000 meteorites have been collected from blue-ice areas in Antarctica. The evaporating glacial ice leaves behind meteorites that have fallen on the frozen continent over the course of thousands of years, concentrating the space rocks in one small area.
So where does the blue ice come from? When glacial ice first freezes, it is filled with air bubbles. As that ice gets buried and squashed underneath younger ice on top, the older ice starts to take on a blue tinge. As the ice grows denser, the bubbles become smaller and smaller. Without the scattering effect of air bubbles, light can penetrate ice more deeply. To the human eye, ancient glacial ice acts like a filter, absorbing red and yellow light and reflecting blue light, creating the beautiful blue hues of a glacier.
In contrast to this is snow which appears white because it is chock full of air bubbles. Snow reflects back the full spectrum of white light. We see color when light reflects off the surface of an object. Some of the wavelengths of light may be absorbed by the object. Any that bounce off eventually reach our eyes, and we see the object as the color or colors that reflect back at us. White snow reflects all colors of light. A black t-shirt, on the other hand, absorbs all wavelengths of light.
Photographing the blue is not easy. As the blue light is the reflected blue wavelength that is reflected back auto focusing simply doesn’t work and manual focus is close to impossible because you can’t physically focus on the back areas of the blue. I tend to focus just behind the front edge of the blue holes. Printing these hues is altogether another issue because the intense blue is typically out of gamut.
Next Creativity Lightroom Workshop Date: April 13 – April 16th, 2023
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