Harsh Wisconsin Winter Causes Rare Ice Caves

by Eleazar Wawa, age 18

As a full-blooded African, everything in my genes leads me to cringe at the thought of anything related to cold. Recently, however, something fascinating happened in my adopted home state of Wisconsin. This year’s harsh winter allowed for spectacular ice caves to emerge along the shores of Lake Superior. Even someone of my heritage can appreciate the allure of these natural wonders.

Wisconsin’s ice caves are the product of sandstone being carved out by Lake Superior’s waves. Most of these caves are located wear the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in northern Wisconsin. In warm weather, a boat is required to reach these places. Thanks to the extremely frigid weather, the lake water froze, both leaving caves and making the caves accessible by foot for the first time in five years. Over 35,000 people have trekked over the crystalline terrain to see and explore these icy fortresses.

Despite its magnificence, traveling across a frozen lake is wrought with uncertainty and potentially dangerous. Both the lake and the caves demand caution, as icy walls, floors and stalactites are not the most stable constructs. While below zero weather makes the lake low risk, any significant increase in temperature can melt the ice, which can cause it to break and harm whoever’s within the vicinity.

There are other rare, cold-related occurrences that have been reported this past winter. Cryoseisms, or frost quakes, happen when water located underground freezes and expands, which can cause cracks in the earth itself. This causes sounds reminiscent of an explosion or a gunshot.

Nevertheless, Wisconsin’s ice caves show that beauty can be formed even from the harshest of Mother Nature’s remedies.

[Sources: Los Angeles Times; Scientific American]