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Antarctica’s Ice Formations: Volcanic ice caves & undersea brinicles

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The caves of Mount Erebus, Antarctica’s only active volcano, hide fragile and sparkling secrets: spectacular ice stalagmites, stalactites, shards, and feather-like crystals that form from the volcanic steam and gases flowing through these subterranean spaces. This clip from the Discovery Channel takes us into this ice labyrinth, a phenomenon that exists no where else on Earth.

We first learned about these volcanic ice caves in Sir David Attenborough’s Frozen Planet, where BBC filmmakers not only explored underground, but also filmed underwater in McMurdo Sound, the frozen sea covering Erebus’ lower slopes. There they documented the never-seen-before ice formations called brinicles, growing sheaths of briny sea ice:

The Discovery Channel time lapse clip above went viral in early 2012, but truth be told, we prefer the same footage in context of the entire 2011 BBC version of the documentary, narrated expertly by Attenborough.

In the archives: More ice crystals, more ice, more Antarctica, and many BBC nature clips with Sir David Attenborough.

Updated video.

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