While we have been working on our seismic experiment, we have taken a few hours to explore some of the fantastic landscape and features on the volcano. Some of the more interesting and beautiful features that we see from time to time are the ice towers.
The ice towers are beautiful tall structures that are formed over fumaroles. These are vents coming from the ground in which heated gases and water vapor are released. As the gases escape from the ground and hit the cold air, the water vapor cools and freezes around the vent and begins to build on itself. Over years, the result is a tall and at times a thick tower of ice that can rise twenty feet or more. The shapes and sizes are infinite, and they are all special in their own way.
One of the other cools things about the fumaroles is that at times the warm gases are trapped under the blanket of ice and snow that has built up around it. When this happens, ice caves can be formed. Many times an ice tower is an indication that a cave may have formed underneath.
Some of the caves are small and cozy, about the size of a room. Others however, can be much larger. The largest cave we have found so far is estimated to be about 300 ft long and at times the ceiling can be 25 -30 feet above your head!
The main thing that always gets me about the caves is that there are so many different shades of blue. The colors are beautiful!
And the shapes are sometimes very cool. Ice crystals grow in a variety of shapes and sizes inside of the caves. Depending on the amounts of vapor, the temperature, and the air that circulates through, the walls can look very different, even in the same cave.