Skaftafell Ice Cave

Skaftafell Ice Cave

Skaftafell Ice Cave

Untitled by OZZO Photography on

Blue wonder by Helen Maria Bjornsdottir on

The Blue Arc of the Waterfall by Einar Runar Sigurdsson on

Iceland · Skaftafell Ice Cave

Skaftafell National Park is a magnificent area and is part of Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland. The natural wonders – ice caves – are found here, that attract many visitors and photographers. Although not a permanent structure, Skaftafell Ice Cave forms at the edge of glaciers when flowing water melts a hole into the glacier. The ice absorbs all light except for blue, creating the indigo glow.

Skaftafell Ice Cave are found in a glacier lagoon. Usually such spaces are dark and not that picturesque. However, in Skaftafell these caves are filled with light and overwhelm with their beauty frozen in time.

The centuries old ice coming down the slopes of Öræfajökull via Svínafellsjökull glacier has metamorphosed into highly pressurized glacier ice that contains almost no air bubbles. The lack of air means that it absorbs almost all visible light, apart from the blue fraction which is then visible to the naked eye. However, this blue ice can be seen only under certain circumstances. It can be seen in winter after long periods of rain when the surface layer of the glacier has been washed away. It can be seen in ice-caves like this one and on floating icebergs that have recently rolled over.

This cave in the glacier ice is the result of glacial mill, or Moulin where rain and melt water on the glacier surface are channeled into streams that enter the glacier at crevices. The waterfall melts a hole into the glacier while the ponded water drains towards lower elevations by forming long ice caves with an outlet at the terminus of the glacier. The fine grained sediments in the water along with wind blown sediments cause the frozen meltwater stream to appear in a muddy colour while the top of the cave exhibits the deep blue colour. Due to the fast movement of the glacier of about 1 m per day over uneven terrain, this ice cave cracked up at its end into a deep vertical crevice, called cerrac. This causes the indirect daylight to enter the ice cave from both ends resulting in homogeneous lighting of the ice tunnel.