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Nature in Focus: A Glacial Experience

Glaciers are the icy heart of the ecosystems of which they are part. Nature Conservation and Nature Photographer Ian Shive shares incredible glacier photography from all angles.

Glaciers, giant rivers moving in slow motion like this. They act from a combination of ice and slip, deformed at the base. You can see this movement from aerial images where the curves and ripples of the ice resemble a layer of light blue frosting pushed from a cake.

Glaciers and the water they release are blue due to the density of ice. It is so intense that it absorbs all other colors in the spectrum except blue! The crystal structures that scatter blue light the furthest are formed over thousands of years when ice crystals have been compressed.

Skilak Lake, shown at the bottom of Skilak Glacier, is a relatively new lake that has mostly formed in the last forty years. Located inside the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, it is 528 feet deep, 15 miles long and four miles wide.

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The glacial melt gives life to the surrounding peninsula. First a lake at the bottom of the glacier, then a stream connecting to a river. Areas like this, where the river divides and meets again and again, are called “braided rivers” because of their obvious similarity to the hairstyle. They occur in such areas where the river bank is easily eroded.

This glacier is one of 40 glaciers extending like fingers from the huge Harding Icefield in the distance. These glaciers give life to the entire Kenai Peninsula by creating lakes, streams and rivers used by fish, bears and humans.

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