Marvel at the ripping bubbles preserved in crystalline sheets of ice
Abraham Lake’s underwater Methane bubbles freeze over to create this trippy ice rink
words Lucy O'Brien
Welcome to Wanderlust Wonders: each week we’ll be cleansing your feed with a feel-good snapshot of somewhere beautiful, both in and out of this world.
Today, we’re taking you to see the mysterious frozen bubbles trapped inside Abraham Lake in western Alberta, Canada.
What am I looking at?
Well, other than the fact that you’re looking at my dream ice skating rink, this is a snapshot of Canada’s Abraham Lake, which is the largest reservoir in the province of Alberta. It is actually a man-made lake (created in 1972), but is still home to some pretty incredible natural wonders. This includes its world-famous frozen bubbles. But what causes this weird and wonderful natural phenomenon? Methane.
Well, more specifically, when methane is released from decaying plants and wildlife that are currently resting at the bottom of the lake bed. When these life forms begin to die and decompose, methane is released and bubbles of this gas begin to rise to the surface, but freeze under the lake’s icy temperatures before they can cross the finish line. This results in the layers of beautiful frozen bubbles that can normally be seen between December and March when the river is at its coldest.
Tell me more…
Aesthetic Insta pic-chasers and nature enthusiasts travel from around the world to this icy corner of the globe to skate over these mysterious frozen bubbles (though, of course, remember that wild skating comes with its risks). We certainly see the attraction. The most bubble-full area of the lake is considered to be Preacher’s Point – this is a shallow part of the lake, which also makes it slightly safer in a situation of ice shattering.
What does the lake mean for the environment?
Now, if you didn’t know already, methane is a powerful greenhouse gas - and we all know that greenhouse gases aren't so great for protecting the health and overall temperature of our planet. When the lake returns to its free-flowing waterways in the spring and summer months, these bubbles of methane are released into the atmosphere. Given that methane is actually more dangerous as a heat-trapper than carbon dioxide, this is not ideal. But almost all large bodies of water release methane – Lake Abraham is no different.
The thing is, if temperatures continue to rise globally, the lake might not even freeze in winter - meaning no frozen methane bubbles. So, as much as we can appreciate the lake now, the preservation of our world's natural wonders are dependent on us curbing the effects of climate change.