This cave in Canada remains frozen every summer—and it's been frozen since the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago. What can it tell us about Earth's future climate?
This Canadian Cave Has Been Frozen Since the Last Ice Age
Published: February 13, 2020
Kirk Johnson: Although I’m a thousand miles south of the Arctic Circle, this cave stays cold all year round. The rock and soil beneath the surface are permanently frozen all through the summer.
I’m here with geologist Jeremy Shakun and mountain guide Dave Stark.
Jeremy Shakun: Getting a little tight, huh?
Johnson: I’m crawling already.
The ground inside this cave has been frozen since the last Ice Age. This is 10,000 years of permafrost.
Shakun: You can feel it getting cold fast.
To preserve this unique cave, it’s closed to the public. Even scientists restrict their visits to once every few years.
This is really cool back in here now, it’s opening up.
Whoa. Look at this chamber. Now, we’re in an auditorium, with a ginormous rock fall. Wow.
Fifteen minutes in and there’s a spectacular change.
Oh, my god, look at this.
Dave Stark: You crawl in on hands and knees.
Stark: Watch your heads. I’ll go in first. Cold knees.
Johnson: It’s like a gigantic igloo.
How deep is the ice you’re crawling on?
Shakun: I don’t know, but you can see way down.
Johnson: Oh, god. Holy moly.
Shakun: You’ve got to see these.
Johnson: Oh ****!
Shakun: That’s crazy though.
I mean, this is like being inside rock candy.
Johnson: This is unbelievable. This is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been on this planet.
The ground’s so cold here, any moisture in the air freezes to the cave walls, forming enormous crystals of ice.
Shakun: But they’re big. They’re like five inches across.
Like the size of your hand, right?
Johnson: I’ve never seen ice crystals like this.
Johnson: There’s some that are like big dinner plates. I feel like I’m in a crystal chandelier factory. This stuff looks like glass, not ice. Holy cow.
This place is so totally amazing, I can hardly believe it.
Shakun: Actually it’s pretty crazy. Some of these are dripping just a little bit.
Johnson: It’s very clear that just our bodies in here, if we stay much longer are going to change the temperature of this place. And we’re looking at kind of a remnant of an ice world. It’s amazing. This is an ice world that’s changing into a non-ice world.
Let’s duck and go.
This crystal cavern is a reminder that we are still living in an icehouse world, but it looks fragile, on the cusp of change.
Director: Lucy Haken
Assistant Producer: Sacha Thorpe
Digital Production: Angelica Coleman
© WGBH Educational Foundation 2020