As a former life-long resident of northern Michigan, and someone who has driven past
Mackinaw City, Michigan, in the depths of bitterly cold Michigan winters numerous
times, you can imagine my interest in this email that made the rounds last winter,
explaining this amazing photo.
Frozen Wave Phenomenon on Lake Huron.
Michigan has had the coldest winter in decades. Water expands to freeze, and at Macinaw
[sic] City the water in Lake Huron below the surface ice was supercooled. It expanded
to break through the surface ice and froze into this incredible wave.
This wave phenomena [sic] is seen in Antarctica, but in Michigan? Yes, it’s been
quite a winter!
And more photos of this phenomenon from different angles came along with the explanation.
I’m sure the reaction of many people among the hundreds of thousands who no doubt
received a CCMail with these photos was … “Wow! That’s amazing!” For, of course,
“Seeing is believing,” isn’t it? And the details are so explicit. Surely no one would
make up such an outlandish tale if it weren’t true.
But when I went out to the Web to find more about these amazing photos, I found the
following posted on a number of sites, next to the same collection of photos.
Ice Wave in Lake Michigan
And they complain about global warming............
Amazing pictures up around Sturgeon Bay. Wisconsin has had the coldest winter in
decades. Water expands to freeze, and at Sturgeon Bay the water in Lake Michigan
below the surface ice was super cooled. It expanded to break through the surface
ice and froze into this incredible wave.
There have been pictures of this wave phenomena in Antarctica, but in Sturgeon Bay?
It’s been quite a winter!
This explanation, along with the same set of photos, was making its way around the
Net via email CC lists at the exact same time. I assume that large numbers of people
who received this “Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin” version were equally impressed and reacted
with “Wow! That’s amazing!” For, of course, “Seeing is believing…”
If seeing is believing is still true in the Internet Age, I am certainly being asked
to believe a lot … for have a look at these CCMails that accompanied the same exact
set of photos.
Antarctica Wave - pretty awesome
The water froze the instant the wave broke through the ice. That’s what it is like
in Antarctica. Water freezes the instant it comes in contact with the air. The temperature
of the water is already some degrees below freezing. Just look at how the wave froze
A volcano erupted 400 feet below the ice in Antarctica. The melted water froze inthe shape of a wave theinstant it broke through the ice and came into contact with
the frigid air.
So there you have it—absolutely identical waves created in Wisconsin, Michigan, and
Antarctica, either by “supercooled water expanding to freeze” breaking through ice
and freezing in an instant, or volcanically heated water shooting up through ice
and … freezing in an instant. Viewed by the same tourist with a pink neck scarf.
He … or is it she? … certainly gets around!
On other websites and forums the same pictures are described as a “frozen tidal wave”
or “frozen tsunami.” And they are always accompanied by that same hapless tourist
who has avoided tragedy by arriving long after the event. You can see a full set
of the pictures at
If you weren’t sure when you first saw the pictures, hopefully you realize by now—all
of these tall tsunamic tales are pure baloney…no matter how specific the geographic
or scientific details offered seem. Here is a clear explanation from one urban-legend-debunking
site about the matter.
The photographer, astrophysicist Tony Travouillon, confirmed via email that the pictures
were actually taken near the Antarctic coastal base of Dumont D'Urville in 2002.
They patently do not show “a wave frozen in mid-air.” One can discern wave-like features,
to be sure, but those “waves” are clearly the weathered facades of massive, solid
blocks of ice which could not have frozen instantaneously, contrary to what is claimed.
The phenomenon captured in the images, Travouillon says, is called a blue iceberg.
The ice is bluish because it is denser and contains fewer air bubbles than the more
reflective white ice visible nearby. The tinting can be the result of an accumulation
of marine (saltwater) ice on the bottom of a floe which has tipped over, revealing
its translucent, polished underside, Travouillon explains. Or, according to other
sources, it can be the result of an iceberg partially melting and refreezing. Still
other sources cite as a possible cause the extreme compression undergone by ice originating
from deep inside a glacial mass.
In any case, the “blue bergs” of Antarctica are gorgeous natural phenomena in their
own right and deserve to be appreciated for what they really are.
You can see more details on the formation of blue icebergs at
It’s too bad that pictures of such fascinating and beautiful natural phenomena can’t
be shared by people without the pseudo-scientific baloney attached to them. In many
cases the actual facts about the pictures are very interesting in themselves. It
would only take a couple of minutes to research the validity of the descriptions
in such emails before passing them on. Why not Just Say No to sending CC mails full
of bogus descriptions of unusual pictures?