BY: SINEAD MULHERN
The glassy ice surfaces of Banff National Park’s small lakes are a vision. Peer down at the solid dark mass stretched out in front of you and take in a scene that may look like hundreds of white jellyfish frozen solid. Sharp blades of ice skates cut into the ice. Push off and glide through the scene that looks straight out of a fairy tale. This Canadian gem’s beauty is shocking. It’s one of the most scenic spots to skate in the entire world.
It’s also extremely flammable.
These spots that look like frozen white blobs are actually bubbles of methane gas. In the summer, the methane would be expelled as it makes its way to the top. But in winter, it freezes in place adding yet another touch of beauty to Lake Minnewanka, Abraham Lake and Vermillion Lake. Bursts of methane gas are produced deep down at the bottom of these bodies of water. When permafrost thaws, the materials at the bottom thaw too. When they decompose, methane gas is released. Thousands of bubbles make their way from the depths to the surface.
Methane gas is incredibly flammable. It traps heat 25 times more than carbon dioxide does, so people are pondering whether lighting the bubbles would result in explosion — most likely, it would.
Just revel in the beauty for now. Usually rinks are open in the park from December through to mid-April.
Paul Zizka, a photographer based in Banff, Alberta, visited Lake Minnewanka and Vermillion Lake in Banff National Park and took several mesmerizing photographs of the frozen bubbles.
1: A woman ice skates over frozen methane bubbles in Lake Minnewanka.
2: When Methane bubbles become frozen they create a beautiful phenomenon at Lake Minnewanka.
3: Frozen Methane bubbles underneath a starry sky hanging over the mountains of Vermillion Lake in Banff.
5: This one looks like a giant methane plume.
6: Skating on this would be magical
7: A collage of frozen bubbles.