As impressive as computer graphics and dazzling special effects can be, technology doesn’t hold a candle to what Mother Nature offers. We’ve all seen incredible footage of tornadoes forming or vibrant rainbows arching across blue skies. These are constant reminders that beauty surrounds us at all times.
But just because it’s beautiful doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. In 2019, a frigid blast known as a “polar vortex” swept across the midwestern United States. It was the kind of cold that put millions of lives in jeopardy, but the breathtaking — and perilous — scene it created at Lake Michigan has to be seen to be believed.
Whether you travel to the North Pole to gawk at the dancing Northern Lights or make your way east to stare in awe at The Rainbow Mountains of China, the exceptional raw beauty of nature is undeniable.
But, you don’t have to travel outside of the United States to see these kinds of mesmerizing natural occurrences. In early 2019, all you had to do was make your way to Lake Michigan for front row seats to something extraordinary.
That winter, freezing temperatures slammed the Midwest, and people living directly in the cold front experienced low, life-threatening temperatures. The frigid front was called the “polar vortex,” and it didn’t just affect the land.
Lake Michigan was one of the places sitting directly in the polar vortex’s crosshairs. Throughout most of the year, the lake acts as a scenic place where people can relax, watch the waves, and go for a dip. But, not when the polar vortex ripped through.
During the freezing blast, the lake was totally transformed. This area of the lake is known as the Straits of Mackinac, and as you can see, the vortex completely froze everything.
To prove just how cold the outside temperatures were in the surrounding areas, people filmed themselves tossing pots of boiling water into the air only to have the bubbling liquid instantly turn to snow. But it was a different phenomenon the cold caused that was most amazing of all.
It transformed Lake Michigan until it looked like it was covered in millions of shards of glass. But, in fact, all of those light-blue pieces are ice. It begs the question, how exactly, does something like this happen?
It all started when the top layer of ice began to gradually melt, and the water pushed the ice towards the shores in gentle waves.
Then, thousands of shards of ice piled on top of each other, over and over again, creating the glass-porcupine appearance. This kind of natural phenomenon is a photographer’s dream.
Interestingly, this ice shard effect isn’t the only amazing occurrence that happened in the Straits of Mackinac. Before the polar vortex, in 2018, the waterway connecting Lake Michigan and Lake Huron had something else visually stunning happen.
The waterway produced massive quantities of chunky light blue ice that washed ashore and landed smack dab in the middle of some homeowners’ properties. The craziest part was they practically appeared overnight.
Obviously, ice is naturally clear, but the blue hue running through the shards in 2018, and the ones from the polar vortex, comes from a lack of air bubbles in the ice. No bubbles mean light travels deep into the formation, filtering out certain light wavelengths and leaving only a stunning blue color.