Spirals of Ice Extruded from Steel Posts

Dr. James R. Carter, Professor Emeritus

Geography-Geology Department

Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790-4400


In January 2007 I was introduced to some interesting photos of ice growing from a metal fence on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.  I posted photos of this ice and have subsequently received photos from two persons showing spirals of ice being extruded from steel posts.  Their photos show ice in the form of rods that curve into spirals.  Beautiful and natural. 

From a stairway in SW England

The first set of photos were taken by Kath Tooley in southwestern England.  She found these spirals on a set of steel stairs.  In this photo I see three spirals extending from the junctions of three vertical pipes and the handrail.  Note that not every pipe junction produced ice. 


The photo below is a closeup from the photo above which gives a better view of the rod of ice.  Note the hole near the top of the vertical pipe behind the spiral, but no ice is emerging from that hole.  The fact that this pipe has a hole drilled in it tells us something about these pipes. 


I believe the photo below shows the spiral of ice that is in the middle of the three spirals in the top photo. 

In this photo I see the one large spiral with 7 full loops and close to the pipes I see a smaller, finer spiral of ice. 

I start at the end of the spiral of ice on the left and follow the loops to the pipes.  It appears to me that the larger spiral starts on the backside of the pipe.

I see a small rod of ice emerging from the pipe junction and it appears to make the smaller rod of ice. 

I wish I had been there to see this.  I enjoy speculating about what has happened here. 

Below are two photos showing the close up of two of the spirals.  I believe these are different spirals.  It is my interpretation that the ice is quite clear and translucent -- letting light pass through it. It is not transparent because you cannot see the pipes through the rods of ice.  How long did these spirals last in the Sun? 


And from a playground in Moscow

The second set of photos were taken by Alexander Nevzorov in Moscow, Russia. In this case the steel pipes have been bent and welded into a climbing aparatus for children. The many colors of the pipes reflect the cheerful nature of the apparatus.  But it was a gray day when Alexander found this spiral of ice extending down from a red pipe.  There is a thin layer of snow, which looks to be very fresh. 

I suspect this was the only spiral of ice on this complex of pipes.  I can see nothing more and Alexander did not tell me about any more

Alexander took a photo looking down through the Spiral of Ice and got a good photo.  I think this photo has a very good depth of field, especially considering that this is a gray day. 

Notice the gray line that extends from the top center.  This is a thin rod of ice that was extruded from a smaller hole.

The other two photos I received show the spiral of ice extending down from the junction of the small red pipe welded to the larger blue pipe.  In the photos below I show a closeup of the junction which reveals two holes, one producing the larger rod of ice which made the spiral and a small hole which produced a thin rod of ice which is straight. 

Two views of the spiral of ice extending down from the junction and in the center a close up showing the two holes in the pipe junction.

As I reviewed these two sets of photos I realized they are not dissimilar to ice shown in the photos from Sheryl Terris and some of the ice I grew from pipes.  The examples from England and Moscow are natural and as such are particularly attractive.  From my many photos I found these examples of rods of ice being extruded from holes drilled into steel pipes.  In the photo on the left I had two holes in the side of a pipe.  On the right the hole was drilled into the cast iron cap. 

This ice is in the form of a rod and shows the tendency to curve into a spiral.  But these ice rods are quite milky and not translucent.  Why the differences?   


The blue background is a large piece of cloth of uniform color.  As such it makes a good background for photos.  All too frequently the mix of objects in the background detract from the focus of the photo. 

Thank goodness for the Internet and digital cameras for they let us exchange information about these attractive ice formations.  Please take on the task of looking for ice when the freeze/thaw processes are underway.  Feel free to contact me at  jrcarter@ilstu.edu   if you see any ice of this nature in your outings.  And, note in these cases the ice is found in the as-built environment -- not on plants.   

Return to the master page of Diurnal Freeze/Thaw Ice Formations

One of the many web pages of Dr. Jim Carter

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