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Fleeting Wonders: Stacked Shards of Ice On Lake Superior

A crop of stacked ice in Duluth, Michigan. (Photo: Sharon Mollerus/Flickr)

A crop of stacked ice in Duluth, Minnesota. (Photo: Sharon Mollerus/Flickr)

Winter on Lake Superior means endless recombinations of air and water: delicate frost flowers, piles of shore snowballs, frozen caves. Last weekend, on the lake’s Minnesota shoreline, the two elements found a unique way to duke it out—a round of ice stacking.

In a video released by photography studio Radiant Spirit Gallery, huge chunks of glassy ice break apart, migrate shoreward, and crash into each other, forming jagged heaps. The scene is violent and fragile at once, and made mystical by a wispy layer of “sea smoke”—another elemental collaboration, caused by cold air moving over warm water.

As MLive reports, local photographer Dawn LaPointe was shooting nearby when she saw the odds were stacked for stacking, so she headed to nearby Brighton Beach to capture the event. “The seemingly endless ice sheets broke into large plates and stacked on shore, sounding much like breaking glass,” she wrote afterwards. “As the water became exposed, the sea smoke was whisked across the surface by the breeze.”

These icy pile-ups are caused by cycles of cold and warm weather, as the lake’s frozen layer breaks up and gets pushed around by the wind. Last April, large-scale ice packing on Lake Superior trapped 18 freighters that had been making their way across the water.

But if you’re safe on land (or at your computer), ice stacking is much more mesmerizing than scary. “Winter is my favorite season to be out shooting,” LaPointe told MLive. “I’m often surprised at what I see.”

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to [email protected].