Ice Tubes

       A strange and wonderfully magical phenomenon occurs in my pond during the winter. Ice tubes appear from the surface of the frozen water. When I stopped to analyze how these things form, it is not so strange.  In order to keep the fish healthy, I run an aquarium pump into the water below the ice. The pump feeds the air through a plastic tube into an air stone on the bottom of the pond.  The stone breaks the air into billions of tiny bubbles. The net result is the water becomes frothy with air, and the fish have oxygen for survival.

Winter 2009 Ice-Tube on Frozen Pond

     When the temperature goes  below freezing, the bubbles keep an area of the surface open.  As the temperature drops further, nature continues to freeze the surface even against the force of the bubbles. Eventually, the hole in the ice is the size of a quarter. The  tiny bubbles become big bubbles. The hole resembles a kid blowing bubbles through his lips with spit. The difference is that the pond can make bubbles faster than any kid. The bubbles burst in the frigid air and the resulting micro fine spray of water freezes in mid air. At first the bubble  freezes into a  dome with a tiny escape hole. The cycle continues until a cylinder of  frozen water begins to form. The bubble bursting and freezing continues for hours and the cyclinder grows like a stalagmite. The difference is that the ice tube is hollow and continues to let air escape from under the ice.

Ice-Tube-Up Close, approx 8 inches tall

     There have been times when my pond had as many as six of these ice tubes protruding from the ice. All, at least six inches tall, and twisted into various shapes. The wind blowing across the ice will push the bursting bubble mist into different directions before it freezes. The results are amazing. This year, the pond never had more than one ice tube at a time. With spring around the corner, I don’t expect to see too many more of these delightful structures this year.

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