Crystal islet

Here’s another icy image. It was taken taken just moments before the few I posted the other day. This one differs in that the icy surface is clear, rather than frosted. I wish I knew more about conditions under which ice forms in these different ways. In any event, it was Joanna who liked this unusual growth of crystals. I like the palette of muted color in the back. It’s easy to convince yourself that the little cluster formed directly on top of the leaves. If you look closely, however, you will see that it is above them, and grew on top of the overlying ice sheet (also a clustering of crystals). I wonder if, what looks like a seed embedded near the center of the crystal, provided the nucleation site for its formation? If so, why didn’t crystals form around a similar seed to the right?

24 thoughts on “Crystal islet

  1. Fascinating. For some reason I’m reminded with my endless wonder I get with ice-covered rocks near the shore. This only happens when it’s very cold and I figure that the ice on the rocks is not sea-ice but has somehow grown there by condensation from the air.

    • Yes. I can remember, as a kid, being at the shore in winter and enjoying seeing ice there. Too much, I would think, to be accounted for by condensation alone? Although the freezing point depression is perhaps quite significant I would think that, otherwise, seawater freezes readily. Ah, couldn’t resist … looked it up … seawater freezes at 28.4 degreesF. Somehow the salt is not included in the resulting crystals … a very nice way to desalinate seawater!

  2. Amazing contrast – that white! (Not) answering your question: a long time ago, growth of crystals in thin film and nucleation was one of my specialties. All I can say is that it is really complicated and often happens far from ‘thermodynamic equilibrium,’ so a tiny variation of something may determine if a crystal grows on a nucleation site or not. I have also seen such ice spikes – in our very first experiments with a ‘miniature version’ of our water tank (at that time we experimented with a solution of salt in water instead of pure water). Regardless of conditions, all the ice in the bulk volume grew in long thin needles – very different from what we see in the big pure water tank today. I think it was the very fast precipitation of crystals from a highly saturated solution that caused this kind of growth.

    • Yes, I am sure that the growth of a crystal (even one precipitating from water, as ice) has a multivariate solution and is only somewhat influenced by first thermodynamic principles. Size and texture of the nucleation particle, concentrations of the precipitating solid, interactions of perhaps several ions in the solution, atmospheric pressure, and on and on and on. Perhaps this is a question that can only be tangentially answered by chaos theory?

  3. It took me a while to remember where I’d seen it, but here it is. If you scroll down through the photos, about midway through you’ll see a fantastic ice/frost formation that reminded me of our Texas frostweed — except, it looks more like what you’ve posted here.

    I inquired, and the fellow who took the photo says it’s called hair frost. It’s exuded by dead branches that have a certain form of fungal infection. The frost “hairs” are usually exuded from within the wood when there’s been a light frost followed by sunshine. And, he added that it’s fairly common where he is — on the Scottish side of the English Scottish border just to the north of the Solway Firth.

    Whether it’s related to your capture here, I certainly can’t say, but I thought it was an interesting phenomenon, nonetheless.

  4. Once again, well caught, Joanna. I’ve photographed similar. There may be some deep explainable cause for nature’s randomness in this case but I have no idea and just appreciate how special such finds can be. How nice that this happened atop clear ice and allowed you to backdrop this crystalline beauty with a nice earth-toned abstract.

    • Thanks for the link. I do indeed remember your post and recall that it, literally, took my breath away when I first saw it. There’s so much going on. The colors are striking. The swirls of frozen algae provides lots of movement. And, the specks of white snow seem to emanate from the crystal itself. The whole thing looks like some sort of exploding, celestial, body. Perhaps you too should consider a series of retrospective posts? I would welcome them, to be sure.

          • I am always up by 4. Quite often earlier with old age insomnia. I make up for it by getting in bed between 8 and 8:30. Even on New Year’s Eve. My sinuses are not too bad, but my nose gets stuffed during the night generally so I wear Breathe Rite strips. Side benefit is no more snoring. That drove Mary Beth to another room years ago which isn’t a bad thing since, no matter the size of the mattress, she requires all but a few inches reserved for me. Murphy required the same. It’s amazing that, to this point, I have never fallen out of bed. Anyway, I am always up early if you ever need a wake up call.

  5. I love this one, it looks like a wintry flower! I’ve always thought the way ice forms is really cool. In cat’s cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, if I remember correctly, a fictitious type of ice ‘seeds’ pretty much anything it touches, making it extremely dangerous and apocalyptic.

    • Oh my .. I forgot … Ice-nine is a material appearing in Cat’s Cradle. It is a polymorph of water. Rather than melting at 0°C, it melts at 45.8°C. When Ice-nine comes into contact with liquid water below 45.8 °C, it acts as a seed crystal and causes the solidification of liquid water into more Ice-nine. As people are mostly water, ice-nine is ‘totally dangerous.’

  6. Mother Nature in VT continues to provide some fantastic fodder for images. The ice is so crystal clear. Very odd to find that clump of crystals. It’s a real puzzle to try and figure out why one seed “blossomed” while the other did not! Same environment … weird!

  7. Quite lovely! Crystal growth is so interesting. After examining the ice formation, my eye was drawn to the lowly seed that you pointed out. Wondering what it is about that seed that it didn’t get a magnificent escort like its brother. I wonder if the crystal nucleus is something else (unseen) and the one seed just got super lucky. It’s okay to anamorphize seeds, right? Great photo!

  8. Stunning. I love the juxtaposition of the white of the ice against the soft reds and greens of the leaves under the water. Really cool.

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