15 Epic Water and Ice Formations and Phenomena

We all know that the Earth’s surface is covered mostly in water and ice, but what is truly astonishing is how many forms this amazing life-giving element can take. From stunning glaciers and roaring waterfalls as high as a skyscraper to jagged mountainside beds of icy spikes as tall as a man, the myriad beautiful water formations and phenomena found on our planet rival the aesthetic power of human art. Here are 15 ice, glaciers, fjords, waterfalls, unusual lakes, and other stunning examples of nature’s finest water and ice art.

Frozen Water: Small-Scale Ice Formations

Whether on a massive scale or smaller than the tip of your finger, from icicles to ice stars, the planet’s many ice formations like its bizarre and amazing land phenomena are truly as varied as snowflakes.

From the snowflake to the icicle, few things on earth are as gorgeous as frozen formations. Ice ribbons are perhaps one of the most intriguing of ice formations, seemingly resembling frosting squeezed from a baker’s press. Here you see icicles, ribbons, a rare ice star, ice columns and encased grass. The odd picture is certainly a curiosity – how did it form?

Mountain Ice Spikes

Chile is home to the rugged mountain terrain of the Andes and the severe weather extremes at different altitudes make for some stunning ice formations. The above remarkable ice field looks like daggers, but one brave climber makes his way through the Ojos del Salado.

This peak in Valle Frances is studded with distinct ice formations that resemble large boulders. Wind and fluctuating temperatures create unusual ice shapes in this famous national park called the Torres del Paine (it’s an eco-tourism hot spot).

Ice Shelves

The photographer caught this fascinating ice formation shot in Huseby, Sweden. Ice takes on all sorts of interesting asymmetrical and geometric shapes, from the icy platelets above to the incredible parallel ice shelves of the Arctic. Ellesmere Island is famous for its ice shelves, but unfortunately they are diminishing rapidly in the face of global warming. Climate change caused alarming losses in summer of 2008, and scientists are concerned that this special ecosystem may soon be lost forever.

Ice Caves

Hard to believe, but those luscious sculptured waves are completely natural – and on the ceiling. A cave in Bavaria, Germany features this unusual ice. Ice caves are common throughout the world, but some of the largest are the massive, twisting Eisriesenwelt Caves in Austria (shown above right).

Icebergs are fast melting along with the polar ice caps and glaciers. It’s a shame; not only are they ecologically valuable, they’re amazing displays of nature’s artistry. Here are images of a variety of some stunning shapes and beautiful bergs. Note the tabular iceberg (table-shaped) and the artistic marbled iceberg.

Iceberg B-15

The world’s most famous iceberg, known as B-15, was originally part of the Ross Shelf but broke off (or “calved”) in 2000. It then broke up into three still-massive chunks, one of them – B-15A – being the largest floating object in the world at 17×76 miles in size. It continued to sail on, breaking up further and engaging in several collisions along the way. It lodged in McMurdo Sound in 2005, and its presence was significant enough to prevent proper ocean current action that normally breaks up sea ice in McMurdo. In 2006, a powerful wave traveling all the way from Alaska broke up B-15A into further smaller pieces and it was hailed as “the death” of the world’s most famous iceberg.


Glaciers are simply accumulated snow, packed densely into ice over thousands, even millions, of years. Glaciers serve an important function as ecosystem regulators and water suppliers (they are the largest single source of fresh water), and the heating of the planet has led to major glacier shrinkage around the world in the last decade. Some of the most famous glaciers are located in the Himalayas and Alaska, but glaciers can be found in many places around the globe. These rivers of ice are so powerful, they create a “glacial” effect, and visible signs of glacial carving can be seen throughout the world.

Pictured at left is the Mississippi River, which travels some 2,340 miles of the continental United States. (Trivia: its tributary, the Missouri River, is actually longer.) It’s the fourth longest and tenth largest (by discharge) river in the world. Regardless of its invaluable economic and ecological service, it is simply beautiful to see. Pictured next are the Niger Delta from space – a magnificently beautiful water system – as well as the Ganges in stunning hi-res and the Okavango (one of the world’s biggest inland water systems). It floods annually, making life possible in an otherwise arid region for the rest of the year. And finally, the brilliant contrast of the iconic Amazon river and its emerald tropical rainforests.


Some of the most famous waterfalls in the world are shown here. Angel Falls in Venezuela, the tallest waterfall in the world, dives some 979 meters (over 2,000 feet) into the rocks below. Tugela Falls in South Africa is nearly as high, at 947 meters and boasts 5 beautiful cascades.

And of course, the famous Niagara Falls of North America. Niagara once froze in a freak weather occurrence in 1911 – or so the myth and the single photo indicate. Even Snopes can’t determine if it’s an urban legend or if it really happened.


Though the fjords of Norway are famous, that’s not the only place where you can see these magnificent chiseled carvings of Mother Nature as artist. Chile is home to gorgeous fjords, as are several other spots around the world. A fjord is simply a narrow water inlet with high, steep land on either side – however, they are unique because they are created through glacier activity. The images above are of fjords in Alaska (the boldness of the blue is amazing), Iceland (lobster claws?), Norway (almost other-worldly), and Chile (once again the Torres del Paine).

Lakes Seen From Above

Rounding out the tour, here are some of the quirky and artfully abstract shapes of lakes when seen from the aerial view. A playground of the rich and famous, Lake Como in Italy is famously known as the Y Shaped lake, while this lesser known Horseshoe Lake in Arkansas is endearing. But it’s this dragon lake in China that’s most striking.

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