The ice caves off of Leelanau County’s western shoreline were a fleeting phenomenon: accommodating weather afforded thousands of sight-seers the opportunity to see the ice formations, but within days of their discovery the winds picked up and compromised the stability of the structures. Could cold weather re-freeze the fissures caused by the unforgiving gales off of Lake Michigan, thus making exploration of the ice caves safe? Perhaps. For now, though, local authorities are urging the public to stay safe and steer clear of the area. Here are three aerial photographs of the ice caves taken from a Traverse City-based Coast Guard helicopter displaying the precarious state of the ice formations.
The above picture shows the most prominent caves in the area. Notice the patches of open water and the large horizontal crack near the bottom of the frame. Click on the image to enlarge to its full size.
According to Lt. Jonna Clouse of the US Coast Guard, “There is much broken and floating ice between the caves and the nearby Manitou Islands, in addition to open water. The ice looks much like a waffling of ice chunks through much of that area.” Click on the image to enlarge to its full size.