Glacier Features: Glacier Caves

Glacier caves form within the ice of a glacier. Although they are often called ice caves, this term is better used to describe bedrock caves that contain year-round ice. Glacier caves are often carved out by water running through or under the glacier's ice.

Historic photograph of Columbia Glacier, Alaska, 1931A stream of meltwater carved out this glacier cave in the terminus of Columbia Glacier, Alaska. —Credit: Photograph by William Osgood Field. 1931. Columbia Glacier: From the Glacier Photograph Collection. Boulder, Colorado USA: National Snow and Ice Data Center. Digital media.

Historic photograph of an ice cave in AntarcticaThe photograph of this glacier cavern in Antarctica was originally published in The Heart of the Antarctic, Volume I, by E. H. Shackleton, 1909. —Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / Department of Commerce

Photograph of an ice cave in Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska, 1991This glacier cave under Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska, was photographed in 1991. —Credit: Photograph by John Borniak, NOAA Corps., National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce.

Photograph of an ice cave in Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska, 1991This glacier cave under Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska, was photographed in 1991. —Credit: Photograph by John Borniak, NOAA Corps., National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce.

Photograph of Ectomorph Ice Cave in Oregon, United StatesIn contrast to glacier caves, ice caves occur when ice exists year-round within bedrock caves. Ectomorph Ice Cave in Oregon is a lava cave with perennial ice. —Credit: Brent McGregor and Eduardo Cartaya