By way of Gripping Photographs, Ryan Newburn Captures the Depths of Iceland’s Historic Glacial Caves


All photographs © Ryan Newburn, shared with permission

“Whenever you look into the partitions of an ice cave, you’re looking into the previous as when you had been immediately within a time capsule that had been buried for 500 to 1,000 years,” says Ryan Newburn. “Each air bubble that you simply see is oxygen from a unique time interval. Each speckle of ash is from a unique volcanic eruption.”

Raised in Omaha, Nebraska, and now primarily based in Reykjavik, Newburn is intently acquainted with the ice caves that encompass his adopted house. He first got here to Iceland in 2018, coaching on the large Vatnajokull Glacier earlier than working as an expedition information and finally launching his personal tour firm, Ice Pic Journeys, along with his fellow American enterprise companion Mike Reid.

In the present day, Newburn ventures into the frozen caverns with teams, photographing them and the panorama alongside the way in which. His photographs seize the immensity of the arctic plenty, their easy, ribbed surfaces, and the shapely contours of caverns and rivers carving via the ice. Explorers are sometimes seen within the distance, on the finish of a rippling, rocky tunnel or precariously posed beneath a cluster of sharp icicles to showcase the dimensions of the openings.

Occupying such an historical and at all times evolving house is an expertise that’s tough to {photograph}, Newburn shares, as a result of the fixed trickle of melting water, the roar of distant rivers, and even the distinctive interaction of sunshine and glacier are inconceivable to depict solely. “Beneath the ice, the place the solar can’t penetrate,” he says, “your eyes slowly alter from the brilliant solar to the glowing deep blue crystal partitions of the ice cave. The extra that your eyes alter, the extra saturated the blue will get. It’s a surreal visible expertise that you simply can’t get from any picture of an ice cave.”


Whereas shades of blue dominate most of his photographs, a lot of the partitions are clear and crystalline, making it seem as when you may “gaze into it for miles.” This readability, he explains, is as a result of glacial ice has low oxidation, about 10 to fifteen p.c solely, because of the excessive stress exerted throughout their formation that compelled a lot of the oxygen from the snow because it compacted.

Though exploring these areas is harmful—Newburn emphasizes the need of correct gear and a information who is aware of the ins and outs of performing crevasse rescues—it’s additionally an expertise that actually solely occurs as soon as. He elaborates:

What’s much more unreal is realizing that once you uncover an ice cave for the very first time, you’re the solely human that has ever been inside. On a planet the place nearly each space of land has been explored, the glacier offers you with unending caves and buildings to find. It’s because the ice is at all times melting away and forming one thing new that didn’t exist yesterday and received’t exist subsequent yr. This creates an never-ending sense of wanderlust of what I’m going to come upon subsequent when exploring.

Newburn shares a lot of his glacial adventures on Instagram, and you’ll find extra about his firm’s expeditions on its web site.


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