World Of The Ice Giants: Study Shows How Water Flowed 140 Metres Uphill To Form Planets Biggest Ice Cave
New research has revealed how water once flowed 140 metres uphill to form the “world’s largest ice cave” in Austria, which is estimated to be between five and 10 million years old and has been dubbed the “World of the Ice Giants”.
Eisriesenwelt, which means the “World of the Ice Giants” in German, is the world’s largest ice cave and it is located in the market town of Werfen, which is about 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of the picturesque city of Salzburg, located in the Austrian Alps.
The Natural History Museum in Vienna (NHMV) released a statement yesterday (Monday 8th November) saying that “a research team from the Natural History Museum Vienna and the University of Innsbruck examined the origin and direction of flow of water when the 42-kilometre (26-mile) cave systems” formed.
They said that their “results show that millions of years ago, water flowed upwards 140 metres” and that this was due to “pressure”.
They added that the “age of the Eisriesenwelt can be given based on comparisons with other caves” and that it is believed to be between “five and 10 million years old”.
The NHMV also said that a “research team from the Natural History Museum Vienna and the University of Innsbruck” has now studied the formation of the “entire, 42-kilometre-long cave in more detail”.
It is open to the public, but only a small part at the beginning of the cave system is publicly accessible.
Dr Lukas Plan, a research associate at the NHMV, is quoted in the statement as saying: “You might think that water flows downhill.
“However, research has now shown that the cave system, known for its ice formations, was completely filled with water when it was formed and that it flowed up 140 metres under pressure in the ascending part that is open to visitors.”
The NHMV also said: “Little was known about the origin and direction of flow of the water in the cave system of the Eisriesenwelt. In order to research this, spatial profiles and solution forms were examined. They show that the giant ice world was completely filled with water at the time of its creation. The so-called flow facets are of particular importance in deciphering the development conditions.”
The statement explained that “these asymmetrical, shell-shaped depressions in the cave wall were formed by water eddies” (which are circular currents of water) and that these depressions “today provide information about the former direction and speed of flow”.
The experts mapped the flow of the water and their results “showed that millions of years ago about 100,000 litres of water per second flowed north-east through the Tennengebirge – that is, 140 metres from today’s cave entrance”.
The statement added that this “was the rising part of a siphon” and that despite “the surrounding limestone in front of today’s entrance” being eroded “over the course of millions of years”, it is “very likely” that the water came from the “central Alps south of the Tennengebirge, whose fragments of rock in the form of sand and gravel can often be found in the cave.”
The statement concluded: “The Eisriesenwelt is thus the first cave system in the Northern Limestone Alps, for which a former supply by rivers from the Central Alps can be proven.”
The research, conducted by Dr Plan, as well as Dr Gabriella Koltai, Eva Kaminsky, and Tanguy Racine, has been published under the title ‘Genetische Interpretation der Eisriesenwelt (Tennengebirge)’ (‘Genetic interpretation of the Eisriesenwelt [Tennengebirge]’) in the academic journal ‘Die Hoehle’, which specialises in speleology – the study and exploration of cave systems.