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Rare Blue Ice Formations Are Creating Stunning Shorelines in Michigan

Photographers and gawkers are gathering around the Straits of Mackinac right now. The narrow waterways between Michigan's upper and lower peninsula are currently home to a rare blue ice formation, tailor-made for Instagram addicts. (Or, you know, people who just enjoy nature with their eyes. They exist.)

The straits flow under the Mackinac Bridge, along the Mackinaw City shore. There, blue-hued ice is piling up in an otherworldly fashion. This ice forms when lake water freezes without bubbles trapped in the ice. When there are bubbles present, light is scattered as it passes through. In the absence of bubbles, light can shine straight through the ice.

George Leshkevich of NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory told Michigan's WFMY that the lack of bubbles allows "short wavelength light to penetrate and scatter in the water below and reflect back through the ice."

"The blue ice is incredible, when it shows up, it's like these mountains of ice just appear on the shores out of nowhere," Tori Burley, a photographer from Mackinaw City, told WFMY. "They're huge, I haven't seen a photo that truly does them justice on just how giant they are." 

Photos might not do the ice justice, but the photos below from Burley, who says she has been waiting seven years to photograph blue ice, start to get the idea across. FOX reports the stacks this year have reached as high as 30 feet.

"It's amazing, and it doesn't happen this big that often, which makes it even more exciting," Burley said, adding that photographers should arrive at sunrise or just before sunset to see the blue at its most brilliant.

The ice stacks can get huge, but conditions can change rapidly. If you're looking to see it in person, you'll need to be quick about it. Melting can happen quickly. Otherwise, there are a whole lot of images floating around social media.

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Dustin Nelson is a News Writer with Thrillist. He holds a Guinness World Record but has never met the fingernail lady. Follow him @dlukenelson.