Man discovered dark cave in Austria—then realized inside was the ‘world of ice giants’

The oldest layers of ice inside the cave are 1,000 years old!
January 29, 2018 11:36 am Last Updated: January 29, 2018 2:27 pm

Located in The Austrian Alps near Salzburg, there was a time when no one knew the ice cave of Eisriesenwelt existed.

Because the cave was not in a well-explored area, it was unknown for centuries. It took one adventurous person to explore it and soon, Eisriesenwelt became a significant tourist attraction.

Nature explorer Anton von Posselt-Czorich was the first to excavate his way into the dark cave in 1879. He published a detailed report on his icy discovery, but then the cave went back to being forgotten again.

In 1913, the cave’s importance was noticed by Alexander von Mork, founder of the Salzburg Cave Explorers, who decided to continue Posselt’s research. Soon after, other pioneers joined the research.

(Flickr/public domain)

After World War I, other researchers began exploring the icy landmark in earnest.

Because of the continuous research, the icy cave became popular and sparked the imagination of tourists. In the 1920s, an explorer’s lodge was built with climbing installations into the cave so the public could visit and explore.

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Four years later, wooden planks were installed so visitors could walk over icy sections. A large refuge was also built  in 1925.

At first visitors could only reach the cave on foot. After 35 years, an unpaved single lane road was created for the cars, which was rather perilous! So, two years later, in 1955, an aerial cable car was constructed to bring visitors up the steepest parts of the ascent to the cave. Now, a new cable car is used to help visitors reach the entrance to the icy sanctuary.

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Inside, the cave is a 40-kilometer long labyrinth of chambers. The caves themselves are formed in limestone rocks over millions of years due to the action of water dissolving the rock.

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What makes Eisriesenwelt so rare and spectacular is that the caves are filled with spectacular ice formations. Because of the way the air flows inside the mountain cave, the lower parts of the cave can be cooled to below zero temperatures during the winter and stay that way all year round. Melt water drips into the caves from above in the spring and summer, freezing into awe-inspiring ice sculptures when it hits the cool air below.

The oldest layers of ice inside the cave are 1,000 years old!

The ice caves are a national monument and can only be explored on a guided tour.

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