The Kluane Ice Cave is no more, having collapsed sometime in the last few days.
Jeff Bond, the head of Surficial Geology at the Yukon Geological Survey, told the Star today he is unsure when the cave collapsed. He said it could have been a few days ago, based on a Facebook post he found.
He said it looks like the popular visitor attraction has completely fallen in.
“You can just see a remnant of the arch,” Bond said.
He is not aware of anyone being hurt in the collapse.
He was not in a position to say if the cave-in is related to the 571-hectare Bear Creek Fire, which is burning on the other side of the Alaska Highway eight kilometres east of the cave.
He figured the collapse could be attributed to natural causes. The ice walls in the tunnel have been thinning, and it was a matter of time before the top load was too heavy for the walls to support.
“There was lots of evidence that this was coming,” Bond said.
He said the strain on the structure was observed earlier this spring. Ice shedding was observed by the ice laying on the ground.
The structure was made up of mostly ice. Bond explained there is a layer of sediment on top. This helped insulate the ice.
The cave is a former piece of glacier ice. It was left behind when the larger glacier body retreated during the start of the 20th century. This left the cave in a stagnant state.
The glacier itself can be dated from what Bond referred to as the “little ice age,” dating from 1600 to 1800.
Bond said a lot of the ice will continue to melt over the next few years. He estimates it could be completely melted in five to 10 years. There is stream that flows through it and there is no word about it being backed up.
He is not sure if there will be some kind of investigation into what happened; currently, there are no plans for one.
Bond is asking people to send him any photos they have of the collapsed tunnel. They can be sent through the Yukon Geological Survey’s Facebook page or by calling Bond at 667-8514.
He said people can still see where the glacier is today, and expects the collapsed tunnel will still attract visitors.
“It’s spectacular scenery,” Bond said.
That said, he figured there will be fewer visits as a result of the collapse.