Rare Ice that Sparkles Like Diamonds Found in Japan

Feb 01, 2017 08:06 AM EST

Japan is not just known for their cherry blossoms, but also unique crystal-clear ice blocks that wash up only on their shores.

These ice blocks are so tantalizing as they sparkle like diamonds. Most people who have seen these structures refer to them as "jewel ice" or "Tokachi river ice." Science Alert reported that the ice blocks give off an orange or sapphire hue, depending on the time of day and the color of the sky.

Where do they come from and how are they formed? Metro UK said these blocks of ice wash up on the shores of Hokkaido every winter, when the mouth of the Tokachi River freezes up, causing chunks of ice to crack and float to Japan's shores.

"I had never heard of this type of ice and have never seen any sea ice like it," Peter Wadhams, an ocean physicist at the University of Cambridge who studies polar oceans and sea ice told New York Times. "It's just river ice, which is transparent because it has no salt in it."

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Information from Japan's tourism website said there could be two explanations as to why the ice blocks are ethereal clear. First, it could be because the water froze slowly over time giving impurities time to settle out and bubbles to float to the surface. When no impurities or bubbles are trapped, the ice becomes clearer and less opaque. Second, it could simply be because the water of the Tokachi River is clean and very pure.

The composition of the jewel ice is similar to snow crystals.

Jewel ice has been going on for years, but it was only in 2015 when the natural phenomenon was really hyped up because of a photo posted on social media. Today, tourists flock in the area to see the jewel ice before it melts in the sand. Hokkaido also boasts of an ice drift attraction at the Okhotsk Ryu-hyo Museum and ice drift festival.

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