By Rik Sharma
PUBLISHED: 13:18 GMT, 26 November 2012 | UPDATED: 16:29 GMT, 26 November 2012
At first glance these beautiful images from the Antarctic appear to show 50-ft tall waves that have been instantly frozen as they break.
Some people have posted the pictures online, taken by scientist Tony Travouillon at Dumont D’Urville, with a description claiming they are a tsunami wave which was frozen.
But although email chains and internet forums back this claim up, what is really pictured is the natural phenomenon of blue ice.
These freezing blue towers were created when ice was compressed and the trapped air bubbles were squeezed out.
During the summer the surface ice melts and new ice layers compress on top.
The ice appears blue because when when light passes through thick ice, blue light is transmitted back out but red light is absorbed.
If the bubbles were not compressed they would scatter the light, meaning it would all be reflected back out and it would appear white.
Larry Gedney wrote about blue snow and ice on the Alaska Science Forum.
He explained: ‘It takes an appreciable thickness of pure ice to absorb enough red light so that only the blue is transmitted. You can see the effect in snow at fairly shallow depths because the light is bounced around repeatedly between ice grains, losing a little red at each bounce.
Hoax: Many people have posted the pictures claiming either mistakenly or mischievously that these icy pillars were formed when a wave froze instantly as it broke
‘As the depth increases, the corer will pass through yellowish-green, greenish-blue and finally vivid blue. If the hole is deep enough, the colour and light disappear completely when all the light is absorbed.’
Mr Travouillon, employed by Caltech in California, travelled to Antarctica while working towards his PhD from the University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia.
The 35-year-old lists his nationalities as Australian and French and can speak both Spanish and French, as well as English.
On his resume he writes: ‘My research is mainly experimental covering a broad knowledge of site testing, remote sensing and automatization for telescopes of all wavelengths.
‘I am also particularly interested in the development and management of very large astronomical projects.
‘My career goal is to work in a hybrid environment of academia and project research, involving myself in teaching and project development.’