Haines Junction ice cave could be gone within 5 years, geologists predict

Haines Junction ice cave could be gone within 5 years, geologists predict

A popular ice cave just outside Haines Junction, Yukon, might be gone within a few years, geologists say.

The Yukon Geological Survey predicts the formation will have melted completely, if not collapsed, within the next five years.

The prediction is based on measurements of the cave over the last 13 years, using aerial images from Google maps. In 2005, the cave was 250 metres long, it's now about 100 metres long.

"It's definitely disappearing. It seems to have sped up in terms of the rate of shrinkage in recent years," said Jeff Bond, a surficial geologist with the Yukon Geological Survey.

He went out to the cave on Monday to take measurements and pictures, to evaluate its current state.

It's a concern because more and more hikers seems to be making the trek out to see the site. Earlier this month, the Yukon Geological Survey issued a public warning against going inside the formation.  

Bond said the cave could be as small as 20 metres long within four years, if it doesn't collapse first.

The melt is happening gradually from both ends and causing chunks of ice as thick as 50 centimetres to fall from the cave walls, according to Bond.

"They would certainly kill somebody inside," said Bond.

The hazards to watch out for when visiting the area are ice and rock falling at the opening of the cave and inside. Bond said it's clear that ice has already fallen this year and more will fall throughout the summer.

"I would definitely recommend for people to go there," said Bond — but adds that people should enjoy it from the outside.  

The cave is located on public land, giving the Yukon Geological Survey no authority to stop people from entering it.