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Hundreds of ice volcanoes form at Presqu'ile Provincial Park on Lake Ontario

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BRIGHTON, Ont. - Hundreds of so-called "ice volcanoes" have formed this winter along the Lake Ontario shoreline in Presqu'ile Provincial Park.

The mounds range from small hummocks of ice to house-sized formations, sometimes spraying water from the cone-shaped tops, said park biologist Don Tyerman.

Appearing annually at the park's waterfront and several other sites around the Great Lakes, ice volcanoes require a unique set of conditions — "a combination of temperature, wind and wave direction," Tyerman explained.

The mounds are built up by waves crashing at the edge of the ice, or sometimes driving under the ice and then breaking through a crack to the air above. The lake bottom topography is also a factor.

"Our bottom shoals up gradually, so that encourages ice formation," he said.

"This year's been really good — we've had lots of cold weather and decent onshore wind. The volcanoes are as impressive as I've seen probably in 10 years."

Viewing them at Presqu'ile is easy. Just drive along the four-kilometre stretch of Lighthouse Lane, which hugs the park's shoreline.

Tyerman warned against climbing on top of ice volcanoes since their thickness varies and they could collapse.

"If you're really lucky you might see a snowy owl sitting on top of one," he said. The owls use them as hunting platforms.

"They just perch on top and watch for waterfowl. Sometimes we see them eating ducks on top of the volcanoes."

Presqu'ile Provincial Park is about 160 kilometres east of Toronto.

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Online: http://www.ontarioparks.com/park/presquile

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