Extremely rare foam formations create buzz near Pincher Creek

LETHBRIDGE – An Alberta family has made quite the discovery.

Last Sunday, the Hammonds found a bubbling, gurgling substance coming up from the water along a riverbank in Pincher Creek. They have lived along the river for three generations and say they have never seen anything like it.

“It was almost like it was alive,” says Jeff Hammond. “It would come up, it would grow and then stop on the edges and then the middle would keep going.

“The one was a couple of meters tall. It’s right there in the middle of the rapids below a beaver dam.”

The Hammonds sent photos of the pillars to Global News, prompting the University of Lethbridge to try and find out what the formations could be.

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A heated debate between researchers erupted and six colleagues at the school began to brainstorm ideas.

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“To us it looks like a positive land form, so something that is building up rather than eroding away,” says Hester Jiskoot, a glaciologist at the University of Lethbridge. “That, by itself is really exciting. My first reaction was ‘this is quite unusual.’”

Family and friends of the Hammonds all came to watch the foam spew from the river, coming up with their own name for the mystery creation. They dubbed them ‘foam-canos.’ However, researchers call them frozen foam pillars.

According to Jiskoot, a combination of the perfect conditions needs to happen in order to create the frozen foam pillars.

These pillars are caused by mild, thawing temperatures that are followed by a flash freeze like the drastic drop in temperature we have seen this week. Organic matter in the water causes the creation of the foam and a crack or hole in the ice allows the foam to push through. In this case the Hammond family walked their cattle through the area where the waterway is located and researchers believe it’s their manure that contributed to creations.

“They also need a waterfall or some sort of drop to be created, that caused the pressure, which forces the foam upward,” adds Jiskoot.

With just the right elements brewing in the river, the Hammond family feels fortunate they were the ones who discovered the rare ‘foam-canos.’

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“It’s almost like a once in a life time opportunity, to see something mother nature created.”

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