Around the Block: Ice Spikes

Nice spikes!

Roam Minecaft’s snowy tundra biomes long enough, and eventually, you’ll come across a rare and special natural phenomena: enormous icy lances, protruding out of the Earth and into the sky. You’ve stumbled upon the Ice Spikes biome, which happens to be our biome of the week.

This mysterious biome was added to Minecraft in The Update That Changed the World, way back in October 2013, and it was originally called Ice Plains Spikes. During the Update Aquatic, many of the biomes got new names and Ice Spikes was no exception – taking on the moniker it holds today.

It’s not known exactly what the natural mechanism is that causes the ice to spike upward in this biome. Mojang’s foremost geologists have been unable to find an answer, returning from their expeditions complaining of frostbitten hands and unexpected creeper attacks. 

But they did discover that the spikes don’t just stick out of the surface – instead, they penetrate deep underground and come in several sizes. There are short, wide ones that are fairly common, and rarer, thinner ones that stretch as high as 50 blocks above the ground.

The spikes themselves are made up of packed ice, which is slippier than regular ice. You’ll find plenty of snow in the biome, as well as dirt underneath the snow, and the occasional glacier of packed ice. There are no buildings to be found here, though polar bears and rabbits can be found hiding between the spikes.

Places in the real world where the ground stays frozen all year round are called “permafrost”, and the frozen terrain can behave in strange ways. You’ll see odd, round structures called frost boils, little hills called pingos, and even strange polygonal shapes on the ground formed by wedges of ice, which can extend several metres into the ground.

Over frozen water, even weirder stuff can happen. As ice freezes it expands, and sometimes this can push water through cracks in the ice and into the air. If this keeps happening and the rate of expansion and freezing is exactly right, then it’s possible for small pillars of ice to form on the surface. In very rare cases, these can grow as tall as a human.

So next time you’re traversing Minecraft’s tundra, keep an eye out for this rare biome – if only for bragging rights when you make it home again!

Duncan Geere
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Duncan Geere
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