Photos: Ice near Apostle Islands ice caves disappears in hours

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What a difference a few hours can make. The ice on Lake Superior near the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore ice caves in northern Wisconsin broke apart and nearly disappeared on Sunday.

Check out this series of photos, provided by the Apostle Island National Lakeshore's Facebook page.

On Sunday at 11:30 a.m. there were cracks in the ice:

By 12:30 p.m. the ice was starting to break apart:

And by 5:30 p.m., the ice was nearly gone:

The weather wasn't overly warm on Sunday – it was above freezing and there was light rain, but it's not uncommon for ice to break up in a matter of hours. Last February, the ice near the Apostle Islands broke apart in 15 hours, according to MinnPost.

The ice caves drew over 138,000 visitors this winter, which is more than 10 times the number of people who visited in 2009, the last time Lake Superior was frozen enough to allow people to reach the caves on foot.

Word about the caves traveled fast across the Internet and social media, which contributed to the huge attendance numbers – providing an estimated $10-$12 million tourism boom for northern Bayfield County and the city of Ashland, Wisconsin, according to the National Parks Traveler.

Access to the ice caves closed in mid-March due to unsafe ice conditions.

Post by Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

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