The refractive indexes of methane hydrate and natural gas hydrate have been experimentally determined. The refractive indexes were determined in an indirect manner making use of the fact that two non-absorbing materials will have the same refractive index if they cannot be distinguished visually. For methane hydrate (structure I) the refractive index was found to be 1.346 and for natural gas hydrate (structure II) it was found to be 1.350. The measurements further suggest that the gas hydrate growth rate increases if the water has formed hydrates before. The induction time, on the other hand, seems to be unaffected by the history of the water. (C) 1997 Elsevier Science Ltd.