HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
April 30, 2007, Herald Journal

Ice-out on lake amazing sight


I envy people who live next to a lake, and can watch the annual ice-out spectacle from their backyards. It’s an amazing sight.

We live in town. The only way we see the ice-out phenomenum is if we guess correctly when it will be, hopefully a weekend, and are up at the cabin when it occurs.

Two years ago, ice-out happened while we were up at Big Bass Lake. Big slabs of ice floated like slow-moving whales past the end of our dock. The ice chunks were combinations of vertical crystals, so they looked like upside-down calliopes.

This year, the ice-out on April 22, was even more spectacular. When we arrived at the lake, the only open water was a strip along the north shore. We put the boat in, and planned to cruise only the north shore from east to west.

A warm, but stiff south wind blew up, though, and started to quickly rearrange the surface of the lake. Holes formed. Cracks zig-zagged through the ice, and the slabs of ice started moving across the lake.

It was mesmerizing watching the channels of water between the ice slabs change shape. It reminded me of the globs elongating and condensing in one of those Lava Lamps popular in the 1960s.

A gull, standing on a slab of ice, sailed past us like a surfer dude hangin’ 10 at Malibu Beach.

As the slabs approached the propeller on the boat, I started to worry the ice might damage it. I stood on the dock, and whacked the sheets of ice with a shovel whenever they got close to the boat. I found the ice was paper thin, though, like delicate sheets of floating glass.

When water sloshed over the top of the leading edge of the floe, it shimmered in a dazzling display.

The ice-out also made noise. As the leading edge of the floe pushed its way through the water, the crystals on the edge broke off and made a tinkling, clinking sound like a million glass wind chimes. Later, when we went around the last sheet of ice by boat, the tinkling, clinking sound even drowned out the drone of the boat motor.

The loons had no problem diving under the sheets of ice. I wonder how the tinkling, clinking noise sounded underwater.

Eventually, the lake turned into ice soup, and then the ice disappeared completely. The entire show lasted one day.

Instead of limiting our boat cruise to one side of the lake, we went all the way around the shoreline and across the middle.

People who live next to lakes are fortunate to be able to witness this annual spring event.