by Fred Kane (c) 2001
are amazingly attractive scenes to see during our Northern winter. One need only look out
the window to feel the tranquil stillness of new fallen snow. You will find windows
burnished with many complex designs and different forms of icicles on homes.
Ice is as lovely and as delicate as a snow flake, peaceful as a painting and as powerful and hazardous as an earthquake. It appears over night and vanishes in a matter of hours. Sometime during its seasonal lifetime it leaves its marks on surrounding land showing its appearance or smashing a man made construction. Docks, caved in roofs, fence post and other things fall to the power of ice. Lakefront property owners with docks and cottages are aware of the harm ice if they don't protect their docks properly.
Many people lose their lives yearly. They venture out on the ice without complete knowledge of the thickness of the ice or its weak points. Those who live near lakes or spend time ice skating, ice sailing or ice fishing know its many moods. They view the colors of the ice ranging from white to black, small cracks to gaping holes and breaches on the lake ice. On the larger lakes the ice may become cracked in the middle and push together to form a ridge as high as five feet.
Perhaps the most extraordinary event is the growth during a wintry cold, clear night. A night when the stars appear frozen bits of sparkling ice, the snow glitters and grinds when you walk. You go to bed with no ice on the water and wake to a complete skim over the lake.
Rarely does ice form accidentally in water. Usually ice forms on the water touching a rock or by a snow flake drifting on the water from the shore line. At this point ice has a starting place from which it grows. From this point the ice grows often forming the shape of a blade that may shoot across the dark quiet water with a snapping hiss. The blades cross each other forming a patchwork type of crystallization. If the cold persists over time, ice forms between the grids of the patchwork and a layer of ice in due time covers the pond or lake. The ice appears black but not really because of the light absorbing water below.
Ice also forms when the snow falls. The snow flakes add ice to the water that adds more ice to the lake. Some people describe this as white ice because the air trapped in the snow during freezing. On very large lakes like the Great Lakes ice doesn't completely cover the lake. Usually the waves crash against the shore ice and makes shapes like saw tooth ridges. As the waves crash against the shore formed ice it throws water on the ice and more ice forms.
Lakes that freeze completely display their own peculiarities. The most active state if the ice forming begins soon after the original structures start and the next heavy snowfall. Ice sheets expand quickly and widen rapidly. It is the sideways growth of ice toward shore that causes the tension that damages docks and piers.
As ice forms against the shore it will crack somewhere else. Water seeps into this gap and as the night cools the water freezes. This causes the to freeze and then fracture again. Again water seeps into the fracture and freezes again. The continual build up of ice goes unnoticed until someone sees a boat house crushed or a dock piling snap like a match stick. Every winter, boat house and dock owner take costly steps to protect their property. On frozen lakes one precaution is and ice inhibitor or bubbler. Moving water doesn't freeze and a bubbler keeps the water around a dock or boat house in motion continually.
Ridges occurred because the ice fractured. Water seepage and freezing can be a danger to ice boats and snowmobilers. Runners from either type of sled may catch in the ruts and break the weak ice below because of the weight of the vehicle.
Once spring time arrives the ice begins to melt. The ice floats as it is lighter than water. As these small ice bergs float the wind pushes them to shore. The mass movement of this floating ice also causes damage as it piles up on the shoreline.
Should you decide to venture on the ice a few thoughts about ice thickness. Three inches will support one man. Four inches will support a group of people and eight inches will support a snow mobile. Always test the ice near shore and never go on the ice alone. Find out about winter first aid and how to rescue people.
Enjoy the beauty of an ice covered body of water and when safe walk on the different designs of frozen water.
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