Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Variations on a Theme of Ice
Brrr! Cold and windy today. But the sun was shining bright, so I bundled up and headed up to Moreau Lake State Park to walk across the frozen lake. Park naturalists have hauled a roadkill deer out to the middle of the back bay, and I wanted to see what carrion-eating critters have been feasting on it. There was just a dusting of snow last night, so I thought I might see lots of tracks, if not the animals themselves.
As soon as I stepped onto the ice, a gust of wind scoured my face and almost blew me backwards. What kind of brave (or crazy!) folks could be sitting out there fishing, I wondered, as I scanned the frozen expanse and saw not another soul on the lake except this group of three.
Hoping their luck was as strong as their endurance, I put on my Yaktrax and minced across the slick ice to check on their catch. Not a nibble, they admitted, and yet for all that, they seemed to be quite cheerful and having a grand old time. We had quite a lively chat. I found out that all three were professional firefighters. Maybe after spending their working hours in blazing heat, they really enjoyed the cold.
Despite that cold, I sure enjoyed my walk across the lake. The ice was singing and groaning and pinging like rifle shots, and at one point it let out a boom as loud as a cannon shot. This flock of ducks, huddling near a small area of open water, suddenly took to the air at the sound, the vibrations of which even set the surface of the open water aquiver. But the ducks just as quickly settled back down on the ice.
I had always understood that such noises are the result of ice expanding as it freezes, a process that also causes cracks to shoot across the lake. These next two photos show evidence of those cracks. In the first photo, you can see right through the transparent ice and determine how thick the ice is, in this case about eight inches.
In the second photo, it looks like the crack actually opened to let water rise to the surface, turn slushy, and then refreeze as a textured seam, rather like raised scar tissue along an old cut.
In a shallow area where the ice was opaque and snowfree, I found these ice "spiders." I think they are called ice dendrites and are formed by some kind of melting from beneath. Even though they were frozen solid to a considerable thickness today, I still felt leery of walking too close to them.
I also stayed far away from the swimming beach on the west side of the lake. I'm not sure why this area often remains wide open when ice on the rest of the lake is as much as a foot or more thick. Perhaps there are upwelling springs. It's also an area where thick plates of ice slide up and over each other. I was fascinated by the interior texture of this slab (about six inches thick), with its clusters of tubular structures encased in clear crystal. Be sure to click on the photo to see those structures more clearly.
So many different textures and patterns of ice! These next two images seem to be negative/positive versions of each other. The first photo is of white frost outlining the crinkles of the translucent black ice below.
The second photo is of crinkled black ice showing through the dusting of white snow above.
Either one of these patterns would make a beautiful print for a silk fabric, I thought.
Here's another lovely pattern. I could imagine it was made by a fairy trailing her wingtips as she swooped and glided just inches above the ice.
Not exactly a fairy. But close.
So what about that dead deer and the carrion eaters that I came here today to see? Well, I'm not going to show a photo of what those carrion eaters did to that deer, especially after having been marveling at all this beauty. It certainly wasn't pretty. But the footprints of all the feasters were kind of pretty.