Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Voice of the Lake

December 22, 2009
Moreau Lake

The pond began to boom about an hour after sunrise, when it felt the influence of the sun's rays slanted upon it from over the hills; it stretched itself and yawned like a waking man with a gradually increasing tumult, which was kept up three to four hours.
HDT, Walden

In the midst of the holiday busy-ness, both at home and at work, I drop it all for a few hours and go to revisit the ice of Moreau Lake.
It's 10 am, the bright sun is beaming down on the clear black layer of ice that so recently sealed the lake.

But it's not a complete seal - because all at once I hear a wierd woooooooom noise - it's the lake talking!
At times the sounds alternate from different sides of the lake - a regular conversation is going out there. Other times, it's just a short woooot. Then silence.
The ice is flexing in the sun, and the silence is broken as the most awful craaaaaaakkk! sounds travel from one cove to another.
I stand transfixed to hear the voice of the Lake.

The booming sounds call up images of a gargantuan owl - an alien raygun - or as Dave describes it, whales under the ice.
Beneath the clear ice, I see no ice-whales, only minnows swimming in the sunlit shallows.

The crackling noises make it seem as if a huge pane of glass is breaking into unbearable pieces. But somehow it all holds together.

The cracks themselves resemble silver curtains, or knife blades.
They intersect - or avoid each other

Water expands as it freezes, and along the beach are groaning pressure-ridges. There's no one else around. Just the lake talking.

As if the sounds of the lake were not entrancing enough, in the coves where water-lilies grew, there are hundreds of frozen bubbles. Maybe thousands.

I really don't know the science behind it all - the whoops and the bubbles. But something tells me they are an evanescent treasure, one that may not be here tomorrow. Fortunate me! to have been here today. If I didn't have to go to work this afternoon ... I'd spend the rest of the day stretched out flat on the ice, looking into these scenes more marvellous than any holiday store-window.

Like clouds, they evoke all sorts of images:
A UFO coming in for a landing.

Stacks of flapjacks.

Northern lights.

The fingerprint of the night air.

One cove was filled with bubbles "like silvery coins poured from a bag," as Thoreau describes them at Walden.

While I am gazing at bubbles, I hear the sound of a vehicle coming along the park road. Ben, the Park’s SCA intern, arrives at the beach. It is his task today to check on the ice-thickness. Moreau is a popular spot for ice-fishing, but no one is supposed to be out on the ice until it is deemed safe.

As he walks a short distance out on the clear ice, comes a huge snap !
and there is a new crack forming before our eyes. I watch it extend from beneath Ben's boots -- eerily, without any further sound -- ten yards in either direction.
It spirals along in fluorescent hues, casting rainbows on the sandy bottom.

Nevertheless, Ben proceeds to use the blue hand auger to drill into the ice.

Once through, water gushes gently up through the hole, and then you can measure the thickness of the ice.

He samples several spots around the edges of the main lake, and in the back bay.

It's about 4 inches deep close to shore, and in a more sheltered cove, about 7 inches.
Neither of us wants to go measure the ice in the middle!


  1. What astounding photos of those ice bubbles! I've never seen anything like them! That ice is so clear, it looks like you're standing on water. Can't wait to get over to Moreau and see it for myself. Thanks for the wonderful photos.

  2. Sad to say, it WAS a fleeting moment: went back there on Christmas Day, it had snowed since my last visit, and the ice was just a dull puffy grey layer on the lake. People were ice-fishing and the lake was silent.
    Who knows what it's like today, after the warm temps and rain of yesterday?

  3. Those bubble pics are amazing! Mother Nature's abstract art, eh? Very very cool.

    Back in the days when I did ice harvesting with kids, we told them that 4" was enough to hold a horse - which is what the old farmers used to haul the ice blocks from the lake. Of course, a 4" block of ice is hardly worth the bother, but it was enough to reassure the kids that the ice would hold them.

    I miss activities like that!

  4. FAB photos and post! I don't know that i could walk out on the ice and drill. Is it dangerous?

  5. Wow!! I feel so privileged to get a glimpse of this. More than a glimpse.
    Great photos and words.

  6. Very interesting bubble formations!!