Monday, April 9, 2012

Perspectives on Ice

I wrote this sometime ago and it was printed in the Kings County Record.  As part of my day job I am contracted by the provincial government to perform "RiverWatch" duties and thus I get to observe river ice at various stages.  The late stages of thawing typically interest me the most as it provides some great angles for taking pics.  Hope you enjoy the read.
You can climb it, slide and skate on it, sculpt it, and even eat forms of it.  As a hockey player my favorite thing to do is skate on it but for this column I want to write about the natural beauty of river ice.  The ice changes minute to minute.  It heaves and moans as the air temperature rises and falls.  Depending on the light conditions the ice can appear angelic or depressing.  The diverse character of ice has led me to often stop and take pictures of it.  Like a good model it always takes a great picture.
Frozen waterfalls are like a room full of models.  Every icicle, every water drop creates an opportunity for a great picture.  Every frozen cascade or stranded ice sheet is a playground to explore.  The smooth, hard top surface of an ice sheet is a stark contrast to the brittle, rotting, rock carved, newly exposed underside.  Up close or from a distance the ice is attractive its white glare catches your attention against the dark slate bedrock that serves as its backdrop.  Your adventurous side wants to climb both the rock and ice and your appreciative side makes you take it in before tackling the challenge of scaling the slippery face.
The best time of year to observe ice is during the late days of winter or early spring days as it is melting.  As the sun and water work to naturally sculpt and smooth the ice it glistens as it succumbs to the natural forces.  This in no way means ice is powerless.  If you have ever sat on a lake shore and listened as it loudly cracks as it pushes against the shore, the sound will give you a haunted feeling.  Its physical power is easily demonstrated when, as water makes the change to ice it expands.  If the water was sitting in an old tree trunk or in a seam of a rock the ice will crack them both open.  The strongest man in town couldn't do that without the help or a tool of some sort.
One of the coolest features of ice is the way the water of a stream runs beneath it.  Now before you step out on a deep ice covered river, make sure the ice is thick enough, I suggest no less than 4", to hold your weight.  To be safer, and to see this cool feature better, I suggest wandering up a small stream where you likely won't get that wet if you accidently fall through the ice.  The thin, glass like ice, is the best for watching and listening to the stream gurgle below the ice.  From time to time air bubbles will move below you as the oxygen searches for a way to the open atmosphere.  This site can be a bit mesmerizing and like so many other features of river ice it can hold you in a curious gaze.  Fortunately for me, through my work with the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee I often get up close and personal with river ice and often I get to have lunch on a blanket spread over a stranded sheet in front of a covered bridge.  Get out there and explore the ice near you but be cautious and wander safely.

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