Thanks to everyone who has written to ask if I will be providing coverage of the freeze-up in the Lake of the Woods area. It was very nice that people thought of me, and all the requests were very polite, but the short answer is no.
There are a number of reasons for this:
On the most basic level of practicality, I do not have many opportunities to take pictures. Walsten Air is not conducting a lot of flights during the holiday season, and the days are so short that many of our flights take place during hours of darkness. My own winter vacation is another obstacle.
While aerial photography works beautifully for monitoring the retreat of the ice in the spring, it is nowhere near as good at measuring the formation of ice. The right amount of ice for boaters is none. That’s easy. The right amount of ice for snowmobile riders, ice fishers or truck drivers? Best determined by cutting or drilling a test hole, I think.
To illustrate how unpredictable this can be, let me tell a story. One winter day a few years ago, I was visiting friends who have a home on Golf Course Bay. While we watched from their deck, a guy from the snowmobile trail association came skidooing along the bay, checking the thickness of the ice here and there, using a chainsaw. He tried it near the Coast Guard dock, and as soon as the tip of the blade touched the ice, water fountained up and sprayed from the cutting edge. He beat a hasty retreat and threw Thin Ice markers out in a wide area around his test site. From the balcony where I stood, the ice and snow there looked identical to the rest of the bay, which was entirely frozen over. It’s difficult to judge, even when you are walking on it. There is no way to tell by looking at it from above.
Let me also mention one other thing. There are fools out there! Not you: people who read my blog regularly are curious, intelligent and sensible. But… some guy put his truck through the ice at the MNR landing this fall. In November! Obviously, he didn’t really understand what an ice road is, or how it works. This Wikipedia article mentions how snow clearing strengthens an ice road.
Ice Patrol could not possibly offer dependable information. Changing water levels, temperature fluctuations, and water currents all have a huge effect on the strength of the ice. If I said there were reports of strong ice somewhere, it wouldn’t mean much, especially a week later.
Have a safe winter, and I’ll talk to you all in the spring.