April 6, 2021: Andy Zabloski

Tom Hutton and Andy Zabloski were out in one of the MAG Canada King Airs today, and Andy snapped some aerial photos for us.

You can click on these to see a larger, full screen version.

Downtown Kenora, Rat Portage Bay, Safety Bay.

Yesterday’s sunshine and heat (we topped out at 17°C) did a number on the ice along the Kenora waterfront. Kenora Bay, where the MS Kenora and the Whitecap Pavillion are,  is ice free this afternoon, and Safety Bay, in the middle of the photograph, is almost entirely open. Rat Portage Bay, on the left, is usually slower to melt, but the ice looks really rotten.

Rat Portage Bay, Gun Club Island, Keewatin Channel.

This second shot looks slightly south of west. Treaty Island dominates the foreground, with Rat Portage Bay to the right and Gun Club Island  at the right side. The water near the middle of the picture is Keewatin Channel, and you can see that the open water there extends past Anglican Island to Crowe Island and Forrest Island.

Holmstrom’s Marsh, the Manitou, the Barrier Islands.

Facing south, and looking over Holmstrom’s March across the Manitou to the Barrier Islands. At the left edge of the frame is the western tip of Scotty Island, and at the right side are the Slate Islands, and at the very edge is one of Whiskey Island’s points. The ice on the Manitou is always slow to go, but it’s very vulnerable to wind once it starts to break apart.

The Elbow, Allie Island, Mather Island.

Here’s a closer look at the Barrier Islands, facing south east. This water is in the Elbow, between Allie Island at the left and Mather Island at the right. Each of the narrow gaps in this chain of large islands has significant current.

It’s amazing what one really warm day can do. The waterfront at Norman has been completely transformed since yesterday. Today was nice, too, but it looks as if we’re going to max out at 11°C today, and then we have some interesting weather coming. Wednesday and Thursday will be cooler and rainy, then the weekend will pick up to slightly above normal temperatures.  However, most of next week will be below normal, and flurries are in the forecast. Temperatures bottom out next Wednesday when we’ll barely creep above freezing.  A normal high this time of year is about 7°C, and overnight lows would typically be about -3°C. After that cool spell, it looks like we’ll be heading back to  temperatures close to or slightly better than normal.

Out of that mixed bag, the rain is on our side. Snow would be bad if it persisted as a reflective white layer on the ice, but my guess is it’ll mostly turn to slush right away.

Signs of spring: I saw a water-bomber yesterday. The MNR’s spring training has probably begun, and Kenora offers some of the first big stretches of open water.

Because it’s been such a dry spring, the forest fire hazard is medium to high, and there are actually three active fires in the Northwest Ontario region. None of them are what you’d call headline news, but you can find more info at this MNR website.

April 5, 2021: Seems slow

I’ve been talking a lot about how favourable our conditions are this year. We had a mild winter that formed less ice than usual. We had an early start to the thaw, and we’ve had mostly higher than normal temperatures. Conditions seemed primed for a record-breaking early ice-out, but that’s not developing.

I’m not saying this year’s thaw is getting delayed, but I am pointing out that it’s gradual.  Gentle reminder that neither Sean or I predicted records would fall.

We’ve had years in the past, notably 2010 and 2012, where the thaw started almost as early as this year, and the ice was gone pretty quick. But I think we’ve begun to lag behind the progress of those years.

I’ll pop the pancake graph in here so you can see what I’m talking about.

You can click on it to see an enlarged, easier to read version.

Remember, each year since 2003 (at the bottom) gets a bar that starts on the inflection date* and ends when the lake is 100% ice-free. The first thing you might notice is that 2021’s line begins earlier than any other. And yet, it looks set to be one of the longest, representing a surprisingly drawn-out thaw for a warm spring following a mild winter.

*Inflection point or inflection date means the date when the air temperature started to average out at above freezing. More precisely, when the Mean Daily Temperature rose above zero Celsius on a lasting basis.

The two years that come closest to our starting point are 2010, at March 8, and 2012, at March 10. Both of those years had reasonably quick thaws, at less than 5½ weeks. [38 & 37 days, respectively, but who’s counting?] To match that, we’d want to be looking at a total thaw by April 10. So that’s where I began the pale blue of uncertainty on this year’s bar. But Sean Cockrem’s prediction, based on presumed ice thickness and air temperatures forecast, is April 20. Side note: this is his stated and preferred estimate, but his simplest formula, without intuitive insights, produced a date of April 25, so I ran the uncertainty zone out that far.

There are two things going on here. First, the earlier you start, the longer it can take, simply because March is apt to be cooler than April, even if temperatures are running above average. Second, air temperature is not the whole story when it comes to getting rid of lake ice. Sean’s model uses data from past years, and that data is all over the map. In other words, every thaw is different, which is why Sean has to make some educated guesses as to what kind of year we’re having.

Last year we got schooled. After air temperatures stayed depressingly low, the ice went in a hurry  (17 days!) There are many factors other than air temperature: snow cover, rain, wind, sunshine and so on. But I increasingly suspect that the biggest one is current.

Most years that I can recall, the water seemed to open up through the Keewatin Channel faster than this year. Sometimes the water spreads from Channel Island to Safety Bay quite quickly. This year it seems to be rather lethargic.

So I happened to be talking  with some friends on Zoom, and one who lives on Golf Course Bay remarked that this winter, the end of their dock iced in for the first time ever. Usually, the current swirling past the tip of their dock prevents ice from forming there, and the ice is notoriously thin in the whole area around the Coast Guard docks. This sparked a conversation about how—although the lake ice was generally thin—the low current allowed people to route some ice roads through usually untenable areas.

To talk about current, we need to check in with the Lake of the Woods Control Board, who strive to keep lake levels safe by altering the outflow through the Norman Dam. Spring is the season when that typically gets trickiest. It’s prudent to keep the lake levels on the low side in March, to allow for spring run-off and flooding. They call this the winter drawdown, and it’s part of their regular strategy. It’s usually followed by the spring refill. This year there wasn’t  much spring run-off, so lake levels have not risen as rapidly as some other years. So the outflow is being kept low, to give the lake levels a chance to rebound.

Here’s the latest bulletin from the Board.

The current level of Lake of the Woods is 322.42 m (1057.8 ft), a 40th percentile level for this time of year. The average lake level changed little over the past week and is expected to remain stable or slightly increase (less than 2 cm or 1 in) over the next week.

Lake of the Woods authorized outflow is 150 m³/s with no changes scheduled.

This time last year, when we had that very rapid thaw, the outflow was nearly four times as high. The current was probably eating away at the ice from below long before the air temperature rose above freezing.

From the air, this shows as open water in the narrows and channels, and ever since I started Ice Patrol, I’ve been paying close attention to those areas. It makes perfect sense that progress of that type is slow this year, despite the mild weather.

So while current is a big factor, its role this year will be passive. Which is one less wild card for Sean’s predictive model.

April 4, 2021: Shoal Lake to Kenora

Some new aerial photographs from Josh Broten, and also the first drone picture of the year, taken by George Dyker over Clytie Bay, a popular cottage area on Shoal Lake. All were taken Saturday.

Let’s start with Josh’s overview of Shoal.

You can click on these pictures to see them full screen and full size.

Northwest Angle, Shoal Lake.

Looking north from over the Northwest Angle towards Shoal Lake. Lots of water and only pan ice in the Angle. In the distance, the ice looks poor on Shoal.

Monument Bay, Shoal Lake.

Here’s a slightly closer look at Shoal, with the camera pointing north west over Monument Bay, so that Shoal Lakes large Dominique and Stevens Island appear side by side. Mason Lake and part of Reid Lake are a the right side of the frame.

Now George Dyker’s drone shot of Clytie Bay on Shoal. George operates a DJI drone.

Shoal Lake’s Clytie Bay.

This view looks south west, with the open water at Gateway Point in the foreground. That ice road that heads off onto the main body of the lake looks to be in one piece, but it’s riddled with cracks.

Now, back to our tour with Josh’s Cub, picking things up at the south end of the lake, where Josh is based.

Oak Island, Flag Island, Brush Island.

We’re back by the NW Angle, looking at the area by the international border. The open water is mainly by Flag Island, which has a webcam, by the way. You can find a link to it on the Lake of the Woods Links sidebar.*

*When viewed on a desktop or large tablet, Ice Patrol offers a number of features on a sidebar to the right of the main column. These include Recent Comments, a Search Tool, a Flag Counter, the Archive Tool, and an extensive list of links that may be of interest to lake dwellers and visitors.  However, if you’re in the habit of viewing Ice Patrol on a phone, or via the email subscriber list, you may not see the sidebar.

Also a link to my writing blog. Support me by buying my SF novel, AVIANS. It’s about girl power, alternative aviation, and volcanoes! E-book and trade paperbacks available. Averaging 4.5% stars last time I checked.

Oak Point, Big Narrows.

Looking south. The patch of open water in the foreground is right at Oak Point, and there’s open water almost all the way through Big Narrows. At the left, on the far side of Big Narrows Island and Tranquil Channel, there’s some open water through French Portage Narrows.

Chisholm Island, Cliff Island.

Looking north west, with Chisholm Island at the bottom of the frame, and Cliff Island at the left. The Alneau Peninsula is just off the picture to the left, and the Barrier Islands are near the upper right corner. Prominent pressure ridges show the strain on the ice.

Let’s finish Josh’s tour with a shot of the Kenora area.

Poplar Bay, Keewatin Channel, Rat Portage Bay.

Centered on Keewatin Channel, this picture looks north east towards Rat Portage Bay, Safety Bay and Kenora. Poplar Bay is in the lower left corner.

The ice is weakening, slowly but steadily. Warm temperatures all week, with daily highs in the double digits, should help.

In the meantime, a reminder. Ontario went back into a province-wide lockdown on Saturday, April 3rd, and is expected to stay that way for a four week “emergency brake.” Hairdressers are closed, restaurants are take-out only, and stores are restricted to half or quarter occupancy, depending on how essential they are. More details here.



April 3, 2021: Satellite Saturday

I haven’t received many aerial photographs lately, so Ice Patrol has been a bit quiet. Also, we had a couple of days of cold temperatures, so there wasn’t much to report.

Satellite imagery from the last week was a bit baffling. Changes to the ice made it appear as if the lake was refreezing, and then some fresh snow made things look streaky and weird. But today was sunny and warm, and the NASA satellites got a good look at us.

Let’s start with today. Here’s Terra’s MODIS image from this morning.

If you click on this first image, you’ll see a version with some landmarks tagged.

Terra satellite’s MODIS image from April 3, 2021, in natural colour.

And the false colour version, which incorporates some infrared and gives a better idea of the quality of the ice.

These images are just 640×640 pixels, so you cannot zoom in on them.

Terra satellite’s MODIS image from April 3, 2021, in false colour.

For the last ten days or so, the satellite images have been a bit hard to interpret, so let’s go back almost two weeks to see how things looked on March 22.

Aqua satellite’s MODIS image from March 22, 2021, in false colour.

I have to say, the differences are subtle, and not clearly in this week’s favour.

But if you’ve been following the comments, you might have noticed Eroc’s post that the webcam at Red Wing Lodge, near Morson, Ontario, is showing a lot of candled ice and open water. If you’d like to take a look for yourself, I’ll add a link to the lodge’s homepage on the Lake of the Woods Links sidebar. There’s a link to the Flag Island Webcam, too. I just checked, and the ice looks really rotten there.

So I think most of the paler blue in the latest picture, which normally represents thicker ice, is actually candled or air-filled ice.

The other thing I’ve been wondering is: how does this year—with such an early start to the thaw—compare to other years?

The two years I’d be most interested in checking are 2010 and 2012, because they both had early melts and were ice-free by the middle of April.

2010 was cloudy for the whole first week of April, so there are no satellite pictures suitable for a direct comparison.

But in 2012, Terra got this lovely image on this exact date.

Terra satellite’s MODIS image from April 3, 2012, in false colour.

Okay, there’s no getting around it. 2012’s thaw was way more advanced on April third than we are this year. But don’t feel bad. 2012 was a very early thaw: the lake was clear by April 16.

What does a more typical year look like? Well, the first five days of May is a very common ice-out range, so the best years to check would be 2015 or 2016. Presto! Terra got a good shot on this date in 2015.

Terra satellite’s MODIS image from April 3, 2015, in false colour.

So in a typical year, early April has the lake pretty much frozen solid except for some of the narrows.

We’re doing well, and the forecast is for above normal temperatures for the next two weeks. A normal high this time of year is 6°C, and overnight lows would average out to -4°C.  We’re forecast to be above freezing almost all the time, and we’ll have some lovely warm days in the next little while.

My conclusion: we’re still on track for an ice-free lake in late April.

Signs of Spring: Motorcycles. I’ve seen several, and have made a note to be more alert for them. Please try to do the same.

Also bugs. This is one of the powerline clearways on Tunnel Island. You could click on this picture to see it full screen, but trust me, it doesn’t get any prettier.

Swarm of flying insects.

Blackflies? Sandflies? Gnats? I didn’t stick around to find out. I snapped a quick picture and left. Note to self: either take my Covid mask on hikes, or grow a moustache long enough to breathe through.

March 31, 2021: Myrtle Rapids

There’s no real news, because it’s been cold. If you’re checking in from far away, it was -14°C when I got up this morning, and it hasn’t gone above freezing today. A normal high this time of year is 5°C and with pleasing symmetry, a typical low is -5°C. We’ll be back to above normal temperatures tomorrow, and double digits by the weekend.

So while there hasn’t been much active thawing, Luke Burak sent me two pictures of the Myrtle Rapids area on the Winnipeg River, just west of the Dalles. I’ll just post this one, as they show the same area.

You can click on this picture to see the full screen, zoomable version.

Myrtle Rapids.

Looking south east towards Kris Island in the upper right corner.

Thanks, Luke!

Meanwhile the satellite pictures continue to be perplexing.

Here’s today’s from Aqua.

Aqua satellite’s image from March 31, 2021, in false colour.

Those stripes look pretty wild, so I checked the true colour image.

Aqua satellite’s image from March 31, 2021, in true colour.

That looks a bit more natural. I’m guessing streaks of wind-blown snow.

Terra‘s pictures this morning were a bit glitchy, but the same streaks are visible.

Technical notes. I’ve lost access to Photobucket, the internet home of some of my oldest archives. They’ve revised the service, and I cannot log in because I no longer have the email address I had when I set up the account. So I am gradually uploading my old pictures to a new archive here at WordPress. I won’t be able to recover the captions or any remarks I made, but I do have all the pictures, neatly filed by date. These are pictures from before Ice Patrol was a proper website: the years from 2009 to 2013. I started with 2009, and you can try the Previous Years tool on the sidebar for that year, if you like. The other years probably won’t work until I do a lot more work. Eventually, I’ll put up some of the pictures I took as far back as 2003.

March 27, 2021: Satellite Saturday

First, a high resolution satellite photograph from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel 2 satellite, taken on March 23.

You can click on this image to see it full-screen. You can zoom in enough to make out roads and big buildings.

Lake of the Woods north of the Alneau Peninsula and west of Whitefish Bay.

The south end of the lake was captured, but the full size image is too big to upload whole. You can view it online, here. Sorry, Sioux Narrows, the image cuts off just west of Whitefish Narrows. You got left out.

Okay, so this is a nice picture, but it’s four days old. What’s happening now?

Strange things. But first I have to explain a bit about the different ways satellites can image stuff. The ESA’s Sentinel satellites (there are six in active service) use powerful instruments to take pictures of a small part of the planet with high resolution, sort of like a telephoto lens. But because they’re working with such a tight field of view, they can’t cover everything all the time. So opportunities to photograph our lake only come up once in every several days. Throw in periods of cloud cover and darkness, and it’s actually more like once or twice a month.

This is why I usually rely on the NASA Terra and Aqua satellites. They’re designed to constantly take pictures, using a wide-angle view that lets them sweep over pretty much the whole planet every day or so, but in less detail. The pair of satellites have matching but complementary orbits, and the general situation is that Terra images LotW in the morning, and Aqua in the afternoon. The instruments they use to do this are called MODIS. That’s short for MODerate resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer. If you want to read more about it, you can see a brochure here. The key facts from an Ice Patrol perspective is that they scan the planet in multiple wavelengths, including separate bands of Blue, Green and Red light, two bands of Near Infrared, and two bands of Shortwave Infrared. For the true colour images, the blue, green and red components are blended to create a natural looking view, in a manner somewhat comparable to how your printer uses three ink cartridges to print full colour. For the false colour versions, a computer takes information from several wavelengths and processes it a bit differently. Today I learned that the images I use, which come from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, are processed using the same algorithm every day. That’s relevant, because some of the recent images have shown an unexpected development.

Here’s the image I posted a few days ago, from March 22.

Aqua satellite’s MODIS image from March 22, 2021, in false colour.

The ice is darkening all over.

And here’s the latest image, from March 25.

Aqua satellite’s MODIS image from March 25, 2021, in false colour.

Whoa! When I first saw this, (after I said “What the…?”) I thought maybe I’d accidentally pulled a picture from last year or something. Nope. So what on earth is going on? We can’t have suddenly created a foot of ice, because these pictures are from before our recent  drop to freezing temperatures. This picture was taken by the Aqua satellite on the afternoon of March 25, when the temperature was probably about 5°C. The overnight low the night before was a mild -2.7°C. We’d have been losing ice in the days before this picture was captured, not making it.

Okay, you know that TV show about the pawn shop? The one where they say, “I’m not an expert, but I have a friend…”? Well, I have a few contacts, and this time I reached out to Hilary Dugan, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the place that publishes these satellite images to the web. She’s a limnologist (a freshwater scientist who studies lakes and rivers), and she knows a lot more about the MODIS images than I do. In fact, much of the information I dumped on you a few paragraphs ago comes from her. She was able to confirm that the image processing has not been altered. So she, and her colleagues who work directly with the public versions of the imagery that I use here, have two possible explanations. The lake looks different because of a change in lighting, or the lake looks different because the ice has transformed in some way.

I don’t really think it’s just the lighting, so there has to be some change in the quality of the ice. I thought that maybe the ice had candled, and Hilary suggested that it could have developed a lot of air bubbles, making it airier and whiter.

We’ll know more when we have a sunny day and get new pictures. In the meantime, I’m going for a little drive. Take a second look at that Sentinel image at the top of this post. You might have noticed that two little lakes just west of Kenora—Muriel Lake and Sandy Lake—are shining bright and conspicuously blue. I want to know why.

Okay, I’m back. Neither of those lakes is covered in blue snow. They’re shiny, and the ice is thin: there’s a prominent warning on the  Pellatt Community Centre sign. I went to the shoreline and photographed the ice. This is how it looked at Sandy Lake:

Shoreline ice at Sandy Lake.

And this is what it was like at Muriel Lake.

In both cases, the ice was granular, and very white from the air in it.

Maybe this is what’s happened to the ice all over Lake of the Woods.

I started work on this post this morning. Since then, today’s Terra image has come in.

Terra Satellite’s MODIS image from March 27, 2021 in false colour.

There are cute little cumulus clouds hugging the ground along the top and left of this picture, and high altitude ice clouds in the lower right. You can definitely see the shadow of the ice clouds altering the look of the lake ice. So I guess the quality of light does affect the colour.

I am reminded of the lyrics of Paul Simon’s song Graceland. “The Mississippi Delta was shining like a National Guitar…”

It’s sunny this afternoon, so I’m interested to see what Aqua‘s image looks like. It’s not ready yet, so I’ll publish this now, and update this post when the new image comes in. Revisit Ice Patrol and hit refresh on your browser sometime this evening if you’re curious too.


March 26, 2021: Mid-altitude overview

This photo was taken by Simeon Kubassek, who is flying for Air Bravo during his lay-off from Air Canada, where he flew Boeing 777’s. I love to get occasional shots from the mid-altitudes—high enough to need a pressurized plane, but not as high as the jets—because they show lots of terrain without too much haze.

You can click on this picture to see it full screen, and that version is zoomable.

This photograph shows the Manitou in the foreground, with the Northern Peninsula at the left, and the Barrier Islands at the lower right, near the little patch of window frame. Notable in that latter area is new open water that seems to be expanding  at the Elbow.

The Manitou, Northern Peninsula and Barrier Islands.

Zoom in for a better look at the open water in Keewatin Channel (left of center), and Safety Bay (further left).

Another interesting set of features are some prominent pressure ridges in the Manitou. Check out the white lines around Whiskey Island; they are quite distinct from the ice roads, which usually show grey ice between the twin snowbanks.

In case you missed it, I made an update to yesterday’s post to include an updated “Pancake Graph.” More formally called the Inflection to Thaw Calendar, it compares the beginning and completion dates of recent year’s thaws. The latest version shows how our current spring is stacking up. Spoiler: it’s early but perhaps not rapid. Scroll down to see the previous post, or click here.


March 25, 2021: Sean’s first prediction

Sean Cockrem, the guy who contributes the fancy graphs, has come to some preliminary conclusions about when the ice might be gone. Here’s what he said:

Here’s my first crack at a forecast for this year.
A couple notes
  • in trying to figure out the required thaw index, I usually take the winter’s freezing index, which in this case was -1250, and divide it by 10 which is the average thaw ratio between the freezing index and the thaw index on the day the ice was out. In this case that would get us to a thaw index of 125.
  • when I plotted that line on the thaw forecast window, it pushed the ice out date to around April 25th.
  • back to that thaw ratio between the freezing index and the thawing index at ice out. It actually ranges from 4.37 to 17.77 over the last 18 spring thaws with the average being 9.98.  In the 5 winters with lower freezing indexes in the last 18 years, generally the thaw ratio is below 10(which means that it would push out the ice out date even longer…). I have provided a summary of the data in the table below:

So, here is where intuition and gut feeling plays a part in determining what that thaw ratio should be. I have assumed that it will be a bit higher than average and set it at 12.5. That’s not based on much more than the fact that your photos are showing open water, that the ice wasn’t that thick and that the snow cover is probably was thinner than average too. (I could be way off with this)
In the end, my forecast is based on some unknowns including the forecasted weather in the coming weeks as well. And right now with all the unknowns coupled together, it is suggesting that the Ice Out date is around April 20th.
Sean is picking March 4 as our Inflection Point this year, so I guess it’s time to update the “Pancake Graph.”  Inflection Point is when the mean daily temperature rises above 0°C. In other words, when we’re thawing more than we’re freezing. Sometimes I call it Inflection Day or Date.
You can click on this graph to see it full screen.


The Pancake Graph

This graph shows the time-span of the thaw in recent years, in order from oldest at the bottom to newest at the top. The blue bar for each year begins on the Inflection Point and ends when the lake is 100% ice free.

I’m not nailing down Sean’s predicted date as if it’s a sure thing. I’m showing a range of between April 10th and 25th for now. Two things jump out at me from graphing this. First, March 4th is the earliest Inflection Point Sean has determined yet. Second, even with the likelihood of an April ice-out, this is not a rapid thaw. In fact, it’s looking like one of the most drawn-out melts on the chart. That’s not crazy. The earlier we start, the longer it takes because of the cool March temperatures. The ice was not thick this year, so that’s part of the reason I allow for the chance of thawing by April 10. That would be extraordinary, but it makes for a time-span more in line with other early thaws.

You might be interested in this article on Kenora Online, about moderate drought conditions in the Lake of the Woods drainage basin.

The article refers to the Lake of the Woods Control Board, so I went to see what their latest news bulletin said. Here’s the part specifically about LotW.

The current level of Lake of the Woods is 322.42 m (1057.8 ft), a 40th percentile level for this time of year. The average lake level decreased by 1 cm over the past week and is expected to change little over the next week.

Lake of the Woods authorized outflow is scheduled to decrease to 175 m³/s on Monday, March 22.

That percentile may change in the next weeks. Usually, spring rains and floodwaters raise the lake levels in the coming weeks. With little run-off expected this year, the present levels are quite likely to look increasing low in comparison to seasonal norms.

March 24, 2021: West Hawk, Clearwater and more.

There were some technical difficulties getting these photos to me, so they’re a couple of days old. They were taken in the late afternoon/early evening on Monday the 22nd, by a pair of seventeen-year-old pilots. On this trip, Arsen Yamborko was the pilot flying, and James Norris was navigating and taking pictures. I’m really happy to have these because it’s a challenge every spring to find people who are flying over the Whiteshell.

You can click on these pictures to see them full screen.

South Cross Lake, Caddy Lake, West Hawk Lake.

The Whiteshell, looking south east over West Hawk, with Shoal Lake in the far distance and a hint of Lake of the Woods on the very horizon.

Clearwater Bay, Deception Bay.

I love the late afternoon lighting on this one. McCallum Point dead center, and part of Zigzag Island at the lower right corner.

Northern Peninsula.

I had to hit the maps for this one. The Northern Peninsula’s Spruce Point is just out of the frame at the lower left. Rabson Island is the one that vaguely resembles a musical note. In the distance, Fox, Hare and Wolf Islands. Kenora is in the extreme distance at the upper left corner.

Brulé Point, Fox Island, the Manitou, Welcome Channel.

Brulé Point extends up from the bottom of the frame, Fox Island is just left of center, and Welcome Channel is above that. Kenora is again visible in the upper left corner.

Norman, Safety Bay, Coney Island.

Closer to town, this shot has Norman in the foreground, and the west end of Coney Island in the center. Further right, the ice is rotting out around Cameron Island, Gourlay Island and Yacht Club Island.

Remember, these photographs are from Monday, so the ice is surely even worse by now.

Anyway, special thanks to Arsen, James, and to Dan Zvanovec, a former contributor who got in touch with me about these photos.


March 23, 2021: Aerial Sweep

Tom Hutton and Justin Martin were out training in one of the Aero-Commanders yesterday, so they were able to circle around a bit and Tom got shots of a lot of the area around Kenora.

You can click on these images to see a larger, full screen version.

The Highways Yard on the Kenora Bypass.

Looking south west over the headwaters of the Winnipeg River. Palmerston Channel is barely visible as a dark line beyond the bridge, while Darlington Bay is easier to see beyond that.

City Works Yard, Kenora Bay.

From over Barsky’s Hill, this shot looks south. The Lake of the Woods District Hospital campus is dead center, and Coney Island stretches almost the full width of the picture.

Norman Bay, Safety Bay.

Looking south west over Norman Bay at the west end of Coney Island, with Cameron Island and Mackies Island more distant on the right.

Gun Club Island, Rat Portage Bay.

West down Rat Portage Bay, showing all the ice roads around Gun Club Island. Caragana Island and Dingwall Island are in the left foreground.

Treaty Island, Shragges Island.

South west from over Treaty Island, with a chunk of Rogers Island in the lower left corner. Shragges Island is the large oval one in the center of the frame, and beyond that, Channel Island and the Tangle.

Town Island.

Looking south over Town Island at Copeland Island and Scotty Island.

Bare Point, Lunnys Island.

This gives us a view south east down Bigstone Bay. Far beyond Lunny’s Island, you can see Heenan’s Point reaching out towards Needle Point on Hay Island.

The Barrier Islands.

Lastly, a look at the western half of the Barrier Islands chain. Allie Island is behind the windshield wiper, Mather Island and Shammis Island recede into the distance at the right of center.

When you look at this collection of photographs, you’d be quite justified to say, “But there’s ice everywhere! How can you say it’s all going to melt soon?” There are a couple of reasons why this is so.

First, Tom asked me what I would like pictures of, but I didn’t reply to his text until he was mostly done, so he just photographed everything. For the record, my answer was “Water.” At this time of year, I like to focus on those critical zones where the water is expanding, and dismiss the overall ice cover by saying “… and everything else is still frozen.” So Tom’s coverage is actually more impartial. This is what the lake really looks like.

Second, the lake doesn’t melt evenly. The thaw starts out gradually, with only a few key surface areas showing much change on a daily basis. But in the meantime, the ice is thinning and weakening: the signs are subtle, but the process is inexorable. By the time a quarter of the lake is open water, the end is just days away. Once the melt has gone that far, the tipping point has been reached, and the wind and current quickly tear the ice to shreds.

Or to put it another way, I like to start my observations when Spring just has her foot in the door. Because eager Summer is crowding her from behind, and is going to slam that door wide open.