May 6, 2019: Photopalooza

I have a whole stack of photos today from multiple sources, so I’m going to post them with minimal commentary.

You can click on any of today’s pictures to see a full-screen, zoomable version.

First, since cloud has made it difficult to track what’s going on in the north part of Lake of the Woods lately, a pair of photographs taken from a passing Air Canada flight by Karen Boucha.

Karen says: The first shot shows north from Wiley Point.

The Alneau Peninsula is in the foreground, then huge Cliff Island, then a massive expanse of ice all the way north to the Barrier Islands. Just above the centre is the open water pushing through the Barrier Islands at The Elbow (and to a lesser extent, at French Narrows) I have more detailed shots coming up later, but the main take-away from this picture is there’s still lots of ice in the north part of Lake of the Woods.

Karen’s other photo looks almost straight down at an area south of Big Narrows.

Karen says: Open water south of Wiley Point to Outer and Portage bays and the south west end of Tranquil Channel.

Much less ice in this area.

Next I have a batch of pictures from my MAG Canada co-worker Tom Hutton. He flew past Minaki on his way to Kenora this afternoon.

Looking west at Big Sand Lake. Still frozen shore to shore, but ice looks rotten.

Little Sand Lake. Mostly open water with some large ice floes.

Gun Lake and  Minaki. Almost ice free with shrinking ice floes.

Looking south over Keewatin at Safety Bay and Keewatin Channel. Open water here.

Next are a batch of my photos. I came home via Dryden today, so I grabbed a shot over there.

This is a wide angle shot looking south at Wabigoon Lake. In the foreground, Rice Lake, north of the airport, is open. Ghost Lake and Thunder Lake, at the left, are frozen. Wabigoon is almost all white ice, but there’s open water at the west, near Downtown Dryden.

This is Vermillion Bay. Some ice near the Trans-Canada highway, and there’s more further south on Eagle Lake, but there’s a lot of open water, too.

Now on to Lake of the Woods. Photos first, with commentary for each beneath.

This is down towards Sioux Narrows, looking west. Whitefish Narrows is at the left, it’s open. Long Bay is open at the west and opening in the east, (not shown) but still has ice in between. Near the centre of the picture is Yellow Girl Bay. It’s icy, as is the big stretch of lake between the Alneau and the Barrier Islands, as seen in Karen’s first high-altitude shot.

This shot looks west along the Eastern Peninsula. Distinctive Bottle Bay is just left of centre. In the lower right, Witch Bay is open. Above that, Andrew Bay is still ice.

Let’s proceed west for a look at the water pouring through French Narrows and The Elbow that now reaches almost all the way to Middle Island. In the right foreground, that ice on Andrew Bay, but above that, Pipestone Bay is open. On the other side of Hay Island, Bigstone Bay is covered in ice, but I hear it’s weakening.

Closer look at Scotty Island, Middle Island (near centre) and The Hades. Railroad Island in the right foreground. I believe you could travel by boat from Kenora and make landfall on Scotty Island now, but not at the beach: that bay’s full of loose ice.

Here’s a close-up of Scotty Island to show what I mean.

A glance west at the Manitou and Whisky Island. Almost all ice here, but it’s breaking up.

Towards town now. This is Keewatin Channel, looking north east towards Rat Portage Bay. Still a little ice between Gun Club Island and Coney Island, but other than that, the downtown area is clear. Keewatin is in the distance at the left, Kenora at the right.

My last shot looks east over the Treaty Island area. Shragge’s Island in the foreground, Devil’s Gap in the distance, Rogers Island in between, where the ice road is keeping the ice together for now.

Josh Broten sent another picture from the American side of the lake this evening.

Josh says: This is just south of Garden Island looking north. You can see ice pretty much filling Little Traverse. Off in the distance you can also see a lot of ice still filling up the lake north of the Alneau.

It’s getting late and I have to fly tomorrow, so I’ll post this and get to bed. Good night.

 

 

May 1, 2019: Marinas, Aerials and a Graph

Lots of stuff today. I’ll start with some contributor photos, move on to a handful of fresh aerial photographs, and finish with a look at Sean’s Thaw Graph and the weather outlook.

You can click on any of the images to see them full-screen. Some will be higher resolution than others.

I got photographs from three contributors today that follow up on my marina report from yesterday. Here they are in the order I received them.

Al Smith sent me this picture of the docks at Smith Camps on Thunder Bay.

Smith Camps on Thunder Bay.

This shot looks out from Thunder Bay at Bigstone Bay.

Then Ian Bruce sent me this look at Bigstone from a different vantage point.

Ian says: Taken from mainland on Branch road 6A, looking south to Hay Island. Boulder Island middle distance to the east side touching flag pole. Still lots of ice, shorelines thinning to a bit open.

A little later, Brian Finnegan sent me a picture  of Henderson’s Marina on Route Bay.

Henderson’s Marina, Route Bay.

Looks like things are coming along there.

In a separate email, Brian attached this shot of the docks at Northern Harbour.

Docks at Northern Harbour, Pine Portage Bay.

Brian mentioned that marina operator Gary Hall said he hopes to be putting boats in the water next week.

Thanks to Al, Ian and Brian for taking the time to send me their pictures to share with you.

Okay, on to aerial photographs. Today wasn’t great weather for taking pictures. Luckily, I grabbed a few shots in the morning, just in case the afternoon was poor. This turned out to be the right choice: although we had low cloud in the morning, we had lower cloud in the afternoon, with showers as well.

So, I’ll start with the standard view of downtown Kenora I get after we lift off from Runway 26 and climb to the west.

Laurenson’s Lake is open now, and so is Round Lake (not shown in this pic) Rat Portage Bay still has some ice, but it looks very weak.

As we start to swinging south to head east to Dryden, we get a look at the area south of Devil’s Gap.

In brief: Matheson Bay at the left, Gordon and Galt Islands near the middle, Rogers and Treaty Islands at the right. The ice looks soft here, too. The channel into Devil’s Gap is open at the lower left, partly blurred out by a propeller blade.

Next, as we continue to turn from south to east, we look at Bald Indian Bay.

Sultana Island dominates the middle of the frame, Pine Portage Bay is behind that, and Heenan Point extends almost to the right edge of the picture. Thunder Bay lies behind it.

Okay, remember how I said it was a good thing I snapped a few pictures on the way out this morning? Here’s what it looked like in the afternoon. I had to grab this shot through the side window; it’s impossible to shoot through the windshield with our high-speed wipers going.

Anyway, this looks south west at part of Bigstone Bay with Heenan Point at the right and Hay Island emerging from the rain in the distance.

Now, on to the weather situation.

I had to email Sean to ask him to update the Thaw Graph. As you can imagine, it’s not good news, and he didn’t want to depress everyone. Even so, I think it’s a useful way to picture the temperature trends and their significance.

Click on the graph to more easily read the fine print. The blue line with dots represents how our daily mean temperature is adding up towards our goal. (Set to 240 points based on similar ice-making conditions last winter.) With recent temperatures barely squeaking above freezing, that upward progress has levelled off lately. That means a delay in accumulating enough warm weather to melt the presumed amount of ice.

Which brings us to the forecast. A normal daytime high this time of year is around 15ºC. The current  Weather Network forecast doesn’t call for a temperature that warm until mid-May. Forecasts can be wrong, of course, and they’re most certainly subject to change. But it seems likely that we’ll be spending the next two weeks struggling, (and mostly failing) to reach double-digit highs. At night, we’ll be close to freezing.

If there’s a bright side, it’s a peculiar one: miserable weather can also remove ice. Rain and wind are not as nice as sunshine, but they do transfer energy that can melt and break up ice. As we head into May, I’ll take any help we can get.

 

April 26, 2019: Matthew Render

I didn’t fly today, but a couple of my friends did, and they sent me photographs.

You can click on these photos to see a full-screen, zoomable version.

Matther Render passed by late this morning and took a few pictures from airliner altitudes.

Here’s a great shot of the northern part of Lake of the Woods.

Matthew’s route takes him well south of Kenora, so he can point his camera north and capture the whole north part of the lake. In this picture, what looks like mainland in the foreground is actually the north shore of the Alneau Peninsula, with enormous Cliff Island close by. It looks like all the little lakes on the Alneau are open.

Overall, the ice is darkening markedly, and areas of water are expanding. There’s a huge dark stretch of open water at Big Narrows now, visible at the left of the picture. Just above the centre, you can see where water is pushing through the Barrier Islands and tearing out the ice at The Elbow. Kenora’s partly hidden by cloud at the top of the picture, but Hay Island and Bigstone Bay are visible to the upper right. Ptarmigan Bay is almost encircled by cloud at the upper left.

Matthew also passes close to Shoal Lake, which is hard for me to reach.

Again, we’re looking north, so we have a good view of the south end of Shoal, but cloud is hiding the north shore. Dominique Island and Stevens Island are the distinctive matching pair near the middle of the picture. Cash Island is visible through a gap in the clouds above and to the right of centre, but Bag Bay and Clytie Bay, at the right side, are obscured. Shoal lake doesn’t usually thaw until a few days after Lake of the Woods.

I asked Lyle Griffith, one of my colleagues at MAG Canada, if he could get a picture of the area west of Northern Harbour, and he sent me this shot.

I’m really pleased to see that in addition to Northern Harbour, Lyle also managed to get in not only Sultana Island at the left, but Bare Point, including Bare Point Marina, at the upper right. Lunny’s Island and Nanton’s Island are on the centre line near the top. The east end of Scotty Island is visible at the upper left corner, and Town Island is part of the cluster at the top right.

Still solid ice at Northern Harbour, I’m afraid. Pine Portage Bay provides berths deep enough for keelboats, but it doesn’t open early. Anywhere you see an ice road, you can reckon on thick ice. In the first place, they’re built where currents are light, and then because they’re plowed, the ice deepens from exposure to the cold air.

Speaking of cold air, the forecast is still suggesting we’ll have a week of cooler weather, with overnight lows a degree or two either side of freezing, and single-digit daytime highs. Mean daily temperatures will be about 3 to 5ºC, so the thaw won’t grind to a halt, but it will slow down.

You can use the ARCHIVE OF PREVIOUS MONTHS AND YEARS tool to compare this April’s pictures to last year’s. Actually, you can choose a March, April or May from any of the last five years, and it’ll take you to the last Ice Patrol entry from that month. Then you can scroll down to look at posts from earlier that month. Cheer yourself up by looking at April of 2018, or ruin your mood by looking at years like 2017 or 2016. Find the ARCHIVE tool at the right side of the web page, below the FLAG COUNTER and the RECENT COMMENTS, but above the SATELLITE PICTURES links.

April 25, 2019: New Camera

Today’s photo opportunities didn’t work out as well as I had hoped. By the time we came home this afternoon, it was turning cloudy, casting huge patches of shadow on the lake and making it hard to tell what was water and what was ice. Worse, it was trying to snow, and it was very gusty. We gave up and concentrated on landing.

But there is some good news; I did get a few pictures today.  Because I have a new phone, (a Samsung Galaxy S10e) with a new camera, I took some test shots this morning to break it in and get a feel for how it works. The nose of the aircraft is prominent in these pictures because we’re climbing quite steeply.

This first shot was taken using the wide angle lens*. It’s a bit too much, I think, and it looks a little blurry, although that could have been due to turbulence. But check out Rabbit Lake to the right of centre, or Laurenson’s Lake, partly blocked by the windshield wiper arm. Both have turned very dark, and the east end of Laurenson’s, under the wiper, is melted.

*The wide angle lens does not shoot a picture with an aspect ratio like this: I’ve cropped out a whole lot of sky and dashboard from the top and bottom. It does include a wide span of terrain, though.

That greyish smudge at the right is a bug-strike on the windshield. Sign of spring.

As usual, you can click on these pictures to see a full-screen version that can be zoomed to full resolution.

Using the regular lens, here’s the standard Rat Portage Bay and Safety Bay shot.

Town Island is at the left edge of the frame. Near the centre of the picture, Gun Club Island is still surrounded by ice on Rat Portage Bay, but other than the ice roads, that ice looks weak. The last areas of ice in Safety Bay are on the north side of Coney Island, and they look almost completely candled. Kenora Bay, at the right, is letting go at last. (For an explanation of candled ice, and some close-up pictures, see this post from April of 2017.)

As we turned left, Bare Point and Middle Island came into view.

There are watery patches between Bare Point and Lunny’s Island now, and you can see how the water by Town Island, off the nose of the King Air, is expanding and reaching towards Scotty Island.

A little further left, and you can see most of Hay Island as well.

Left of the nose, you can see Quarry Island, Queen Bee, Chien d’Or and Burley Islands. No water in that area yet, but zoom in and look at the Barrier Islands behind Middle Island (right in front of the plane’s nose): the water at The Elbow has expanded a lot.

I didn’t take many pictures this morning because I was more interested in what we’d see this afternoon. Then the weather turned poor on us, and I decided to wait for Friday morning. So of course I got word this evening that my Friday flight, a pilot “check ride,” has been cancelled.

Before I go, I should talk about the weather forecast a little. The snow we flew through this afternoon didn’t reach the ground, but it was the vanguard of a cold air mass. The temperature tonight is forecast to sink to 0ºC, and although we should limp back up to about 10ºC tomorrow afternoon, we can then expect several days of single-digit highs and lows sinking to around -2ºC. Those temperatures are about 5º below normal for late April, and that’s likely to put a damper on things. The lake will continue to thaw, but not at the same rate we’ve been enjoying since the middle of the month.

I’ll be talking to Ted Burton at 89.5 The Lake tomorrow morning just after 8:00.

 

April 22, 2019: Sunset Cruise

I really didn’t expect to get any usable pictures on this evening’s night training flight, but we started at around sunset and had a few minutes of twilight before it got too dark.

The first photo is a near duplicate of the Rat Portage Bay picture I took in the morning. Eleven hours later, the sun is reflecting off the water, giving strong contrast.

A little further west.

I was able to get favourable light on the islands around Yacht Club Island, so you can clearly see the open water extending from Keewatin Channel all the way into Safety Bay. Not as well lit, but still visible if you click to zoom in, the subtly shining water in The Tangle.

Then, something I didn’t expect. This next picture is a close match to this morning’s shot of White Partridge Bay. But there’s something new.

As the last sunlight slanted across the ice, it reflected off dozens of little patches of open water. I’m sure those weren’t there this morning. I couldn’t get them all to light up at the same time, but I counted over twenty little glints as we flew past. Some of them might only be surface water on top of ice, but even if that’s so, this is a spectacular change in less than twelve hours.

Next, we flew east towards Sioux Narrows.

With the sun behind us, the lighting was less helpful. Still, you can make out the water in Whitefish Narrows in this picture of Long Bay and Whitefish Bay.

Our last ice photo was this one taken facing the sunset from over Andrew Bay.

Right in the middle of the picture is the scrap of water between Middle Island and Strawberry Island. Beyond that is Scotty Island and the shining water flowing into Keewatin Channel and Safety Bay.  Queer Island is at the lower left, Railroad Island is above and to the right of it, Hay Island fills the lower right corner.

And then it was dark.

This is the waterfront looking east from Keewatin to Kenora in the distance.

Good night.

April 22, 2019: Change

Today I got a chance to see how the warm weekend affected the lake ice.

Lets start downtown, looking west at Rat Portage Bay.

Rat Portage Bay is in the middle of the picture, and at last the open water is pushing in from Devil’s Gap. Gun Club Island is still surrounded by ice, but it looks much blotchier than last week. Safety Bay, at the right, is almost entirely open now. There was still some candled ice when I drove along the waterfront earlier this morning, so I think things are changing rapidly there.

Click on any of these pictures to see a full-screen, zoomable version.

Aiming the camera a little to the left, I was able to include Town Island in the view.

Treaty Island has shifted from the left side of the picture to the right, so if you start with Rogers Island near the middle, you can work left to look at Galt Island and Town Island. Click to zoom in, and you can see that the water around Town Island is expanding towards Scotty Island, at the left by the windshield wiper arm.

Now, my first look at the Ptarmigan Bay area.

The Northern Peninsula dominates this picture, with White Partridge Bay in the foreground, near the dashboard. Follow that up the right side of the frame to look at Clearwater Bay. Ptarmigan Bay is on the left, with Fox Island just above the aircraft’s nose. I don’t see any water in this area yet, but the ice is darkening.

We turned left, to look eastward over the Manitou.

Whisky Island is at the bottom, left of center. Further back and close to the left edge is Scotty Island, with Middle Island and Hay Island behind it. Over on the right is The Elbow, with the open water between Mather Island and Allie Island spreading towards Queer Island.

Here’s the same area, but looking north east.

The Barrier Islands, with Shammis Island at the left, by the propeller blade, then Mathis Island, The Elbow, Allie Island and East Allie Island. In the back row, beyond Andrew Bay: Scotty Island, Middle Island, The Hades, and Hay Island.

Last, a check on Big Narrows. Looking south west.

Wiley Bay reaches to the right edge, and Wiley Point is close to the middle of the frame, with Big Narrows behind it. Zoom in to see Tranquil Channel and French Portage Narrows. Part of Queen Island is at the lower left corner.

Summary: four or five days of warm weather have enabled areas with current to open significantly. Places with less current, such as Ptarmigan, Clearwater and Bigstone, have seen less dramatic progress, but the ice is darkening all over.

We’re still doing better than last year, but this is the week when things started to warm up in 2018, bringing late but rapid change. Can we match that pace this year?

Multiple forecasts (The Weather Network, Accuweather, Environment Canada, and even the Weather Underground) all agree that we’ll have a few more days of warmth, and then, as we get to the weekend, it will cool off. Opinion is divided on how cool and how long it will last. Some overnight lows a little below freezing seem likely, while a stretch of single-digit daytime highs may last for a few days, or several.

If the more pessimistic forecasts turn out to be right, we could still come close to a thaw as late as last year. (Totally ice-free on May 14th). If we we don’t get too cool for too long, and benefit from some rain, we could continue to make good progress.

 

 

April 18, 2019: Progress

We’ve finally had some warm weather: temperatures have moved into double digits, with a forecast of more to come, offering hope of a string of days with above normal highs. It’s starting to make a difference.

I had an afternoon trip today that gave me the opportunity to take pictures both when I departed and when I returned. I’ve picked the best two of each.

Click on any of these pictures to see a larger, zoomable version.

I haven’t made it out to the Barrier Islands lately, so that was on my wish list.Looking south with the Big Traverse on the horizon. That blocky looking “island” at the left is actually the western end of the Eastern Peninsula. From there, track west across the picture to see East Allie Island, Allie Island, then the open water at The Elbow, then Mather Island and Shammis Island. I’m pretty sure that water at the Elbow is more extensive than last time I looked.

We carried on south for a minute longer to get a better look at Big Narrows and we got a bonus: two new patches of water! At the left side of this picture there’s water between Shammis Island and Crow Rock Island now.  Closer to the middle of the picture the current is opening things up in Crow Rock Channel, too. Further off to the south west, water continues to expand at Big Narrows.

Those were the highlights of the outbound leg of my trip.

On the way home, I was able to swing out towards Scotty Island to check on developments there. We’re looking more or less east now. At the left is The Tangle, where water’s been opening up the path into Keewatin Channel. The ice road through Holmstrom’s Marsh is clearly visible to the left of Thomson Island. There’s new water showing at the centre of the picture near Anchor Island. Scotty Island is just right of that.

I glimpsed something behind Scotty Island that made me want a better look.Scotty Island’s distinctive crescent-shaped beach is near the left edge of the frame, and yes, in the middle of this picture there’s water between Strawberry Island and Middle Island now. There’s also a tiny bit between Strawberry and Scotty. And if you zoom in to look at things further away, there’s water appearing between Middle Island and Hay Island now, in The Hades.

In summary, warmer weather has enabled water to break through in multiple areas. I also think the ice is starting to look greyer overall, although it’s hard to compare pictures taken at different times of day with different amounts of sunlight.

The weather forecast is looking more promising lately. A week or so ago, we were facing a gloomy outlook that suggested below normal temperatures would persist into May, but now the latest forecasts are calling for double-digit temperatures for the Easter Weekend and through next week. We might even manage a thundershower this Saturday. Rain would be good.

Over the weekend, I’ll probably dig through the archives to see how our recent progress looks in comparison to past years, but I won’t be flying again until Monday. If you’re interested, I’ll be talking to Ken O’Neil at Q-104 on Monday morning.

Have a happy Easter weekend. Safe travels.