I had a training flight Tuesday that let me roam out over Lake of the Woods to get the lay of the ice.
Here’s the short version for those of you checking in from far away: the lake is 99% frozen. I’m not quite ready to start the six-week countdown yet.
Here’s a photograph that shows the overall condition of the lake. It also clearly shows why these are called the Barrier Islands. The plane is over the Manitou, heading south west, and the ice road cuts between Shammis Island on the left and Crow Rock Island on the right.
Remember, you can click on these pictures to see the full-resolution version, and the larger picture is also zoomable. Also, when you float the mouse over the pictures, you should see the pilot and photographer attribution.
While I was taking the picture above, I noticed some patches of open water down by Big Narrows, so Tom and I headed down to take a look.
This shot, with Big Narrows Island at the left and the Western Peninsula on the right, gives a clear example of how the ice goes first where the current is strongest.
Time to turn north east and head back towards Kenora.
We’re still near Big Narrows. This is the ice road that runs between Kennedy Island on the left and Skeet Island on the right. Kenora is way off near the horizon, left of center. Did I mention there’s lots of ice?
Let’s go look for some water. That’s basically how Ice Patrol works, by the way. I observe the progress of the thaw by seeking out the expanding patches of open water.
Keewatin Channel always opens up early. This picture looks north with Keewatin in the background. There’s a fair bit of water around Channel Island. Over the wingtip is Roger’s Island, and beyond that, Treaty Island. In the distance (don’t forget you can zoom in) you can see Coney Island and an open stretch of Safety Bay.
We’ll take a closer look at that.
Looking east down Rat Portage Bay gives a different angle, with Keewatin Channel now at the right, and Safety Bay on the left. Norman is on the left shore, and downtown Kenora is in the distance, left of center.
Of course, one more place where there’s guaranteed to be a current is the Winnipeg River.
This picture looks north at The Dalles, with Minaki and Big Sand Lake almost at the horizon.
I usually kick off the Ice Patrol when there’s a bit more open water in Safety Bay, so this flight was more about having the opportunity than really getting started in earnest. It’s certainly too early to make predictions, but I’ve noticed an increase in the number of Ice Patrol visitors lately, so I know some of you are getting anxious.
We had a strange winter, with multiple extreme cold warnings in late December, January and February. (For this region, warnings are issued when the wind-chill values work out to around -40°) I would have expected really thick ice, but we started the winter with some heavy snowfalls in early December that may have insulated the lake against the deepest cold. When the ice is really thick, my ice-fishing friends notice because their augers bottom out, but I haven’t been hearing that this year.
So far, March is much milder, so maybe we won’t have a late thaw. This is not a prediction. It’s a HOPE.
A couple of other notes. First, thanks to those of you who stopped by the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada to hear me talk about Alternative Aviation. It was fun to meet some of my blog followers.
Second, the company I work for has changed ownership. Formerly, we were known as Walsten Air, and were part of Discovery Air. Now we are part of MAG Aerospace, and we answer the phone as MAG Canada. We have new decals on the plane, but we’re the same great outfit.
I’ll have a number of training flights in the next while, but keep in mind that the initial stages of the spring thaw move slowly, so there’s no urgency to update every day or two just yet. Stay tuned, and if you’d like an email when Ice Patrol has new info, you can click the FOLLOW button. I do not share email addresses with anyone.
That’s it for now, except to say to all of you, welcome back!