Tuesday, February 15, 2011

So Be Careful. Watch Out for the Ice Trolls

It’s a typical February day at the beach in West Michigan. Blown in by northwest winds, wave after wave smashes against ice ridges on the shore of Lake Michigan. Ice balls bounce and roll—their clattering sound mingles with the swoosh of the spray and the roar of wind and waves. Children who built sand castles on this beach in the summer now look in wonder at the fantastic shapes wind and waves have carved. It looks as though a giant ice troll had been playing there, heaping mounds of ice, gouging out ice caverns, grottos and deep crevices then smoothing off ice shelves. Perhaps another troll came along and smashed some of the ice into huge shards that clink together in the water like pieces of a broken plate glass window.

Quirks of wind, waves and the configuration of the lake bottom cause the shore ice to change from day to day and even change from minute to minute. It seems as if a sleight of hand magician were playing tricks with water, wind and ice.

One of these tricks is to strand wildlife, dogs or people on a floating cake of ice. This happens when pack ice, floating pieces of ice compacted against the solid ice ridge, is blown out in the lake again by an east wind. So be careful if you are going to the beach.

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