How do you know if the ice is safe?

We spent some time on the Sunday out on Baker Lake which is also the name of our community, Baker Lake.  Confusing?  I know.  The wind from the last blizzard blew a lot of the snow off the lake and we were able to play around on the lake to take some photos all at a balmy -4°C.

Looking down the ice

Comparing toes

Photo of Mukluks

Looking at 6 feet of ice

Rob on Baker Lake

Rob on my machine

Looking down Baker Lake

Looking east down Baker Lake

So how do you know if the ice is safe?  When I moved to Cambridge Bay I was told the following rhyme to remember for sea ice:

If the ice is blue, it is cool

If the ice is green, it is mean

If the ice is brown, turn around

If the ice is black, you are dead

Ok, not the best rhyme, but it works for me and apparently only for sea ice!  But I have never tested it for freshwater or lake ice. Why?  Because seawater and freshwater freeze differently due to the salinity in the ocean and I’m not sure I want to be the first to test it.  Lake water freezes as a smooth layer, unlike sea ice, which develops into various forms and shapes because of the constant turbulence of ocean water.  Fresh water becomes less dense as it nears the freezing point (this is why ice cubes float in a glass of water).  Very cold, low-density fresh water stays at the surface of lakes and rivers, forming an ice layer on the top.  The salt in the ocean causes the density of the water to increase as it nears the freezing point, and very cold ocean water tends to sink. As a result, sea ice forms slowly, compared to freshwater ice, because salt water sinks away from the cold surface before it cools enough to freeze.  Sea ice also forms slowly and the freezing temperature of salt water is lower than fresh water; ocean temperatures must reach -1.8°C (28.8 °Fahrenheit) to freeze instead of 0°C.

Ideally, without any current underneath you can walk on three inches of freshwater and on one inch of sea ice.  That is ideally and in theory of course. – Sophia (and Rob)

Komatik (Inuit sled)

Qamutiik (Inuit sled)

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