Sounds of a Frozen Lake

The northern lights have seen queer sights, but the strangest they ever did see, was that night on the barge of Lake LaMarge, I cremated Sam McGee…..

My apologies to Canada’s best known poet, Robert Service, but whenever I am on the shore of a frozen lake in winter his words come to mind. They are words that stick in your head like an arrow, and occasionally something happens, you bump the arrow and are reminded it is there. I guess that is what made him famous. I’m apparently not famous, because I cannot remember what I wrote yesterday….

Tonight on our lake, the moon is full, I watched it rising above the tree tops on the opposite shore. It rose like a great white spotlight, and as it went higher in the night sky, the lake took on a ghostly white glow.

I spent a few minutes in the below zero cold, listening to the second greatest thing about being beside a frozen lake, the sounds of a frozen lake.

The ice is alive, it creaks and groans, and sometimes bellows. Sometimes the ice cracks with thunderous bangs, and other times a tinkeling whisper, and occasionally you hear the distinct zipping sound of a crack happening as one piece of ice splits free of another and a narrow opening shoots across the lake.

Temperature Changes

Science tells me that the sounds I am hearing are caused by temperature changes. As the lake freezes or thaws, it expands and contracts, and those expansions and contractions force cracks in the ice.

The sounds fluctuate. From long booming cracks to quick crackling snaps. The variation in what I hear depends on where the crack starts in relation to where I am standing, the depth of the ice, the length of the crack and probably the depth of the water beneath them.

Snow Muffles The Sounds

Today on our lake, there is little or no snow. That lack of snow, which acts as sound insulation is why I was able to enjoy such a wide range of loud sounds. I’m also in a place where there is a wide expanse of lake, probably close to a mile, which facilitates long cracks in the ice, resulting in particularly loud sounds.

Cracks and Booms

It’s interesting that we hear both cracks and booms. The higher frequency sounds are transmitted to the listener faster, and the sound we hear is “higher”.

The lower frequency, which is associated with the deeper booming sounds, travel slower and take longer to reach the listener and appear to last longer. What you hear can depend on where you are standing.

As the temperature drops, more ice is created, which rapidly expands, placing the ice under strain which results in a crack opening, the ice essentially breaks, and when it does, it breaks quickly, and that is the fast cracking sound you hear. If conditions are right and you are in the right place at the right time, that cracking will sound more like a long low rumble as the lower frequency sounds take a little longer to reach you.

On the other hand, the above could be all bunk. It is much more likely that the sounds are the bellows and cries of Lake Gods who are annoyed as heck that the water has frozen. I like that explanation better.

For you conspiracy theorists, the sounds could also caused by some kind of hi-tech scanners beaming sound waves down from satellites bouncing off the ice and controlling your thoughts….just saying.

Remember, the ice is eventually going to melt and when it does, you will want to be out on the lake in your boat. Now is the time to get your boat operator card, I took the online course from to obtain proof of competency to operate a powerboat in Canada. Yup, got my new boat licence and you can too, do it today.
Get Your Boating License — It‘s The Law!

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