In Which I Drive On The Ice

Today was an epic sort of day.  And not epic in any good way.  It might look beautiful in that rosy colored sunshine, but I wouldn’t know.  It was too cold to look.  It was minus 37 last night with the wind chill.   I was due at a meeting at the hospital at 8 am, but didn’t make it.  The generator wouldn’t start, it was too cold.  We had to drag it inside to warm it up a bit first.  Once it was going I was able plug the truck in to warm its battery up for a while.  (My jeep is in the shop as it is objecting to these sorts of temperatures.  Turns out it needs a new temperature sensor so we are currently awaiting delivery of that.  I think its coming by rowboat from China.  Actually I might need a new sensor too as I’m also objecting to these temperatures.)   By then I’d missed my first meeting but still had time to make my second.  When I came home the second, back up, generator was inside – apparently with a dead battery.  So its 0:2 in the generator department, and 1:2 in the vehicle department.  When I went to my second meeting, late, as I’d forgotten that after I started the truck it needed to warm up for like forever, I was lucky enough to find an empty parking meter right outside.  I found one quarter in the bottom of my bag, which was epic in itself as I needed bare hands.   Turns out the meter was frozen up anyways so I never did see how much I got for my quarter.  And don’t get me started on scraping the truck windows.  For some reason the ice here is bullet proof, and the scrapers are useless.  I’m not sure why, perhaps its just oh maybe because its FREAKING COLD here?

Satellite dishes for sale.

So, things have changed since my post about disappearing ice.   To recap – the lake went from completely open to frozen over on October 30th.  We had a few days of walking on the ice with the ice walker, until the winds came up on November 2nd.  It was crazy – there were 4 inches of ice on the lake, and it extended for at least a kilometer, but when the winds from the south whipped up the waves on the main lake, those waves traveled under the ice to us, and created so much flex in the ice that it broke up overnight into small pieces.  It was the strangest sound – just like a million small cracks happening all at the same time, which is of course exactly what it was.  It went on for hours.  (During which time it also knocked to covers off floats and filled them with ice water, tilting the house.  We had to drain them, somewhat problematic as they were completely underwater.)

On November 5th I left for Vegas.  (I mean, who wouldn’t?)  My mother sent me on my way with helpful and supportive emails:

1. “Wish you were here” and this photo of her, in my car…

Okanagan Resort

And 2.   “Do you feel like the rat deserting the sinking ship?”

Martin drove me to the airport.  He crossed over in open water, but a few hours later had trouble getting home, as the new ice was almost too thick.  Just like that, the ice was back.  This time to stay.

Last Voyage of the SS Minnow

I came home from a fun time in Vegas (I’ll be definitely going again next year) to a few days of solid ice without any snow cover.  People were skating all over the place.  It was pretty freaky really, as you could see through the ice to the bottom of the lake, or through the ice to the bottomless black pit waiting to swallow you alive.  Whichever.  And there were lots of cracks in the ice, as of course it expands as it forms.  You could see those cracks going down several inches.  And hear them too.  I heard sounds like violin strings being plucked.  A single twang of an ice string.  Or the sound of a bubble of air in a glass bottle when its shaken.  Eerie when you are all alone in the middle of the lake.  The ice makes loud noises too.  You can sometimes apparently hear the traveling cracks coming from a mile away, like a speeding train that goes right on by.  They can make the whole house shake.  For the first several days, as the temperature went down and down, the new ice would crash and bang like a huge thunderstorm below the house.  Except this was thunder that would go on for long periods of time.  The dogs are not at all impressed, although getting a bit used to it now.  It does get so loud at times it sounds like a plane or car crash.  I’m serious!

After a few days it snowed and that was nice because even with cleats on our shoes it was really hard to walk on the slick ice.  And I appreciated no longer seeing those dark depths of death as I walked across the lake to go to work.  (Although now that I’ve seen the new James Bond movie, I’ll know exactly what to do if I fall through the ice!  Make sure you see it – best Bond movie ever.)  By the weekend folks were driving their cars to the houses, so after a few days of grace – we are farther out, so we need to wait longer – I came home from my last night shift and drove up to the door.  The neighbors had been around with numerous trucks, so I knew it would be safe.  I kept my seat belt off and had the window open to listen to the ice though, just in case.  Well it cracked and groaned like crazy – an awful mournful sound when you are in a truck on the ice.  Alone.  In the dark.  The locals tell us its entirely normal, but I don’t like it!  Reportedly the noise goes away in about January, when there is three feet of ice.   (Apparently the first fellow across in his car this year had his window down, his seat belt off and his LIFE JACKET ON.  I’m serious.  Can you imagine?  If you were that worried, why would you bother?)

But the worst part is not the driving, its what happens when you are in the house.   You can hear the ice flexing, (ie the same sound it made when the waves broke it up) enormously when a vehicle goes by.  Its extremely loud and incredibly close.  The house doesn’t actually move but I’m waiting for that one.  There is no sneaking around this place, we know whenever anyone comes or goes right now.  In fact I woke up at midnight the other night with such loud crashing and banging that I thought our truck must have fallen through the twelve inches of ice.  (How clever of me to have a vehicle that doesn’t actually run now, at least I won’t lose it.)  I’m serious.  That’s what I thought.  Turns out it was just the neighbor K coming home in his truck.

But while I was up, I did see the most incredible display of northern lights.  I even managed to take a photo to share it with you.  It was challenging in the dark, the exposure time was 50 seconds.  As I know nothing about how to take photos in the dark, I’m somewhat impressed that I got anything.  Imagine as well that its minus 20 and I’m in my pajamas.  And I can’t see the dials on the camera at all.  So its an amateur effort but I think it at least gives you a sense of what I saw.  This is only one part of the sky – the lights continued all the way across, constantly moving, constantly changing.  Its funny what can happen in 50 seconds.

About Tandi

I love my morning coffee, reading, the wilderness, paddling, poetry, my Spanish husband, and being a doctor. I also love writing my blog, and reading yours.
This entry was posted in North of 60, photos, The Song I Live By and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to In Which I Drive On The Ice

  1. Andrea says:

    That is pretty wild, Tandi! You’re basically a younger (and more alive) version of Sir John Franklin.

  2. the Ingrams says:

    Drink lots of Martin’s good coffee and stay as warm as possible you two-we are waiting for photos of your NWT stylin’ ensembles-Love sharing your great Canadian adventure ,Tandi. In the same nation,I planted Scilla,raked leaves and did a November arrangement of red willow branches,gold beech leaves and some unidentified green foliage..We went for a cool cycle on Sumas prairie too and saluted a solitary blue heron and a noisy brass band of trumpeter swans and complimented a lady on her late roses a-blooming. Love the Ingrams

    • Skye says:

      Surely not the same nation? The fashion photo op is on hold until we actually get our new parkas – the one I want is not to be had in all of Canada it seems…

  3. Karen says:

    Your life sounds too scary for me. We did get a skim of ice on the pool today so no more swimming. Who is the cute blonde in the mini?
    Love mom.

  4. Randy says:

    haaa…the stories keep getting better! When is the book coming out 🙂 How are the dogs managing?

    • Skye says:

      The dogs are pretty good. They finally have what they’ve always wanted, unlimited house time. They don’t seem to mind the cold outside as long as they are running around. They are great company. I think they found a mink the other night because they smelled strangely like skunk, their favorite Nelson smell. I recently discovered that mink have little glands like skunk, although they don’t spray.

  5. Linda & Con says:

    Thanks for hanging in there & giving us great entertaining play by play & beautiful photos!
    …Warm hugs fr. L & C

  6. Oh wow, I thought we had it rough up here in Inuvik, but we don’t get quite the extreme conditions you do, apparently. That unchippable ice sounds scary! I’ll enjoy following your adventure. Laura

    • Skye says:

      Hi Laura,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. It was great for me to find out about your blog as well, I look forward to reading it more. Its fun that we are undertaking similar adventures. Life on the lake just adds a whole new layer – its generally colder than in town. Its the wind, which is a always a force to be reckoned with.

  7. Mona Chernoff says:

    Hi Tandi
    Wonderful and entertaining stories, can’t wait to read them. So glad I’m not experiencing them but glad you & Martin are, I think. Still beautiful in Armstrong,
    Keep the stories coming. Take care
    Love Ted & Mona

  8. Karen says:

    The ice went off the pool today. No noise, no cracking, no drama. It just quietly left in the night. 7 above.

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