Ice leaves, buffleheads take over

The ice that yesterday filled the cove has floated out to sea.
The ice that yesterday filled the cove has floated out to sea. The Oak Island Inn (which is not on Oak Island, but overlooks it) is in the distance.
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As soon as the ice had melted, the bufflehead ducks that had all winter occupied the other side of the causeway, the side that didn't freeze, gleefully (I imagine) took possession of the newly open water.

Watching the sea ice float away

Great sheets of ice have broken away and are ready to float out of the cove with the wind and tide.
Great sheets of ice have broken away and are ready to float out of the cove with the wind and tide.

The powerful north winds of the storm earlier in the week pinned the ice to the shore, even while driving cracks into it. Now there is no wind, and much of the ice that we walked on in January seems poised to float out to sea.  What will it take for it to leave?  A south wind?  Repeated tides?

The sea ice nearby is keeping the temperature down in our yard.  Much of it is still covered with snow and ice, while up the road, further away from the water, the ground is bare.  It has been a hard, icy winter.  So I’ll be glad to see the sea ice go.

Spring breakup

Spring is coming – we know it from watching the ice disappear.  Martins River down the road is completely clear now, but outside our sheltered inlet there is a large, solid sheet of ice that goes up and down with the tide but hasn’t yet broken up, except around the edges.  When it does, the tide will carry it away.  It’s preventing the ice pans in our inlet from leaving for the open sea.  So they’re melting, and leaving a large open space of water.

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Melting ice in the inlet, blocked by a large sheet of ice from the open sea beyond.

Thinning ice pans that we were walking on a month ago
Thinning ice pans that we were walking on a month ago

Spring breakup on Martin’s River

A jumble of ice on Martin's River as the weather turns warm
A jumble of ice on Martin's River as the weather turns warm

It was about 8 degrees Celsius today, and sunny – a gorgeous day that drew us outside.  We went for a walk along Martin’s River, which flows into Mahone Bay between the towns of Mahone Bay and Chester.

We saw quite a  jumble of ice from upriver blocked by the two bridges: the former railway bridge that is now part of the trail system, and the road bridge.  The tea-coloured water was rushing around and under the ice floes.

Looking downstream, past the railway bridge to the road bridge in the distance.
Looking downstream, past the railway bridge to the road bridge in the distance.
Looking down Martin's River
Looking down Martin's River

We walked past the bridges down one the east side of the river.  The ice is thinning but still intact.

A foggy morning on the Nova Scotia coast

Sheltered inlets are still iced in.
Sheltered inlets are still iced in.

It turned out to be a beautiful sunny day with temperatures well above freezing.  We have a lot of snow and ice for that sun to melt.  Still, it feels like spring on a day like this.  Some people find this time of year difficult in Nova Scotia, when daffodils are blooming in Victoria on the “other coast”.  Others relish the cold temperatures and make the most of it.  As for me, I’ve usually had my nose buried in my work at this time of year and this year is no exception.  And I’m grateful for that.

Mystery tracks on the ocean ice

Mystery prints. Looks like 4 paws, then 4 paws, then something dragged for a distance, repeat.
Mystery prints

I saw these on the ice the other day.  What do you think it is?  It looks like 4 dog paws, then another set of 4 paws, then something dragged for a distance, repeat.  Leave comments below.

Seagulls or ducks?  The waddle suggests ducks to me. Pretty.
Seagulls or ducks?

And these?  Looks like ducks to me; I can imagine the waddle, and there are lots of ducks right here when the water is liquid.

The edge of the ice

The tidal inlet on January 2, 2009
The tidal inlet on January 2, 2009

Ice always builds up and stays in the inlets where it isn’t easily carried out to sea.  At low tide it just sits on the bottom, on the mud. There’s always a dynamic edge out there forming, melting, breaking off depending on the wave action, with pieces getting carried out to sea.

Freezing and thawing

The tidal inlet on the cold morning of December 9th
The tidal inlet on the cold morning of December 9th

The temperature has been bouncing around like a yo-yo – rather like the price of gas, from minus 10 degrees C to plus 10 and back again within a few days.

Unlike fresh water, which is at its most dense around 4 degrees C, salt water is most dense at its freezing point, which is typically around minus 2 C.  The more salt is in the water, the lower its freezing point.  In oceans that freeze, the water deeper down is saltier, so it stays down, and is less likely to freeze because the high salt concentration lowers its freezing point considerably.  The lighter, relatively fresher water stays on top – so it’s more likely to freeze, and when it does freeze it has little salt in it, as I found out by tasting it.

Ice that formed over rocks at high tide, then bent and cracked as the tide fell.
Ice that formed over rocks at high tide, then bent and cracked as the tide fell - December 14.

Ice on the water’s edge on Mahone Bay

The water's edge, tide rising after a cold night
The water's edge, tide rising after a cold night
The ice that was shaped by this rock and then broke as the tide fell tide now floats over it on the rising tide.
The ice that was shaped by this rock and then broke as the tide fell tide now floats over it on the rising tide.

I tasted the ice that had formed at the water’s edge on a small beach, as I said I would. As predicted, it was indeed fresh, not salty.  A good survival tip, should you ever find yourself shipwrecked on a desert island in winter.