Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Whales exhale? On Lake Superior?

Out on the beach this morning, I found all sorts of new ice formations. Lake Superior had, once again, frozen over and then, once again, all the ice blew to shore.

There was a strange, and strangely familiar, sound coming from the edge where the open water met the ice mounds. It was a low, slow "pffft," like a massive creature exhaling.

In fact, it took me right back to the rugged coast of San Juan Island this summer, where we watched five pods of orcas swim by  within yards off shore, their breaths sounding as clear as if they were breathing on our cheeks. That was one of the most amazing experiences I've had in years.

Now it was just a few days ago that I wrote about Lake Superior "whale burps", but I'm pretty sure there aren't whales in this Great Lake. I can hope all I want, but large marine mammals haven't done well here.

But the "pffft" was coming from something unusual...ice volcanoes. Swells roll in off the open water.  The swells push under the ice shelf. Enough pressure is still in the swell that water...and air...pushes up through a narrow crack.

Here's a video someone shot of ice volcanoes:

You just never know what you might see...or hear...on the shores of Lake Superior.

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