Friday, February 13, 2009

Our Singing Lake

Last week before going to bed I stepped outside to see if our occasional house cat wanted to come in for the night. It was very still out there, but all of a sudden I heard something that sounded like music. It puzzled me a bit, until I remembered people talking about lakes "singing" during certain weather conditions.

I thought about that sound again as I was outside today, and decided to see what I could find on the internet to explain the phenomena. All I could find was a journal entry from Bruce Gardner called Singing Lake. This isn't exactly what I heard, but here is a portion of what Mr. Gardner wrote:

As we walked past the first, smaller bowl of the lake, we heard a sound that neither of us could identify. Our first guesses as to the sound’s origin included the bugling of a distant elk, the whine of a chainsaw off in the distance, or maybe the whirring tires of a vehicle stuck in the snow just over the far ridge. As we approached the center shoreline of the lake the sound became more distinct and more regular in occurrence. The loudest echoed and reverberated from the surrounding ridges and were accompanied by a series of pinging notes similar to sonar sounds in an old submarine movie. While we watched and listened intently, we became aware of the faint sound of cracking accompanying the louder sounds. The air temperature was hovering in the low twenties and the sun was at its zenith. What we were witnessing was the contraction of the thin sheet of ice in front of us as it melted and fissured. The fissuring ice created sound waves that seemed to be amplified by the tympanic membrane of ice. The loudest of these sounds were similar to whale music, but much more drawn out, much louder, and a bit eerie. A narrow, open lead had formed to our front. As an individual moan faded, the surface of the open water became calm. With a rising crescendo, the open water quivered as the waves of sound rolled to shore. Ripples splashing through the open lead, launching thin sheets of ice aloft. On impact these thin windowpanes of ice shattered with the tinkling sound of breaking glass. I have read accounts of mariners ice-bound in the arctic who described the booming sounds of the grinding ice pack. I have heard the sharp reports produced by ice during spring break-up in Alaska. I know the sound an avalanche makes. The sounds at Mussigbrod Lake were more musical and outside my personal experience. I am thankful my wife and I witnessed the event. Both of us yearned for a tape recorder with which to convey the phenomena.
We made our way back to the car.
The wind picked up and the air cooled. The sounds of the singing lake, which had sonorously entertained us for the better part of an hour, quickly died. We were left only with the memory as we recounted the experience to each other throughout the balance of our jaunt.

We don't have any open water, but I still heard the sounds our lake made as it "sang."

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