Friday, January 2, 2009
ICE BELLS RING IN NEW YEAR
I don’t know what they’re properly called—or even if they have an official name—but I always think of them as “ice bells.” They are, in fact, a sort of fat-bottomed icicle. Their shape can be bell-like or more of a teardrop. They’re formed, I theorize, when a regular carrot-shaped icicle has its pointed tip close enough to some source of water—lake or stream—that splashes or sloshes and repeatedly rewets the lower section. (I can certainly be wrong in this assumption. If so, please don’t hesitate to set me straight.) You would get the same effect, I suspect, if you dipped the bottom half of a long candle in hot wax—though for both candle and ice bell to take on their distinctive bell-bottomed shape, the cooling, in the case of the candle, or freezing, necessary for the ice bell, has to be quick. In the case of the ice bell, this must mean the air temperature has to be significantly colder than the water, which therefore implies that the water must be in motion—hence the running, splashing, or sloshing—or it would, itself, be frozen. In other words, certain, fairly exact, conditions or circumstances must be met to produce the phenomenon. Anyway, the first two photos are of ice bells I found along the edge of the river near my stone steps yesterday. The third shot in the series is of the bank edge along the island across the river (taken using the longest lens I own, a 450 mm, so please excuse the slight “softness”) and shows several ice bells which have formed in more of a teardrop shape. Whatever their scientific genesis, I’d like to think they were nature’s—and the river’s—way of ringing in the new year.