A huge spinning ice disk that suddenly appeared on the surface of the Presumpscot River in the city of Westbrook, Maine, this week, has generated a lot of interest on social media.
People are having a field day with their own explanations of this gigantic version of a rare natural phenomenon, with comparisons being drawn with crop circles and the surface of the moon, while some have even gone to the extent of calling it the handiwork of aliens.
“Cool! Looks like a moon,” said a certain Candice Dutil.
“Wessie,” wrote Matt Ireland.
“Frozen Crop Circle,” posted David Lawrence.
While sightings of rotating ice disks on water bodies dates as far back as the late nineteenth century, none has been as huge as the one the people of Westbrook have been treated to this week.
The intriguing circle of ice, which measures some 90 meters (300 feet) in diameter, was spinning counter-clockwise at the speed of what locals described as a “brisk walk.”
The disk has apparently stopped spinning and has moved to the other side of the river.
The ice disk has shifted to the other side of the river and is not currently spinning. Photo taken 1/16/2019 📷:Tina Radel, City if Westbrook pic.twitter.com/0FyhDsXUwU
— City Of Westbrook ME (@CityofWestbrook) January 17, 2019
According to Kenneth G. Libbrecht, an ice physics expert and a professor at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., ice disks are generally twenty to thirty feet across, which effectively makes the Presumpscot River disk 10-15 times larger – a record, indeed.
“It might be a world-record size if anybody were keeping track,” Libbrecht told The New York Times.
Rob Mitchell, a local entrepreneur with business interests at the Presumpscot riverfront alerted Westbrook city’s marketing and communications manager Tina Radel about the somewhat eerie- looking formation on Monday.
“There were ducks sitting on it,” Mitchell said.
“The ducks were rotating on this big Lazy Susan. It was a big duck-go-round,” he added.
Honestly the best part of this ice disk are the ducks taking a ride on it 😂❤️🦆 pic.twitter.com/0Lz9qlUHaW
— Taylor Gleason (@TaylorGWGME) January 15, 2019
The incredible drone footage that Radel released later has gone viral on the internet, generating “an overwhelming reaction,” according to Radel.
“People are loving it,” she said.
According to the Portland Press Herald, the spinning sheet of ice has created almost as much buzz in Westbrook as the spotting of a giant snake devouring a beaver in the same area had done in 2016.
While there are no footages of the snake, which was dubbed “Wessie” by the locals, the rotating sheet of ice is a stark reality and the images and videos will always be there for all to see and marvel at, long after the ice has melted into the waters of Presumpscot.
Watch the drone footage here.
It kind of looks like a crop circle,” Doug Bertlesman, a web developer at Ethos Marketing, was quoted by the newspaper as saying.
“It’s pretty wild to look at,” he said, adding: “It’s certainly not every day that you can watch a spinning circle of ice in the river.”
While the disk was certainly rotating, it appeared to be doing so at a fixed spot, without going upstream or downstream at the time.
“It’s stuck right there. It’s not going anywhere,” Mitchell said. “I think it will continue to gain in thickness as long as it keeps spinning.”
However, as mentioned, the disk has shifted to the opposite bank of the river and appears to have stopped rotating.
The initial explanation for these ice disks was that swirling eddies caused circles of ice to form and rotate on rivers.
“Since the water in the eddy is flowing more slowly than the main current, it’s more likely to freeze, creating the icy disc,” The Boston Globe quoted John Huth – an experimental physicist at Harvard University, as saying
“The icy disc retains the rotation of the eddy, as it’s caught in it,” he explained.
However, this explanation is not entirely correct because if eddies were the sole cause for these spinning mysteries then smaller disks would spin faster than larger ones, but the fact is that these circles of ice are known to rotate at roughly the same speed regardless of their size.
Also, if eddies were the reason, ice disks would not have spun on still water which they are also known to do.
Subsequent experiments, however, suggested that the water melting off the disks sank straight down because of being colder and, hence, denser than the surrounding waters of the river.
Just like the water in your kitchen sink spins before draining out, the sinking cold water from the melting disk also swirls like an eddy as it goes down, causing the ice to spin on the surface.
A timelapse of a rotating disk of ice in the Presumpscot River in Westbrook, Maine. Ducks and gulls sit calmly on its surface as drones fly overhead and people gather to watch. email@example.com #mewx #ice #winter https://t.co/yuSdYuF7SK pic.twitter.com/HWLaKH2Ne8
— Jack Milton (@jmilton) January 16, 2019
A huge, almost perfectly-shaped #ice disk floating in the Presumpscot River in Westbrook, Maine.
— Annett Grimm 📝 (@_AGrimm) January 16, 2019
Another view… pic.twitter.com/0mgQTrfzGj
— Ryan Breton (@RyanBretonWX) January 15, 2019
big disk energy
— Daisy Alioto (@daisandconfused) January 15, 2019