I’ve typically stayed clear of frozen lakes, rivers and ponds with the exception of a brief “ice golf” tournament a few years ago, and an ice fishing trip in February of 2015.
Lake Minnewanka was calling to me however. It is a man-made lake in Alberta, and due to this fact, there is a constant decomposition of relatively new foliage on the lake bottom. This decomposition creates methane gas, which then tries to escape the lake – like little “fart bubbles” from the lake bottom.
During the winter, these bubbles get trapped as the ice thickens allowing for some interesting photography.
Bring your ice cleats, as this lake stays fairly clear of snow and the surface is quite smooth. Many times people will bring out the skates and skate for hours across this lake.
The ice bubbles are pretty much everywhere, some small, some large, some isolated, some grouped together – but rest assured, you’ll find ice bubbles everywhere.
I ventured further out onto the ice to visit with a group of ice divers who were planning to dive the old dam site here. They had cut out several large blocks of ice for access, and in one of those large ice cubes were three well outlined bubbles in the ice.
You can see in the above photo, the ice is quite thick at this time of year – and really you have nothing to worry about as far as falling through this – but, because of the methane being released, all that gas still has to get out somehow, and the ice still cracks through.
The first time you hear it, you’ll stop dead in your tracks and be very inclined to get back to shore as quickly as possible. Resist the urge to panic, however as this is quite normal – as long as you’re not in an area where the ice is thin, you’ll be safe. The lake is like a giant jigsaw puzzle, and those cracks won’t allow the puzzle pieces of ice to move around on you.
That all being said, you may want to heed the tales of the Merman of Lake Minnewanka. The tales from the early 20th century talk of a half-man, half-fish creature that would rise from the depths of the lake to claim victims. As a matter of fact, a local caught one of these Merman beasts and unveiled it to the world. Today, the mummified remains are on display at the Indian Trading Post in Banff.
During the summer months, use caution when around the water, as this creature could potentially grab you any where, any time. During the winter, you’ll be safe if you stay clear of openings in the ice where the Merman could jump out and pull you back down.