Swale Pancakes 31 January 2019

Posted by Graham Rogers on 2019-02-02

Swale Pancakes 31 January 2019

This is a picture of an apparently rare natural phenomenon which we encountered on last week’s walk led by Geraint. The picture itself was taken by a local photographer just a few hundred yards upstream from Green Bridge.

The conditions must just have been just right for the formation of these ice forms. It was cold. We left home at 9.00 a.m. in a temperature of -6C and it did not get a lot warmer thereafter. The Swale was also unseasonably low. In fact I do not recall such little water in the river at this time of year.

These “pancakes” are believed to form when particles of foam on a river begin to freeze and begin to join together as they are sucked into an eddy and form into a circular shape as a result. They are most frequently seen in the Baltic Sea and around Antarctica, but also form relatively frequently on the Great Lakes of the United States and Canada. We have something in common with Chicago then if not the extreme cold.

They were quite a spectacular sight; a ballet of ice as the “pancakes” gyrated around each other in the gentle waters of the eddy. A rare phenomenon indeed; as rare as my passing a pub. The event crowned a superb day of winter walking.

Graham

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