Posted by: David Giacalone | January 16, 2014

icy beauty and mystery along the Mohawk


– view westward from Riverside Park playlot – 15Jan2014

view from west entrance to Riverside Park along the Mohawk in Schenectady - 15Jan2014

 An article in today’s Schenectady Gazette about backed-up ice from North St. in the Stockade to Rexford, tells us that “The sun glistening on the ice-packed river was a stunning sight.” (“Residents along riverfront keep wary eye on ice,” by Kathleen Moore, B1, Jan. 16, 2014, posted online Wed. morning, Jan. 15). Unfortunately, the article comes with only one photo, and it was taken at Freeman’s Bridge.  Kathleen was definitely right about the beauty on the River, and I think you’ll agree after viewing our Slideshow below, which naturally focused on the Stockade portion of the Mohawk River. [Click on the free-standing (outside the Slideshow) photos for larger versions, which help demonstrate the beauty.] There’s much more ice-jam beauty in our posting from Monday January 13.


 . . .


two ducks near the CSX trestle . . a pair of ducks could not resist the sunshine

 Mystery? But, before the beauty, I want to mention a mystery playing out along our stretch of the Mohawk the past few days, as depicted in the following following photos and collages:

immediately below: photos taken [L] Jan. 13; [R] Jan. 14

 . . .  IMG_3563

. and

 IMG_3611  . . . Jan. 15, 2014

above: For three days (Jan. 13, 14, 15), a mass of ice was “stuck” between North St. and the Western Gateway Bridge (and perhaps as far upstream as Rexford), although there appeared to be nothing but clear, flowing water for its trip downstream.  Even the often-culpable piers of the CSX trestle were clear. The downstream edge of the ice mass was in the shape of an arch and spanned both banks of the River.

IceGone16Jan2014 . . . MohawkIceMystery

collages showing: [R] the ice mass, arch-shaped edge, and flowing water at the CSX trestle, each day Jan. 13 -15; [L] the mass largely broken up this morning, January 16. Click on the images for a much larger version.

Is there a riparian hydrologist in the house?  Can you explain how this wedged-in ice phenomenon happened?  The multi-talented Mark Fisher, strolling the Park near his North St. home yesterday, pointed out that the strength of the arch structurally might offer an architectural explanation for the refusal to budge.  Any facts or theories resolving the mystery would be appreciated. [see update at foot of this posting]

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IMG_3518 Finally, one more mystery (at least for me of limited scientific expertise):  How did the “ice ditch”, with perfectly perpendicular sides get formed alongside the shoreline, near Governor’s Lane?  Despite the fog, I’m certainly no machinery was secretly used to carve the formation.  Mark Fisher helpfully suggested that the Binnekill, which empties in the Mohawk closeby (between Cucumber Alley and Gateway Landing), has its own current, running at a different speed and depth than the Mohawk. That difference might have brought about the separation from the mass of ice.  I’ve often wondered why there would so often be unfrozen water near the shoreline behind Washington Ave. and Cucumber Alley, and around the old Burr Abutment.  The Binnekill current — which was surely bursting with snow and ice-melt — might indeed be the answer.  Please feel free to comment.  The following collage shows pictures related to the “ice ditch” issue.


update re “Mysteries” (Jan. 17, 2014): At the brand new Mohawk Ice Jam Camera (reported in today’s Gazette, here), I found an email address for Gary Wall, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, based in Troy.  I wrote Mr. Wall last night asking if he could explain the Stuck Ice Floe and the Ice Trench mysteries.  He wrote back this morning:

David – thanks for your email.  I think your friend Mark Fisher has the right idea with the arch support.  The legs of the arch are locked into the downstream RR bridge.  As far as the trench, I think it may be the result of the water lowering and a gap forming between floating and grounded ice.  Thanks for sharing your website, you have some very nice pictures.

Gary R. Wall

U.S. Geological Survey

425 Jordan Rd.
Troy, NY 12180
(o) 518-285-5621
(c) 518-275-5485
As can be seen in the photo above, the leg of the ice floe “arch” can be seen on the Scotia shoreline, locked into the CSX trestle, and holding the large mass of ice in place.  The same formation exists on the Schenectady shoreline.  Therefore, despite the water in the center of the River flowing freely past the trestle, the legs on each side of the arch held the ice mass in place for three days, until melting broke things up enough to weaken the arch and the legs.

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