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Ice Disc Amazes Onlookers in Frozen Maine River

Giant Ice Disc
A giant ice disk that resembles the Earth as seen from space is spinning once again this Winter in Westbrook, Maine. The massive piece of ice is revolving endlessly in a wide part of the river that flows through the city, attracting locals and others who watch its mesmerizing movement. Credit: Facebook/City of Westbrook

An ice disc the size of a football field and resembling the Moon has re-formed and is spinning once again in the depths of winter in Westbrook, Maine.

Just as happened for the last several years, a disc of ice that is almost perfectly spherical in shape formed after temperatures dipped in January, while the currents of the Presumpscot River causes it to revolve, shearing off pieces around its edge so that it keeps its round form.

Additional forces are at play as well in the Presumpscot, with that particular location the spot where a vortex is created due to the changes in water temperature. Much like the vortices in the air that are responsible for tornadoes, these water vortices create a spinning motion that causes the ice above them to rotate.

Ice disc a result of water vortex, river currents below waterfall

Although seen in smaller versions elsewhere, the ice disk in the Presumpscot is the largest anywhere in the world, experts believe. And it serves as a bit of entertainment for people as they gather to gaze at it every Winter, mesmerized by its graceful movement.

As seen on a number of videos, hardy wintertime birds including ducks and seagulls often go for rides on the disc, getting slow-motion 365-degree views of the city, as if they were looking out the windows in a revolving restaurant.

And it isn’t just animals that are fascinated with the disc. People, too, are drawn to its gentle presence, with many gathering along the banks of the river to watch it move — especially now, when the pandemic has drawn even more people outdoors and a riverwalk has been created in the city.

In a New England Cable News story, interviewers spoke to people gathered along the riverbanks to watch the disc. “It’s awesome,” said Sandra Brocious, one of dozens of Ice Disc fans who were taking videos and still shots of it on Wednesday morning.

When temperatures dip down to the single digits, as they have in recent days, with Maine recording temperatures of zero degrees Fahrenheit (-17 Celsius) overnight this week, the disc freezes to the bank — but warming temperatures during the daytime get it spinning once again.

Kim Gass of Raymond, Maine, says that every time she looks at the disc, it appears in a different way, making multiple pilgrimages to it worthwhile.

“It’s like going and hiking on a trail, the trail’s never the same the second time,” she explains to an interviewer from New England Cable News.

Michael Foley, the mayor Westbrook, a suburb of Portland, Maine’s largest city, said the icy attraction does draw a number of people to  the city in the middle of the winter and that was what prompted him to feature it on the city’s social media accounts yesterday.

“When you see it in real life, that’s where it’s at”

“We tried to capitalize on it as quickly as we could,” he stated, adding that he is aware that people coming to see the disk boost local businesses in the quiet Winter months after the Christmas rush.

Foley stated that everyone is more than welcome to come and take a look at the Disc as long as they do so safely.

“Stay in safe areas, look at it from afar — and we encourage people to not go on the ice in any conditions,” Foley urged.

Of courses, now there is a name — “Disc heads” — for people who love the disc and look forward to its formation every year. NECN interviewed a young couple who had come to watch it, with one of them wearing a black and white “I saw the Ice Disk” T-shirt, featuring a photo of the Disk.

“We’re in a meditation group, so we love this phenomenon,” the young man said, with his companion adding “We’re so excited… the T-shirts are great, but when you see it in real life, that’s where it’s at.”

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