By Lloyd Roberts, Janary 2011

Chickawaukie Pond, just north of Rockland Maine. The pond is about 4,000 feet wide

            Rapture Of The Ice afflicts all of us or we would not be out there.  Mark McClellan saw us sailing on Chicky on his way to church and Ice Rapture gnawed at him through the service. He couldn’t wait to get out there in his DN to sail in a snowy gale to his death in the water.  Rapture of the ice short circuits judgment and buries usual caveats.  It sometimes leads to or merges with the Post Immersion Stress Syndrome.

            Recently we were checking four day old ice on Chicky expecting it to be around two inches but knowing that there were a few newer, one night, sealed holes.  The ice was the expected 2 inches with visible cracks, some air bubbles, and sometimes rough surface.  We found a couple of well demarcated glassy smooth ¾" holes as expected with rims of white frozen foam/debris. We found some older ones with clear but 1 ¾"  ice, unsettling but enough to hold you up.  Then off a short way was a lovely sheet of smooth ice probably a couple of hundred yards across.  My friend lit up and murmuring oooh (rapture) skated out onto it without looking or seeing the definite boundary line at the edge of the 2 inch plate we were on.  His feet cut through ¾ inch of ice and he did a graceful belly flop with splash of ice and water a few feet off the 2 inch plate.  He then began to try to pull himself onto the thin ice but Post Immersion Stress Syndrome  (PISS) had set in already although he was still warm and dry in his immersion gear. He pulled himself AWAY from the thick ice.  Thinking that clawing his way through 200 yards of this stuff might be frustrating before he got out, I hollered at him to turn around, which he did, all smiles.  I asked him to stop, although he would have reached thick ice shortly, so I could try my new throw rope.  It worked as advertised.  He was floating like an empty coffee cup and a gentle pull had him landed.  He wanted to keep on skating, a later stage of PISS complicated by residual Rapture of The Ice.  We went back to the shore. He did not reach the last stage which is not remembering what happened and wandering around dazed. Somebody else should drive those folks home.

            Moral, don’t skate/boat alone, you may need a buddy’s brain to counteract the rapture of the ice and you may need his throw rope.


            When someone goes in the cold water, or any other accident for that matter, they may not be thinking clearly when they get out or indeed before they get out.  Sometimes they seem to be in a state of denial, maybe just surprise shock if not thermal shock.  If they say they are fine, don’t believe it.  Stay with them and get them ashore and dry ASAP.  Do not let them keep on skating or sailing because they are “OK”, they are not.  You carry a change of clothes and a towel and blanket in your vehicle don’t you?  If they are really cold, not making sense, can’t stand, this is a medical emergency.  Call an ambulance to meet you at the shore.  Do NOT let them walk around, this risks cardiac arrest from cold blood pumped up from the cold legs.  Wrap them, wet clothes and all, in the blanket, ideally blanket and plastic or space blanket to keep the blanket dry. Wrapping them will keep them from walking around. The blanket should be wool because it keeps 60% of its warmth when wet. Tape the blanket and plastic together at the corners with duct tape, then roll/fold the wrinkly mess up and put it in your car. The cold person has a lot of heat invested in the inner layers of their wet clothes and rolling them up in the blanket is much faster than peeling off and replacing clothes with additional heat loss to cold air (recommendation of professional ice/cold water rescue folks).  If they are not mentally out of it get them into a warm shower or tub and undress there.  Then the dry clothes.


Editors Note: The above is from Lloyd Roberts.  He is a physician and a very experienced ice sailor and skater.   It originally appeared in the Chickawaukie Iceboat Club newsletter. It was posted in the 2011 Lakeice blog on February 5, 2011