Environment Spotlight

Octopus on the Ice

| Tom Driscoll |

“Octopus” or “spider holes” are scattered all over the ice surface of Upper Range Pond this January.

These “ice stars” are commonly seen on our local ponds and lakes when the ice is first forming or otherwise generally thin.  Sometimes a spider hole is created when warmer “spring” water from the lake bottom rises in a narrow column to the surface.  This prevents or delays the ice formation in that spot.  Other times octopuses are drainage holes formed by meltwater on top of the ice flowing downward and back into the pond.

A spider hole in Upper Range Pond near the New Gloucester shoreline | Photo: Tom Driscoll

Spider holes are similar in appearance to abandoned ice fishing holes.  Avoid walking or riding on these spots as the ice is less thick, at least initially.

You may be surprised to learn that New Gloucester has lake shoreline on Upper Range Pond for about ¼ mile with a few residences.  Surely our Tax Assessor is well aware.


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New Gloucester shoreline on Upper Range Pond

In New Gloucester, Sabbathday Lake, Chandler Mill Pond, and The Sinkhole were all created when the last glacier recently retreated to the northwest about 12,750 years ago.  In neighboring Poland, the Upper, Middle, and Lower Range Ponds were formed similarly and look remarkably like those surrounded entirely within our town.  Upper Range Pond, abutting New Gloucester, is the southernmost of the trio.

Alone on Upper Range Pond on a January afternoon | Photo: Tom Driscoll

When on the ice this time of year, aside from a few skaters and those ice fishing, these are places of solitude, peace, and quiet.

Frozen lakes and ponds are a normal occurrence for us Yankees.  Southerners, however, are less familiar with icy waters as their ponds do not generally freeze over.  Ice shacks and ice fishing are less well known in those parts.

According to “urban legend,” back during Maine’s Ice Storm of ’98 (last century!), many work crews from southern states were here to help repair our downed power lines (true). 

Some local Mainers allegedly made fun of the line workers’ southern accents.  In reply, one southern gentleman, seeing our old wooden ice fishing shacks out in the middle of snow-covered Sabbathday Lake said, “At least in the South, we don’t place our outhouses in the middle of our fields.”