I Will Surf to Frozen Hell and Back on This Giant Ice Disk

I Will Surf to Frozen Hell and Back on This Giant Ice Disk
The disk, pictured January 13. (Photo: Robert F. Bukaty, AP)

A massive ice disk that first appeared in Maine in 2019, spinning slowly and ominously on the Presumpscot River in the town of Westbrook, is back. Personally, I welcome the return of our icy disk overlord and urge all my fellow mortals to rejoice in its dark return. The ice disk cometh once more!

Science says that the disk is a somewhat rare but totally natural phenomenon that’s been observed since the 1890s when the weather gets cold. Floating, perfectly circular disks of ice have appeared not just in Westbrook, but on a number of rivers and streams (but never lakes or ponds) when the mercury dips.

There are a couple of theories about how these floating crop circles form. Some studies suggest that temperature changes in the water around the ice can help create a vortex in the water, which spins the ice above it. Other scientists posit that ice can get stuck in a spin above eddies in river bends, catching still more ice in its sludgy pirouette. The shore helps sand down the ice as it spins, helping the disks form. Interesting “theories,” indeed. Science, however, has yet to prove that these disks are not portals to Hell. As such, I am offering my body in the service of science. I will ride the ice disk straight to whatever dimension it surely leads to.

While ice disks can be found roaming in the wild in a handful of places, the Westbrook ice disk holds a special place in the dark pages of ice disk history for its monumental size. The one that formed on the Presumpscot in 2019 was estimated to be about 300 feet (91 meters) across, much larger than other disks that have been observed. “It might be a world-record size, if anybody were keeping track,” Kenneth Libbrecht, a professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology, told the New York Times. (Foolish mortals! We must learn to heed all the icy signals from the underworld that come our way.)

As befits such a majestic and beautifully terrifying omen of the depths, people got super excited about it when it first formed. The 2019 platter of ice made headlines in outlets around the world. Tourists flocked to Westbrook to watch the disk spin, boosting the local economy during the normally slow winter season. The city of Westbrook put together a sweeping, Oscar-worthy trailer for the disk. Ducks used it as a raft. A man tried (and failed) to carve a giant peace sign into the disk. Local restaurants made up specials for the disk (which included, per the Portland Press Herald, “Ice Disk pizza with Alfredo sauce,” a cupcake with a sugar cookie disk on top, “Ice Disk cosmos,” and margaritas with floating lime “disks”). The disk even got its own Twitter account.

When the disk got caught and stopped spinning, a brave paddleboarder took it upon himself to use an ice pick to set the disk free and resume its slow, menacing twirl. These acts of devotion to the disk were not enough, though; just a few days after it garnered worldwide fame, the disk was frozen in place by surrounding ice, ceasing its languorous spin. Clearly the disk demands more.

The disk formed partially in 2020, but failed to capture the full glory of 2019. Now, however, the disk is back, forming a new body to churn slowly through our mortal coil. And it is incumbent on us to treat it with the respect it deserves. Considering everything the world has been through since the last time the disk appeared, this is surely an omen. While scientists may try to explain it away, I have another option: I will take one for the rest of humanity and offer myself to the disk as tribute. If that means surfing it to the icy depths of Hell, so be it. Hail the disk!