Icy scenes but hopeful thoughts on Christmas Eve

Here’s a wintry image to go with my Christmas greetings.

It’s sight you don’t see too often: sea ice covering the foreshore of Strangford Lough.

The photo was taken an hour before dawn this morning when the temperature was about -6°C. There wasn’t a breath of wind and you could hear tiny crackling sounds as the ebbing water shrank away from its carapace of ice.

I thought that it would melt away as the sun rose, but it didn’t. The ice continued to form over the mud channels all day as the water ebbed.

The average winter water temperatures in Strangford vary quite a bit from the north end to the Narrows, as does the salinity. At Ballymorran Bay, where this photo was taken, several small burns feed fresh water into the bay, so I suppose the temperature on the ebb must fall well below the winter average of around 5-8°C.

Changing the subject, it’s traditional at this time of year to think of those less fortunate. So do spare a thought for our fellow sailors Paul and Rachel Chandler, who are still held hostage in Somalia.

There has been no news of them recently and we must hope that they will be released sometime soon so that they can return to their family.