Anyone ever fallen through the ice? It's C-C-C-Cold! Safety tips welcome!

We have a small cow pond at the back of our property…roughly a 100ft X 100ft, maybe 20 foot deep at the deepest. I routinely walk out on it with the dog once the temp has been well below zero for more than 3 or 4 days…
The pond is about a fifteen hundred yards from my house. I thought the ice was going to be absolutely fine…thick enough to drive my quad on even…Well I’m glad I decided to walk and not drive out on the trails this afternoon. I was walking with my dog and we bounded out onto the ice…normal pressure crack noises and lots of fun…I started to walk to the side that has a bunch of dead cat-tails on it when it happened…Crunch - Uh oh!! :eek: drop!

There I am standing thigh deep in the frigid cold water…the dog 10 feet away staring at me as if to say…“Dumb ass! even I can see it’s not as thick by the reeds!”

So I clamored out of the ice and proceeded to walk back to the house. The temp right now out of my window here in CT is 6 degrees fahrenheit. By the time I made it to the Garage to take my trousers off they had frozen…The skin on my legs below the thigh was so cold I probably could have stuck a pin in it and had no pain. The dog just kept up his happy-go-lucky self and bounded around the yard.

So I went and stood infront of the wood stove for a few minutes, trembling and hoping I was going to still be fertile.

Then I took a relatively cold shower…as even lukewarm felt like it was burning me…So here I am…I haven’t told my wife yet…but she’ll see me clothes downstairs soon enough…As she’s futzing around down there now…

So has anyone ever fallen through the ice? If so did you go all the way under? What did you do? How did you get out?

I thought myself a relatively good judge of ice thickness…anyone know any sure fire ways to tell thickness of ice aside from using an auger?

Whats the best thing to do if you are really far from anywhere and you fall in the ice? Let’s say I was hiking 20 miles from my truck and the same incident happened? What do you do?

I can’t help with gauging ice thickness, but here’s a safety tip: don’t try to walk on water. Start off with changing water into wine or making blind men see.

Ahhh sorry, It’s just that I have read Illusions by Richard Bach too much! :slight_smile:

Interestingly enough, our local newspaper , The Citizen, with the motto of
" We will beat any interesting subject to death." ran a front page article about this very subject.
If you fall through and are waiting for someone to rescue you from land, try to move as little as possible. The more you move, the more heat you lose and the greater chance of the ice you are hanging on to will crack.

If you have no one to rescue you, (I’m a little hazy on this detail. sorry, that was kinda your point.) try to pull your body over the ice flat and don’t stand up on ice as your weight will probably force you to fall through. Once on land, keep moving and get a blanket.

If you are the rescuer and going to get the person in the water, come at them from behind, if at all possible, so as to keep the ice they are hanging onto from not breaking. Have a boat or very long rope near by and call emergency before you get into the water.

I’ve fallen through the ice twice before; both times up to my waist although the water in both cases was significantly deeper than that. I was able to scrabble enough to keep most of my torso out of the water until my friends grabbed me or shoved a branch out for me. Yeah, it’s cold. So cold that I had trouble breathing once. My pants froze solid both times, before we could get back to civilization, which in one case was about 30 minutes away. My first safety tip? Let someone else go first. Second: don’t walk out on the ice alone. Ever. If you have to for some crazy reason, make sure the temp has been below zero solid for at least a week, and avoid areas where there is significant current as these areas will be thinner. One thing I noticed, was that in my haste to get back on solid footing, I kept breaking more ice, which in turn made it harder to get to a place that could support me. Both times I had the able assistance of friends, who ultimately got me out.

It seems that only ice fishing sites have any information.

Well, in the 20-miles-from-the-truck case, based on what I’ve heard but not first-hand experience, you should first roll around in the snow a bit. This gets some of the water out of your pants. Then you should gather a bunch of wood and kindling. Since you are wearing wool or synthetic pants, even when wet they should keep you warm-ish while you’re doing this. Then you should find a spot out of the wind and take the pants off. Build a fire using the knife and matches from your survival kit. Rig up your emergency blanket to reflect heat from the fire onto you (note that you probably don’t want to wrap yourself fully in the blanket, as this will reflect heat from the fire away from you). Rig some of the cord from your survival kit up to hang your wet pants from. Cook up some soup using the pot and bouillon cubes from your survival kit. Keep feeding the fire until you are warm, your pants are dry, and it’s not night, and then hike back to the truck.

Note that this assumes you are carrying a well stocked survival kit when tromping around in the middle of winter 20 miles from the truck. If you weren’t, well, say hi to Darwin when you get past St Peter at the pearly gates…

Pretty much what Viking said. I’ve never gone through, but known a few who have. Some even lived - going through the ice on the river at night, on a skidoo, at minus forty doesn’t have a real high survival rate.

If there are no tracks on that section of the ice, there’s a reason. It may not seem obvious, but there is. Honest. Bird, cat, fox and rabbit tracks, however, are still not good indicators. Moose, deer, bison, and skidoo/ATV tracks generally are.

Take a large, heavy walking stick and thump the ice in front of you. It’ll make funny cracking noises before the ice is thin enough to give way. If it’s just a thin spot, the stick may go through, and give you enough warning to avoid the thin spot. After some practice, you will be able to gauge the relative soundness of the ice by the sound of the thump. Really and truly, I used to be able to do it, even though I am now terribly out of practice.

Sadly, this method doesn’t work on a skidoo doing thirty miles an hour.

Should the worst happen, snow to blot up excess water, then build a fire as fast as you can, as per Viking’s post. Although, I prefer the hot chocolate or tea and honey in our winter kit to bouillion cubes. (Hot and sweet to treat shock and provide energy.) We also pack dry magic gloves and socks, but we live where it’s a good idea to do anytime you venture farther than ten minutes from your own home. I’d also recommend calling for help - you’d be astonished by how much wilderness isn’t very damn wild anymore, and cell phones work almost anywhere.

DO NOT USE A SHOWER OR BATH TO WARM UP. This is a good way to get scalded on top of frostbite. Absolute top best way is to encourage your wife or Significant Other to join you, naked, under many blankets. Body heat is what’s recommended, by ten out of ten experts. However, good luck on convincing the wife… Next best is a hot water bottle wrapped in towels, preferably prepared by someone who has not been exposed. I’ve also used blankets that got popped into the dryer for a few minutes. Oh yes, and have many cups of the aforementioned hot, sweet tea. The sugar helps refuel the body’s own heat engines.

And finally, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS tell somebody where you are going, and guesstimate how long you are planning on being gone. If you can’t find someone to go with, anyways. But that’s just a good general survival rule.

Tea or hot chocolate would work, too.

And if there is an other to be had, whether significant or not, then yes, body heat under blankets/ sleeping bags is the ideal. If the other is very non-significant, then ya can keep your tighty-whities on, but if the alternative is death by hypothermia, they you will snuggle up to anyone, regardless of attractiveness, availableness, hairyness, odorifirousness, or gender :slight_smile:

My first advice would be to quit walking on ice. I know it’s fun, but it’s not worth the chance of falling through. This is a phobia of mine.

If you fall through in really deep water, you can breathe the air that is just above the water and beneath the ice. I saw that in a movie.

But just stay off the ice. Unless it’s a skating rink.

Can’t find it now, but there was a web page dealing with this subject for scandanavian commuters who would ice skate to work. It is apparantly standard practice for these folks to carry ‘ice-spikes’ (basically reinforced ice picks). The hardest part of getting out of the water is the lack of anything to grab onto. The ice-spikes give you some purchase and assist you in clawing your way back onto solid ice.

Yeah, it’s colder than the Bajeezus up here. I’m in boston and it’s 3 degrees out.

Beggin your pardon but I don’t think that is entirely accurate. I’ve been diving under ice and the layer of “oxygen” that is trapped under the ice is very thin not more than a few millimeters. So breathing it is out…Your best bet is to know that you go the direction of your feet when you fall through…i.e. forward in most cases…so when swimming back up to the surface you must look up and out to where you fell in and do not panic. If you blow a few bubbles look to the direction they are going to orient yourself.

pipper had a good suggestion with ice-spikes (isdubbar).
Even these guys know you need rope, spikes, a good stick, and a backpack with clothes/survival stuff when you go out walking on the ice.

I used to go ice fishing pretty often back when I lived in VT. We always had spare clothing and some way to start a fire with us. The best thing was home-made ice spikes, and I would recommend that you make some for yourself if you’re going to keep walking on your pond, Phlosphr. Just buy (make, whatever) a couple of dowels that fit comfortably in your hands. Drive a nail (or other random peice of metal) into the base, leaving about three inches of the metal exposed. File the ends down into points, and you’ve got yourself a home made life-saver.

Warning: As I learned through experience, make sure you don’t put them in your pocket, forget about them, and sit down. Ouch. :eek:

Fireman checking in here…


  1. Wait more than a few days. It should be a week, with highs in the freezing range before ice is safe to walk on.

  2. 2 inches of hard clear ice is necessary to support humans, you can determine this by cutting into it.

  3. Snow on ice isn’t a good indicator of thickness, in fact, snow can insulate ice pack, and actually make weaker ice. Same with slush.

  4. I don’t know about your cow pond, but if it’s a natural pond, and perhaps is spring fed, you could actually never be safe on the ice, as the water is always moving.

  5. If you fall in, and are a significant distance from any help or heat, pull your legs up to your chest, and keep yourself as close to, well, yourself as you can. Minimize the amount of heat loss by minimizing the amount of exposed skin and parts.

  6. If you’re able to get out, and do so successfully, keep moving. Gather firewood ans such, and try to find a shelter from the wind, and warm up and dry out before making a 20 mile trek back to the truck.

  7. Definately get youself some ice spikes.

  8. Don’t go out on the ice.