You should always be careful when heading out onto ice. The bearing capacity of ice should be measured based on black ice (hard ice that forms in the autumn). Depending on such factors as currents and bottom quality, ice strength may vary greatly even over a short distance. This is why you must make sure that the ice is strong enough throughout the area where you intend to go.
Solid black ice 10 cm in thickness carries one person. If your group is larger than this, the ice must be stronger. In spring, the sun may make the ice brittle and it may break even when 30 cm thick.
Particular danger spots include rivers, narrow areas in lakes, estuaries of rivers and streams and next to steep banks, sites of springs in lakes, and areas around underwater rocks or with a current. The bearing capacity of the ice is reduced by cracks. Reeds also puncture the ice and make it fragile.
Safety Equipment For Going Out Onto Ice
- If you intend to go out onto ice, ice picks are the basic safety equipment for ice fishing and tour skating alike. You should keep the ice picks within easy reach, for example hanging around your neck. If you fall through, you dig the ice picks in the edge of the ice and use them to pull yourself out of the chilling water onto solid ice. Some ice picks have an emergency whistle that can be heard across long distances. The following are important features in ice picks:
- Durability: the spike must not come off the handle when you punch the pick through the ice and use it to pull yourself out.
- The handles must not be slippery; you must be able to grip them firmly.
- The ice picks must be attached well. To avoid spiking the person carrying the picks, the strap must not leave them hanging loose. In an emergency, you must be able unfasten them quickly and have them ready for use.
- The ice picks must have an adjustable strap that goes around your neck. They must hang at the right height on your chest for quick access.
- Ice chisel/spud bar is a sturdy staff with a steel tip that goes through 5 centimetres of ice in one stroke. You can use it to test the durability of ice and, if necessary, help pull yourself or another person out of the water. Even an ordinary stick of wood is better than nothing.
- Throw line should be kept easily accessible, for example in a side pocket of your rucksack. You can use it to pull a person out of the water.
- Rucksack with a hip belt or crutch strap. A rucksack that contains your spare clothing and a towel in a watertight bag works as a flotation device.
- Plastic whistle can be used to call for help.
- Also a bring a friend – never go out on the ice alone!