Yes Saltwater Can Freeze


the point, pancakeice, elaware, sussex coutny, cape henlopen state park, bay frozen over, harbor of safe refuge
William Brittingham …… 2/27/15 …. last chance to fish before they close the point

I have seen this question or statement many times on social media this week. Can saltwater freeze?  I didn’t know you could get ice on the ocean.  Have people seen the arctic or north pole?  Yes saltwater can freeze.  Fresh water freezes at thirty two degrees Fahrenheit, but seawater freezes at about twenty eight (28.4) degrees Fahrenheit, because of the salt in it.  When seawater freezes, however, the ice contains very little salt because only the water part freezes.  The inland waterways are frozen over and the Delaware bay is collecting ice especially around the harbor of safe refuge.  If you remember a few years ago we had ice into March on the water of the Delaware Bay.  In fact the point closed when there was ice the size of small houses floating by and washed up on the beach. When all of these ice flotillas are in one spot it makes the water surface look like it is in broken pieces.

Rehoboth beach March 2015 


freezing spray, buoys covered in ice, delaware, sussex county
Any water spray that hits metal will instantly freeze and build up

The ice is called pancake ice.  Ice will form and then water will push onto the top and freeze.  As it builds the mini iceberg will collect more and more ice.  The part on top of the water looks flat.  Under the water there is layer after layer of ice that has created this giant pancake of ice.  As the pancakes collect in waterways and bays it looks like a huge puzzle of ice pieces.  These are not safe to walk on at all.  If the pancake gets heavy on one side, it will flip or dump what is weighing it down into the water.  Then the pancake(s) will close the gap in the water.  Leaving whatever flipped it trapped underneath.  Do not walk on pancake ice.  In fact do not walk on any ice right now even the ponds are not thick enough.


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Cape May Lewes Ferry on first of January 2018 in Cape May


seal, iri. indian river inlet, sussex county, rehoboth, delaware, ice flow in delaware, delaware bays covered in ice
Seal riding pancake ice near the coast guard station at Indian River Inlet … photo by Bryan Thurman

Now the question is will we have ice into the spring like we did a few years ago in 2015.  The ice off Rehoboth beach when it pushed down with the tides was over a mile wide that year.  The seals we have visit every year love the ice, sometimes they can be seen floating on a piece of pancake ice just relaxing.

Fish On!

Rich King

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