The moment fans of Westbrook’s world famous ice disk have been waiting for is here: The disk appears to be reforming.

Westbrook officials shared a photo Tuesday on Facebook of a thin disk of ice floating on the blue water of the Presumpscot River.

Back in January 2019, a previous ice disk captured worldwide attention during a two-week spin in the river. That disk was about 100 yards wide and rotated counterclockwise on the surface of the river. Its presence drew crowds of people to the city. At one point, a New Jersey man with a history of staging public stunts caused outrage when he carved a peace sign into the disk. 

The phenomenon is believed to result from a combination of current and a vortex beneath the ice, the result of a column of cold water sinking to the bottom of the river at the center of the circle. As the ice sheets spin, they are shaped by the surrounding ice into perfectly symmetrical circles. Ice disks rarely spin in high-profile locations like downtown Westbrook, and they usually aren’t so large.

The 2019 disk-peepers were a boon for Westbrook businesses during the slow winter season. Local businesses served up coffee, meals and special cocktails to people who drove hundreds of miles to see the natural phenomenon. The Westbrook House of Pizza created an Ice Disk pizza with Alfredo sauce, while Roots Cafe baked up a special cupcake topped with a sugar cookie disk and white buttercream frosting. Disk-peepers sipped on Ice Disk cosmos at Legends Rest Taproom and floating lime disk margaritas at Fajita Grill.

Lisa Willey and Bob Critchfield of Casco take in the view of the Westbrook ice disk Tuesday from atop a parking garage. The couple learned of the disk’s reformation from a friend and said they were in the car 10 minutes later to see it for themselves and take photos. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The disk attracted worldwide media attention with reports by the BBC, U.S. television networks, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post and The New York Times, among others.

The 2019 ice disk stopped turning when the air temperature dipped into the single digits and it stuck to surrounding ice. The disk shrank as warmer temperatures and rain arrived. A webcam mounted on a nearby building at the request of Brown University allowed researchers to document the ice disk in its dormant state.

Rotating ice disks have been reported in the U.S. since at least 1895, when Scientific American published a short submission from a Bedford, New York, man who spotted a disk lazily turning in the Mianus River near that town. Spinning disks of varying size appear periodically during winter months in colder climates in North America and Europe, and have been the subject of speculation for years, appearing in rivers and streams but never lakes or ponds.


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