Ice is breaking earlier for Norway Pond contest

By ROWAN WILSON

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 02-27-2023 2:55 PM

This is the 11th year that Jane Richards-Jones and Phil Jones have set a replica of the Hancock Meetinghouse out on the ice on Norway Pond to run their annual iceout contest. 

People participate in the contest by purchasing tickets and guessing what month, day and time the cinder block inside of the church will fall through the ice – the structure itself floats. Whoever guesses closest to the actual “iceout” wins a cash prize. 

Hancock resident Marc Spinale has designed a technology system that collects data on the pond and sends a real-time signal back to land. It reads ice temperature and keeps track of seasonal averages. The technology in the church will record the exact minute the cinder block falls through the ice, causing a red flag to be raised. 

“It’s been such an iffy winter,” Richards-Jones said. They were nearly three weeks late getting the church onto the ice because of unsafe ice conditions this season and the temperature has fluctuated greatly during the winter.

Hancock resident Dick Warner has been collecting and compiling data for years, including when ice formed. In the 11 years they’ve run the contest, they’ve noticed clear trends toward fewer days of ice and earlier ice breakage. 

“It’s pretty clear data,” Richards-Jones said. 

In the first five years, the average date of iceout was April 6. In the second five years, the average iceout date was April 2, but that includes iceouts in March the past three years.

“We used to sell tickets until the end of March,” said Richards-Jones. Now, they stop selling tickets on March 15.

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While the contest has provided interesting data about warming winters, it is meant to be a fun game for the community. Richards-Jones said it has also become a tradition in Hancock. 

“What I find most interesting about it is the way the town has really rallied around it,” Richards-Jones said, “We have this unique set of people who have made it very special.” She said it certainly takes a team effort, and is grateful for the community that stands behind the contest and gave special thanks to The Hancock Market, which sells tickets. 

Tickets will be sold at The Hancock Market until March 15. Proceeds are evenly split between Hancock Congregational Church, which will go toward funding maintenance of the Hancock Meetinghouse and vestry, and the cash prize for the winner.

Real-time data on current conditions of the ice under the church can be found at iceout.us.

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