Eerily beautiful circles appear on the Rideau Canal in Ontario

Marta Czurylowicz
·3 min read
Eerily beautiful circles appear on the Rideau Canal in Ontario
Eerily beautiful circles appear on the Rideau Canal in Ontario

In an era of a pandemic, it has become natural for things to be abnormal and that, too, was the case when crop circle-like stencils appeared on the Rideau Canal’s ice surface just days into 2021.

Theories as to what caused the enormous circles emerged on social media, with some pointing to extraterrestrial entities. But the senior manager of the Rideau Canal Skateway says there really is no mystery behind them.

“It doesn't come from outer space for sure,” said Bruce Devine. “It's just the circumstances, the amount of snow, the mild this and whatever. There were so many factors that we ended up with this stencil.”

Devine explained that there are three teams of two that head onto the ice with large pumps.

Rideau Canal/Rideau Canal Skateway
Rideau Canal/Rideau Canal Skateway

Photo: Rideau Canal Skateway.

“Essentially you see three circles. Each circle is from a pumping team. So each team is a team of two people in each circle. So you've got three pumps going at once. We're pumping the water from beneath, obviously, and they circle the pump to water and where you see...at the outskirts...the little arrow pointing out so to speak, this is where the water landed. It's a big pump. It pumps up to 35,000 gallons an hour. It's very strong,” he said.

However, the teams do this every year, multiple times, to help thicken the ice. So, why did these circles only appear this time?

“It's my first time noticing it. Over time the operator tells me it does happen once in a while, but not so clearly,” said Devine. “That day when they did it, it was sort of mild weather, very little snow, a little bit slushy. So all these factors and the way the water dropped, given it wasn't that cold, it created those figures.”

The Rideau Canal Skateway has been open for public skating and activities since the 1970s. It will not change this year, but because of the pandemic, the rules around skating on the ice will.

“This year nobody will be allowed to leave any personal belongings behind them -- their boots, shoes, what not. So they should bring a bag with them to carry them on, to carry with them at all times,” said Devine.

A mask will be required to enter public washrooms.

Janet Stephens/Rideau Canal
Janet Stephens/Rideau Canal

Theories as to what caused the enormous circles emerged on social media, with some pointing to extraterrestrial entities. But the senior manager of the Rideau Canal Skateway says there really is no mystery behind them. Photo: Janet Stephens.

“Also, it is recommended that although the skateway is so large and so long, it can accommodate many people, but there are some very few areas where it's a little bit (narrower) than other spaces so if they feel a bit cramped, they may want to wear their mask.”

Thumbnail courtesy of Janet Stephens.