Go Back Report # 1246

01-15-1991   *** ICE CIRCLES***



BY Paul Rosenfield


     During the afternoon and evening of January 11, 1991, Waltham, MA received several inches of snow. This turned out to be the only major snowfall in this area that winter. From early to mid-January the weather was cold, with temperatures around freezing during the day and getting well below freezing at night. Because of the storm, I decided to put off my regular jogging routine for awhile. On January 15th, I started running again, choosing to run through the Mount Feake Cemetery, which is about a mile from where I live. The snow had a hard layer of ice on top, and some of the roads were still quite icy.

     Alongside the cemetery lies the Charles River. At about a mile and a half into my run, I noticed on the river off to my right an unusual circular formation in the ice. The circle was located about 40 feet out from the river bank, and I estimated the impression to be around 20 feet in diameter. The impression had a roughly circular mark in the center, a ring going around that, and a concentric ring on the outside of that.

     I couldn't figure out what had happened, but the impression looked to me to be melted ice, or water that did not freeze at all. There were no footprints, tracks or any sign of activity near the circle, which resembled some of the crop forma­tions found in England. I went home to get my camera and returned to shoot several pictures of it. Some parts of the river were quite solid, but other areas hadn't frozen at all. I questioned the safety of the ice in that area so I didn't take any pictures from the river.

     I didn't know who to ask about something like this, so I started first by showing the pictures to people I knew in order to get their opinions. They had not seen anything like this before, but a few thought it could have been created by a pipeline underneath the water. At that point I spoke with a woman from the Massachusetts Water Resource Association and explained to her the exact area in question, making sure she knew where I was talking about by using landmarks and so forth. I was told that there are no pipelines under the water in the area, and that if there were, they would be located 5 to 10 feet below the riverbed.

     After a couple of unsuccessful attempts at getting scien­tists to look at the photos, I found one who was quite willing to meet with me. Dr. Jerome P. Carr, Ph.D., who "wears many hats, is a geophysicist, limnologist, oceanographer and a geologist, with other titles to his credit as well. After viewing a few of the pictures, Dr. Carr had first thought it might have been caused by a small part of an airplane that fell into the river. But he decided it probably was not because the flat bot­tom part of an airplane or wing would tumble down too slowly to make an impression like that, and he felt that a heavy piece falling from an aircraft would not likely occur.

     Dr. Carr believes that a meteorite may have been involved. He feels that such an object, about the size of a baseball or softball, traveling at a high rate of speed, may have hit the water, breaking through a thin layer of ice that had formed on top of the water. The circle effect, he explains, could have been the result of the action of two sets of waves: A surface wave when the object hit the water, then a compressional wave which was formed when the piece of meteorite hit the river bottom. He thought that the meteorite would have to have hit the water at about a 90-degree angle and that the snowfall of January 11th would probably have come after that happened. He believes that if a meteorite had landed in the river, two waves would develop, which would break through the ice on the surface of the river, and the snow would never have ac­cumulated on the rings of water from the result of that happening.           

     I inquired about this possibility, speaking with a couple of people who are knowledgeable on the subject of meteorites. One person I spoke with is from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the other is an author of a book on planetary geology. I was told that there were no fireballs reported in January of 1991, and was sent some information on meteorites. It said, in part, that "statistics over the last century indicate that about 550 meteorites fall on the earth each year and that most of them fall into the ocean or in remote areas where they are unlikely to be ob­served. Only about 75 of them fall in areas where they might be collected, and only about 5 or 6 per year are recovered."

     It is Dr. Carr's belief that a meteorite has the velocity needed to create the two distinct sets of waves. A rock tossed into the water, he says, would not have had such an impact because it wouldn't have the same velocity as a falling meteorite. I asked him whether the ordinary rippling effect of water, from a thrown rock hitting on the surface alone, could produce that pattern. He said it would not because there would be no reason for one area to be more damaged (on the surface) than another. In other words, it fails to explain his theory for the two distinct wave patterns.

     Further reading of the information sent to me on meteorites differs from Dr. Carr's opinion in saying that "the energy resulting from the high velocity of entry into the atmosphere is dissipated within a few seconds and the body then falls freely and comparatively slowly to the ground. Meteorites striking the ground may excavate small cavities, but most meteorites are found practically sitting on the surface of unconsolidated soil or snow." I am told that its fall would be slowed even further by the water, (which I was told by a diver later on to be about 12 to 14 feet deep), and it would likely end up sitting on the riverbed.    

     On March 5th, with the weather warming up, I spoke with the Police Chief of the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) regarding permission to send divers into the water. Explaining why I wanted to do this, I was told that the MDC Police Underwater Search Division were going to be having divers in the area tomorrow recovering a small sunken boat and that maybe they would check it out for me.

     I met with them the following day, showed them one of the pictures, told them the story, and we went to that area. They felt it was a pretty strange thing for them to be doing, but they had some extra time so they would do it. One diver went in after I had gone over with him a couple of things about the appearance of meteorites. Basically, I pretty much told him to just look for unusual rocks. He covered the spot where the circle was located and also included an area 15 to 20 feet surrounding the circle. After 20 minutes, the diver surfaced carrying two ordinary looking rocks. These rocks looked normal to me and were later confirmed by Walter Webb as not being meteorites. The diver said that the visibility under the water was good, the bottom was smooth, and there were not many rocks down there. These rocks could have been picked up from anywhere within the fairly wide area he searched.          

     A couple of the people I spoke with on meteorites said that a meteorite probably would not move from where it landed unless perhaps there was a strong current, which there is none. The two rocks that were found are not the type of rock that one would normally think of picking up and throwing, but that aside, I have my own reasons to question whether the impression was created by a rock.

     A rock, if it were thrown, would have to have been the size of a baseball or softball. But when the snow melted on the cemetery side of the river, not only could I not find any big rocks on the ground, but one would be hard-pressed to locate any small ones either. If someone had wanted to toss a rock into the water from the other side of the river, they would have had some difficulty. Given the required size and weight, it is very unlikely that this is what happened. The impres­sion is closest to the cemetery side, which means that any prankster on the far bank would face a much farther toss, one that would have to be high enough in the air so as to hit the surface of the water at a 90-degree angle. That would be very difficult indeed with a rock of the suggested size and weight. Also, if the circle was created after the eight-inch snowfall rather than before, as Dr. Carr theorizes, then any rocks on the ground would have been covered over. Something else that is probably worth noting is that there are no tree branches that overhang the river in that area.

     I spoke with some of the people who work in the cemetery, starting with a woman who works in the office. I showed her a picture of the circle and asked if she knew anything about it. She hadn't seen it, nor did she have any personal information about it. But she did seem to recall a couple of people who were ice fishing in the area had mentioned seeing the circle.

     I also showed the picture to some of the cemetery workers, who said they had not seen it themselves, but one of the workers mentioned it having been seen by a couple of people taking a walk in the area at the time. One of the workers said that there are underwater springs in the area. That possible explanation was suggested by a few people, one of them being an anthropologist, who I was told might be able to offer some insight into the matter. The anthropologist also speculated that it might be a pipeline or a whirlpool. Dr. Carr didn't like any of those explanations, saying that in the case of a pipeline the surface current would have made the circular impression very unlikely. He said it was not a whirlpool because the whole area would be melted away, not just irregular melting in certain spots. The underwater spring theory was discounted by him as well because the warm water from the spring below would be too dense to rise up through the cold water near the surface. (Note: More recently Dr. Carr has suggested the possibility that the ice circles could be connected to some sort of electromagnetic effect, perhaps something similar to what could be causing the British crop circles.)

     My next idea was to pay a visit to the house that sits right across the river, thinking perhaps they might have some knowledge of it. I rang the doorbell and a very elderly woman opened the door. With her admittedly poor eyesight she looked at the greatly enlarged photograph. She wasn't aware of the ice circle, but said she had been living there for 40 years and was certain it was caused by the wind. I thought to myself, "the wind?" She said, "have you seen the way the wind blows the surface of the water?" She handed the picture back to me, started laughing and said, "you people ... that's the biggest laugh I've had all day."

     That part of the river froze a couple of more times during the winter, but nothing out of the ordinary was noticed.


Reference for the above text is: MUFON UFO Journal, No. 288, April 1992, pp. 12-13 by Paul Rosenfield, a field investigator with Massachusetts MUFON, who lives in Waltham. The names of those he interviewed for this article are on file.



UFOCAT URN NONE     MUFON UFO Journal, No. 288, April 1992, pp. 12-13 by Paul Rosenfield

UFOCAT URN 113833 Computer Catalog of UFO Reports 1988-94 by Paul Ferrughelli, # 1178, 1992


North America United States, Massachusetts, Middlesex

Waltham         Latitude 42-22-35 N, Longitude 071-14-08 W (D-M-S)

Mount Feake   Latitude 42-21-55 N, Longitude 071-14-53 W [cemetery]

Charles River   Latitude 42-22-15 N, Longitude 071-02-58 W [Suffolk]

Reference: http://geonames.usgs.gov/pls/gnispublic/f?p=139:1:584016604572706

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