Monday, February 19, 2007

Spider and Ice

A thin layer of ice covered the lake, so I walked out on my dock and, just for fun, rocked it back and forth, heaving the water in waves across the cove and breaking the ice into thin, transparent chunks. I picked some of them out of the water with my bare hands and flung them across the ice where they shattered in a thousand pieces.

The next day I thought I'd do the same thing only the ice was much thicker. We'd had a bitter cold night. From the dock, I noticed what I thought was a piece of lake weed suspended in the ice. As I examined it, I realized it was, in fact, a spider. And the spider seemed to be located underneath a broken slab of ice that somehow had slid under the existing ice in yesterday’s forceful rocking.

I thought it might be interesting to remove the spider, so I began to knock a hole in the ice with a stick. As soon as I did the spider moved. This shocked me. I guessed the spider to be frozen in the ice. Instead, it walked upside down along the bottom of the ice, at first away from the vibration, and then toward the hole and to its freedom.

I looked closely at the spider while it remained under the ice. Its body was translucent and fairly sizeable, and it seemed to have many tiny air bubbles trapped in its legs and abdomen. I figured that the spider had stayed alive using this trapped air.

I continued knocking around the spider and finally brought out a chuck of ice with the spider clinging to the underside of it. Immediately its body color darkened, then very slowly this furry, one-and-a-half inch hunting spider began to crawl toward the underside of the dock from where it must have dislodged the day before.

What a will to survive! It had spent nearly 16 hours upside down under ice.