Pass the syrup! These circular slabs—they can range in size from 30 cm to three metres in diameter—are called ice “pancakes.” But they don’t come from a frying pan. In slightly turbulent water, small groups of needle-shaped ice crystals repeatedly bump into each other, creating rounded discs with upturned edges. The mostly-rare phenomenon usually occurs in very cold oceans (think the Baltic Sea), but it’s certainly possible in cottage country—photos from the Cottage Life Photo Contest prove it!—and more common in the Great Lakes.
The beginning of winter is the best time to spot pancake ice. Because eventually, under the right conditions, the pancakes can bind together and form into a sheet; in the early stages of formation, the discs remain slushy and separated. Soggy pancakes? Ew.