Dawson City, Yukon sees earliest river breakup on record

It's often a spectacular sight in Dawson City and this year it came earlier than it has in more than a century.

Siren announced Yukon River ice breakup Saturday morning

Joyce Caley of IODE with a clock indicating the exact time the ice broke on Saturday. It's a betting tradition in town, hosted by the local IODE chapter. (Town of Dawson City)

Records continue to be broken, thanks to Yukon's oddly mild winter and early spring.

In Dawson City, they're celebrating the earliest Yukon River breakup in 120 years of record-keeping. The ice broke Saturday at 11:15 a.m.

"When you hear that siren go, half the town rushes down to the river to watch it," said resident Paul Robitaille.

"In the days leading up, it's a hot spot — you see people saying, 'it's going to go soon, it's going to go soon.'"

For many residents, it's not just idle curiosity that keeps them watching. Every year, people bet on the exact date and time when the ice will move.

A tripod is set up on the ice and attached by cable to a clock. When the tripod moves, it stops the clock and records the exact time or breakup. 

This year, Brian Stethem won the $4,340 pot.

The ice typically breaks sometime in early to mid-May. This is only the tenth time since 1896 that it's happened in April. Eight of those April breakups have happened in the last 30 years.

Before this year, the earliest spring breakup on record was Apr. 28, in 1940. The latest breakup was May 28, in 1964.

With files from Midday Cafe