'Winter's over!': Dawson City celebrates Yukon River breakup

People wait for it, and bet on when it will happen. 'There's a different feeling in the air once the river's broken,' said Paul Robitaille of the Klondike Visitors Association.

The ice broke at 10:04 a.m. Wednesday - not too early, not too late

The view from Dawson City on Wednesday. A tripod on the ice is connected by a cable to a clock. When the tripod moves, the clock stops, marking the exact time the ice broke. (Diana McCready)

Winter may have officially ended with the March equinox, but in Dawson City, Yukon, the true end came Wednesday morning, with the breakup of ice on the Yukon River.

"There's a different feeling in the air once the river's broken," said Paul Robitaille of the Klondike Visitors Association. "Not only is it excitement, it's maybe satisfaction that you made it through the winter."

"You can put another feather in your cap — you survived."

The ice broke at 10:04 a.m. The exact date and time is noted and recorded each year with help of a tripod set up on the ice, attached by cable to a clock. When the tripod moves, it stops the clock.

Mayor Wayne Potoroka caught the moment on video and posted it online. When the cable breaks, people can be heard cheering and shouting "winter's over!"

Robitaille says a lot of people in Dawson expected an earlier breakup because the river didn't completely freeze over in certain spots.

"It definitely added to the speculation… but lo and behold, here we are with a normal breakup."

Normal, that is, for the date — May 3 isn't unusually early or late, going by the record books.

Last year's breakup happened on April 23, the earliest date in 120 years of record-keeping. The latest breakup was in 1964, on May 28.

'Not too much zip to it'

Joyce Caley of the Dawson IODE, however, found this year's much-anticipated breakup sort of anti-climactic.

Joyce Caley and Diana McCready hold the official clock that recorded the time of breakup - 10:04 a.m. (Submitted by Claus Vogel)

Some years it happens quickly, with massive chunks of ice quickly washed down river.

Not this time.

"It's been a really weird year, and the breakup was a little bit weird too, because of its lack of… drama," she said.

"The chunks of ice and whatnot moving rather slow... not too much zip to it."

The IODE runs the annual contest to guess the exact date and time of breakup, with 4,999 people paying a two dollar entry fee this year to make a guess.

The winner — 6-year-old Hannah Ryder of Whitehorse — was just a minute off, guessing 10:05 a.m.

She'll win the jackpot of more than $4,000, meaning she had lots to celebrate on Wednesday — it was also her birthday.


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