WESTBROOK — A world famous ice disk is spinning again thanks to a Freeport photographer who used a paddleboard, an ice pick and an adventurous spirit Thursday afternoon to free the giant chunk of ice that had become frozen to the bank of the Presumpscot River.

Andrew Sims said he felt compelled to free the disk after it became stuck Wednesday and disappointed dozens of onlookers who had come to the city’s River Walk to see it. He also saw an opportunity to do some time-lapse photography.

Westbrook’s ice disk has drawn international media attention while fueling jokes about a supernatural omen or alien invasion.

The disk has been covered by the BBC, ABC’s “Good Morning America” and The New York Times, among other news outlets. It also has been a boon to businesses in the area – one bar was serving a cocktail it called the “Ice Disk Cosmo” – catering to the people who have come from far and wide to witness an unusual natural phenomenon.

Adding to the sensation, two more ice disks were reported in Maine on Thursday. One was in Baxter State Park on the Nesowadnehunk Stream and the other was nearby on the West Branch of the Penobscot River near the Abol Bridge.

But the ice disk in Westbrook is much larger. Seen from above, it is an almost perfectly symmetrical circle of ice about 300 feet across that vaguely resembles a moon.


The disk had been surrounded by open water since at least Monday and was slowly spinning counterclockwise until Wednesday, when it lodged against stationary ice near the riverbank.

Sims had visited Westbrook on Wednesday and was disappointed the disk had stopped turning. An experienced paddleboarder, he returned Thursday determined to see if he could get it spinning again. Launching his paddleboard into the river at around 2:30 p.m., he kneeled on it while he began cutting around the edge using an ice pick and his own weight to break the ice where it was attached to the bank.

By 4:30 p.m., the disk was floating free and again slowly spinning counterclockwise. Based on his time-lapse photos, Sims estimates it was taking about three minutes for the disk to complete one revolution.

Sims, interviewed Thursday night while standing on the top level of a parking garage overlooking the Presumpscot, said a crowd of onlookers started applauding when they realized he had freed the disk.

“It’s awesome,” Sims said. “I was pretty excited.”

Watching the mission unfold was Doug Bertlesman, who had a view from his riverfront office at Ethos Marketing. Coworkers crowded around the window to watch. Some thought it was a fool’s errand.


“We were like, ‘This is insane. There was no way he’s going to be able to do this.’ He came at it from two sides and cut it loose. And then he pushed it, he pushed it across the river back to where it was. We’re just laughing. There is no way. What an idiot. And sure enough.”

With temperatures expected to remain well below freezing, Bertlesman suggested the city hire someone to “keep things moving.”

“You can imagine the posting,” Bertlesman said. “Must be good in a kayak and be able to withstand cold temperatures.”

A day earlier, Westbrook police dissuaded a man from attempting to climb onto the famous slab of frozen river water. Officers responded to the end of Ash Street for a report that a man had tethered himself to a tree with a rope and ventured onto the river ice in an apparent attempt to reach the disk.

The attempt was partially captured on video from a nearby office building. The video shows five people standing on the shore as a sixth, trailing a rope, walks toward the edge of the ice disk and pokes at the sheet of ice below him with a stick or cane.

The video ends before the man reaches the disk, and before police arrived to end the expedition.


People gather to watch the ice disk after it began rotating again on Thursday. The natural phenomenon has been a boon for businesses in Westbrook, where one bar has named a cocktail the “Ice Disk Cosmo.”

“This is something that happens,” said police Capt. Steven Goldberg. “We don’t always have an ice disk on the river, but we always get ice and people try to get out onto the ice, and it’s never safe. The ice on the Presumpscot River in Westbrook is never thick enough to go on.”

Police did not have any reason to compel the man to tell them who he was, and he did not volunteer his identity.

“People are strange sometimes with their motivation,” Goldberg said. “He left the scene, he was safe. It could have been a lot worse, and luckily it wasn’t.”

Dozens of people lined the riverbank late Thursday afternoon. Most were content to take photographs of the disk with their cellphones or to stand back and admire Mother Nature’s work. Nearby restaurants and bars were packed with customers.

“It looks like the moon,” said Hunter McGuire, who drove with her mother, Heather McGuire, and their dog Jade – a black poodle – more than an hour from their home in Readfield just to see the disk. The McGuires, who recently moved to Maine from Florida, had never visited Westbrook before.

“We had to see this phenomenon because we’ll never see anything like it again,” Heather McGuire said.


Betty and Terry Phillips live in Bridgton. They had an appointment Thursday morning in Augusta and then decided to drive to Westbrook to see the ice disk they had heard about on television. The couple said the long drive was worth the trip.

“I am so pleased,” Betty Phillips said. “It’s fascinating and it is awesome.”

Legends Restaurant and Taproom, located a few feet from the river path, was doing a booming business Thursday evening.

Bartender Chyle Cameron said the establishment saw an opportunity to capitalize on the ice disk craze and earlier this week it started serving up Ice Disk Cosmo, a mix of raspberry vodka, Chamboard, a raspberry liqueur, and lime.

“It has been flying today,” Cameron said of the cocktail.

Ice disks are natural phenomenon that form in rivers and streams, and range greatly in size. They are believed to be almost perfectly round because the shoreline or other ice formations grind down the edges after it begins to rotate in an eddy current.


One study that explored why the disks spin theorized that a vortex of cooling water under the ice helps propel the motion, but that experiment used tiny, 4-inch disks in artificially heated water baths as hot as 140 degrees.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:


Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:


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