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Red ice mystery on Jackfish Lake
Power corp says it's not from a fuel spill

Candace Thomson
Northern News Services
Published Friday, May 24, 2013

The red tinge between the cracks in the ice on Jackfish Lake isn't from a fuel spill, says Brendan Bell, chair of the NWT Power Corporation.

Bell stated in an e-mail that power corp. has no knowledge of the material and has "no reason to believe the Jackfish generating plant is the source."

He added that the plant does not use a fluid of that colour in its diesel engines or fuels and suggested the redness might be a "naturally occurring organic substance." Most of the ice on the lake was gone when Yellowknifer went to have a look Thursday.

Yellowknife naturalist and author Jamie Bastedo said he hadn't seen the phenomenon on the lake, but suggested it might be a specific type of cold-thriving algae often called watermelon snow, or blood snow.

According to an article on, watermelon snow is a form of snow algae that is normally green, but has a red secondary pigment. The red colouring absorbs heat for the algae and protects it from both visible and ultraviolet radiation. Unlike most green algae, the snow algae thrives in cold temperatures. It lies dormant in the winter months and, once the snow and ice begins to melt in the spring, the increased heat, light and nutrients in the environment cause the algae to become active.

The article also states that snow algae can sometimes carry the scent of watermelon but it's not necessarily safe to eat as it can be contaminated with bacteria and toxins.

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