Wednesday, December 7, 2016

SearchResearch Challenge (12/7/16): Finding a story? Could it happen like that?

One of the most common things a librarian gets asked... 

... is a question of the form:  "Can you find this story (that I barely remember) for me?"  

We've even talked before about how hard this task is.  Perhaps this is why people keep coming to librarians and asking these questions.  They really want to find that story again, and they can't figure out how to do it.  

But we've also talked about some research methods for finding lost stories.  

This week, the story is personal:  Now *I* want to find a story, but I'm having trouble finding it.  (Details below).   Can you help out?  

Naturally, I also want to know if this story could be true as well.  Here are the details for the story SearchResearch Challenge for this week: 

I remember reading a short story (that I believe was written sometime in the past few years) about a couple who are hiking across a frozen landscape in winter.  One of them (I think it's the man), falls through the ice as he's crossing a frozen lake and disappears.
The woman thinks he's fallen into the icy water and drowned, but when she goes to check, it turns out that he's actually fallen into the space beneath the ice that has no water in it. He's alive and well, walking around on the floor of the lake.  That is, the lake is somehow empty, but the shell of the ice has remained, and he broke through that. 
They stay for a while in this magical place beneath the lake ice that is somewhat warm and in some way has mysterious flashes of light. 

That's the story as I recall it. As they traverse the snowy landscape, they visit this remarkable place beneath the surface of the lake.  

Really? Is such a thing even possible?  


1.  Can you find this short story for me?  What's the title?  Who's the author? 
2.  Can this empty space beneath the lake ice REALLY happen like this?  (That is, is it true that the water of the lake can freeze over, then somehow the water can drain away, leaving this empty space?)  
3. This empty-space-beneath-the-lake-ice must have a name--this is such a strange phenomena (if real) that is would be called something.  What's that term?  (It's probably not the sub-aquatic-post-freezing-space!)  

Good luck with this.  (I believe finding the story will be straightforward, but finding out if this sub-ice space is real will be a bit more tricky.) 

Be sure to tell us HOW you find the answer. (IF it exists.  Remember that stories are often mis-remembered, or the details of the story get confused over the passage of time.)  

Search on! 


  1. Hi there,

    Here is my search path

  2. Good day, Dr. Russell and everyone.

    I remember reading one of your posts telling us about this story. And yes, that is awesome. It is something that in that moment tried to search and find without success. Hopefully I will get answers
    this time

    [walking around iced lake story]

    congelation ice video

    [air space between frozen lake ]

    Why is it that water freezes on the surface of a lake but not below it?

    [ frozen lake intext:"no water" ]

    [frozen lake no water on it short story]

    Short Story Theories: A Twenty-First-Century Perspective: Book

    Then decided to check with your profiles and found confirmation about the story

    [Hermits story explanation]

    Author said in his contributor’s note that as soon as he heard about a frozen lake with no water in it

    [Rick Bass lake no water]

    Gray Owl reaches up and helps her in. He explains that the lake froze over and then drained.

    1. Can you find this short story for me? What's the title? Who's the author?

    Answer "The Hermit's Story." by Rick Bass

    1. [frozen lake rick bass is real] Good article from Chicago Tribune. "The dry lake was only about eight feet deep"

      [define trope] because read that in previously posted link in books was mentioned.

      Trope: a figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression.

      What is a trope, and how does it differ from a metaphor?

      [Lakes drains freezing]

      It has been suggested that lakes can have one of three fates: sudden drainage to the ice bed, slower supraglacial drainage through incision of a drainage channel, or freezing at the end of the melt season.

      [Lakes drains freezing around(4) "Rick Bass"]

      [Lakes drains freezing around(4) "Hermit's story"]

      [define supraglacial lake drainage]

      [supraglacial lake drainage]

      Researchers shed new light on supraglacial lake drainage

      roughly 13 percent of lakes drain in less than one day, sometimes in a matter of hours.

    2. I thought asking USGS, however they said I tell them later what we (I) find SearchResearching. So now thinking new possible ways to find answer. Also thinking when Rick Bass heard for the first time about those lakes, or something like that. I think that could give us answers. Book is fiction and if he listened something similar then it's possible there is.

      Fred's answer is a great one.

  3. 1. I started with this search string [frozen lake waterless "short fiction"] and the first hit was a book/story by Rick Bass called The Hermit's Story on Goodreads. The book is actually a collection of short stories with the title coming from the name of the first story. There is a one sentence synopsis: "In the title story, a man and a woman travel across an eerily frozen lake—under the ice." Oooooh, this looks good. I did a search for The Hermit's Story. The first hit is a summary from enotes ( Reading the summary and this seems to match up with what you are talking about.

    Searching for answers to 2 and 3.

  4. 1.) [fall through ice story no water], [fall through ice "short story" no water], [fall through ice no water], [no water under ice], [no water under ice lake], [ice story hole no water] Quite a few different combinations, some wiki pages, Vostok Lake appeared several times as did how lakes freeze. The last search yielded:

    Rick Bass’s “The Hermit’s Story"

    2-3.) Still searching, but it doesn't look promising.

  5. I found the story the same as others - searching on short story falls through ice "empty lake" and came upon the New York Times review of the collection of short stories that contains the Hermits Story.

    There was a phrase in the review that was evocative and I used that to search - lake froze over then drained.

    I found a lake that is drained by a lava tube (and they don't have confirmation about what happens when the lake is frozen over)

    And there are also glacier lakes that can drain through the ice bed -

  6. I Searched for ages but got nowhere. Well done all you succesful susser-outers. jon tU

  7. …missing my initial post, but thought I'd toss this out, given that Rick Bass was a petroleum geologist before becoming a full time writer,
    maybe he was aware of this phenomena…?
    Meringue ice – types of ice:
    ice glossary
    "Dry shell ice: Has air underneath after the water drained away."
    Shell Ice detail
    " Dry shell ice forms when the water drains away before the skin freezes all the way through. The dry shell is often held up with a network of thin crystals that form as the water drains. It often lasts until the next thaw. "
    about Lake Ice - for recreational purposes
    from the glossary -
    "Soufflé Shell Ice1: Occasionally a deep puddle drains in cold conditions creating an area (some times a large area) of rather strange ice. It is typically made up a 1/8" crust over several inches of a fragile matrix of ice flakes that holds up the crust. Click here for more on this relatively uncommon form of shell ice. A friend suggested the name and it fits fits better than anything else we came up with."
    Newfoundland - Soufflé Shell Ice

    1. Re: missing posts -- I THINK I found it, but I want to figure out what's going on. Can you DM me at so we can try to debug it?


    2. Dan, here are the 2) 'missing posts' – from the 7th & yesterday, the 8th… maybe they became mercury saturated…? thanks
      used [story about a couple under a frozen lake], 3rd result…
      originally published 14 years ago –
      …wonder how the six German shorthair pointers and snipes eluded your memory?…
      Cal State Long Beach Prof. - check the comments for 'hermit' identity speculation
      if only Gray Owl had an iPhone…
      R. Bass
      @ MSU
      @ Dartmouth
      mention in NYT
      Chicago Tribune
      Subglacial lakes

      …meanwhile, naming on Mercury… wha…??
      Bach on ☿

      btw — the number I saw 600, of Bilious Pills … by my rough calculations, they were able to poison themselves for less than a penny a dose (.0083¢)
      bilious SERP - popular term in the early 1800s
      list of medical supplies (600) 50 doz. Bilious Pills to Order of Dr. Rush .10 5.00
      a bit hard to read, but worth it…
      ND, Rush's Pills
      the only verified campsite - "Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960"
      the appropriate ear accompaniment -
      audio for Dr. Rush's malady curatives
      if the affliction doesn't kill you, the cure will…
      appears they had laudanum with them too…

  8. Gray Owl could have just stayed in his house with this ice type…
    ice tsunami
    sometimes the ice leaves the lake - the sound — some profanity… call Ice Busters
    methane has been associated with the Bermuda Triangle too…
    see Methane hydrates:

    1. Hi Remmij!

      Hope your first post appears. I am sure Dr. Russell will track it and post it.

      Thanks for the links with the information and the videos. Soufflé Shell Ice sounds like the term we are looking up. Or at least all those ice terms are new for me.

      I am thinking maybe Rick Bass took the idea from body of water not necessarily a lake. I'll check on that.

  9. Deb and Anne here - as librarians we see this type of question asked all the time on our library listservs. A librarian will post that someone is looking for a book that... and then describe the scenario. Usually it won't take long and someone will respond with the right answer. Interestingly we haven't been asked this type of question (we get the can't remember the book but the cover is red,blue, green etc. - that is usually pretty easy for us to find). We didn't go to our listserv but tried our luck on Google. Started by searching short story ice lake short no water and got several results but none sounded right. Tried a few more variations and was beginning to think we were going to have to go to our listservs but then tried short short story frozen lake no water in it and bingo the answer appeared. It is funny because just changing the search terms slightly brought many of the same results but the first two didn't appear in our earlier searches and those results led to the right answer - The Hermit's Story by Rick Bass. The answer appeared in Reading the Short Story blog and in the next result Short Story Theories: A Twenty-First-Century Perspective. Both of these sources say that Rick Bass was inspired to write his story when he heard about a lake with ice on top where the water below had percolated out so it appears that this phenomena is true but will search more.

  10. This reminds me of the search challenge last year where Dan discussed having too much detail that is remembered incorrectly.

    As a librarian, I get this query all the time. Sometimes it's difficult not to respond like this but I usually resist.

    The secret to a search for resources with scant (or incorrect) details is to use a combination of key word and subject headings- the latter being a controlled vocabulary that employs generalizations. Assuming Dan’s memory to be faulty (although it was actually quite good) I searched Trove (the Australian equivalent of the Library of Congress) using the subject heading “Short stories -- English -- United States” and the key words “frozen lake”. The only hit was a collection of short stories by Rick Bass. (I guessed that the author was probably either from the USA or Canada given the subject matter and Dan’s nationality).

    The summary for this book says “In the title story, a man and a woman travel across an eerily frozen lake - under the ice”… from this I deduced that the book is “The Hermit’s Story, by Rick Bass.

    For the second part of the challenge, is it possible?, my first thoughts (as a chemist in an earlier career) were of carbon dioxide or methane gas lenses that can form under frozen lakes- but this would make it difficult to survive as both of these gases would lead to suffocation.

    At this point I was very doubtful, but to ascertain the author’s credibility I used the search terms "rick Bass" biography. His Wikipedia page indicated that he was a geologist with an oil copmany, so I was confident that he was speaking with some authority, but perhaps the solution was a geological rather than a gas equilibrium reason. However, I went down a few blind alleys in trying to verify his claim. The answer was revealed with a Google search <>. The first hit indicates that a skin of ice forms on top and then the lake empties. This make sense if in winter, the water table drops because of the lack of liquid precipitation- so it is possible.

    For the third part, I focused on how it may have formed to name the process: a google search <> suggested a name for the process called ‘frost heave’. Another search <"frost heave" lakes> found this article. I noted that the research was sponsored by an oil company- which may be how Bass knew of this phenomenon. However, I noted that the research claims a maximum heave of 30 cm and there is a discussion of the moist sediment beneath, so his claim of walking around under the lake is probably not accurate.

    I'm not sure that this is the term to describe this phenomenon, but it is the closest I could find. Another thought might that it could be some form of isostasy, but need to do more searching. If there is a term for the dropping of a water table in the manner described, I was unable to find it.

  11. Replies
    1. the view from 1566…
      speaking of Librarians…
      preservation @ Skokloster castle
      "The bizarre works of Arcimboldo, especially his multiple images, were rediscovered in the early 20th century by Surrealist artists like Salvador Dalí. The exhibition entitled “The Arcimboldo Effect” at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice (1987) included numerous 'double meaning' paintings. "

  12. it is fiction… the ambiguity as to the hard reality lends it an interpretive air (and blue light) that renders the confirming "details" unnecessary & extraneous for Bass's tale…
    perhaps Archie was the model for Ann's companion?… himself a fiction of sorts.
    …no ice to be seen, but did run across A Grey Owl feeding a jelly roll to a beaver in 1931 — that's almost as magical… (he was in Saskatchewan)
    going to Grey Owl's cabin…
    a real hermit's story
    a sampling of other paths

    Ajawaan Lake
    no shortage of lakes aboot - on the edge of the familiar Canadian Shield - & folks still screen staring… heyzeus mistos - at least they got the psphere…
    G.O's cabin
    click to read the plaque
    another pilgrimage with pics
    & another
    a different Jelly Roll
    the wiki on Grey Owl
    Archie Belaney, aka "Grey Owl"
    duck, not a snipe
    down south, to ice or not to ice…

    see Lake Vanda
    blood falls

    water/ice under land
    a bit off topic, but another example of an irrepressible spirit… well worth the look/listen
    light & darkness & truth detection
    the trial

  13. Interestingly enough, a day after you posted this, I had a teacher (I'm a high school librarian) come in and start talking about a book he loved but couldn't remember the name of or the author. Just a pretty loose synopsis of the story. Having this challenge fresh in my brain, I set out searching and lo and behold, found what he was looking for.

    It is all about that real world application!

  14. 1)[breaks through the ice "dry lake" +"short story"] => The Hermit’s Story by Rick Bass
    I read the description of this space in the story and tried to match it with the definition below.

    2)I started with the query “Lake Ice”
    o Then I read through the glossary until I found “Shell ice” and it’s subcategory which means “Shell Ice: Traditionally it is an ice skim that formed on a reasonably shallow puddle on the ice. Wet shell ice looks like black ice making it hard to spot. It is a hazard to skaters and sailors. Dry shell ice is white as the puddle has drained away before it froze to full depth. It is much easier to spot and less of a hazard. Fully refrozen wet shell ice is T3 ice.
    Soufflé Shell Ice1: Occasionally a deep puddle drains in cold conditions creating an area (some times a large area) of rather strange ice. It is typically made up a 1/8" crust over several inches of a fragile matrix of ice flakes that holds up the crust.”

    3) When I searched for other related websites, very little comes up; some references to planets and space. I searched for top geological and earth science universities then used the “Shell ice” OR “Souffle Shell Ice” site: [university].edu but haven’t found confirmation yet.

  15. was the "The plot: A king lives in a castle at the edge of a bottomless cliff. The taxes are too high, so there's a revolution and they kick him out. The king hints that there's a reason for those taxes, and the last scene has him riding away from the cliff as fast as he can go." fleeing fear source ever found, revealed, recovered?

    regarding Bass's storyline underpinnings:
    this might help explain the breed selection & the construct of a trainer…
    Colter (Heidi, Scout & Greta know the feeling)
    3 outta frame
    a sample

  16. did run across this old pic of Rick, Grey Owl, pups & hole… emerging… at least as I imagined it.
    would this be "fake lake info"? like the WP/NYT, wouldn't print any fake news unless it was verified as true… wha?
    lake hole, near shore

    1. posted this yesterday – will try again:
      regarding Bass's storyline underpinnings:
      this might help explain the breed selection & the construct of a trainer…
      Colter (Heidi, Scout & Greta know the feeling)
      3 outta frame
      a sample

  17. 1) [breaks through the ice "dry lake" +"short story"] => The Hermit’s Story by Rick Bass

    2) I started with the query “Lake Ice”
    o Then read through the glossary until I found “Shell ice” and it’s subcategory which means “Sometimes when these deep puddles drain in cold conditions they can create a relatively unusual form of shell ice we have named 'soufflé shell ice'. This form of shell ice often is 6" to over a foot thick and typically has a crust on top and a supporting matrix of ice flakes underneath. The crust often partially collapses making a very irregular surface. Soufflé shell created a bit of a mystery in Newfoundland last winter.”

    3) When I search for other related websites, very little comes up; some references to planets and space. I searched for top geological and earth science universities then used the “Shell ice” OR “Souffle Shell Ice” site: [university].edu but haven’t found confirmation yet.

  18. Kindly accept my apologies for attempting only the second part of the challenge. After an hour's search I'm exhausted and have little energy.

    As you may suspect, I start with a simple search Google. The keywords are: "lake" "surface" "frozen" "water" "drained".

    That leads me to a Gizmodo article and a Nature study on Greenland’s subglacial lakes that empty and then fill up with meltwater.


    The laws governing this system are still a mystery. I spend the next few minutes (sorry for not noting down this part) looking for geological studies and articles on subglacial lakes.

    Something strikes my mind and I look up these keywords on Google: "large" "subglacial" "air-filled" –boreholes.

    That leads me to two studies.

    Pardon moi, monsieur, for not reading those studies thoroughly.  After a CTRL+F I read the paragraphs containing the word “air-filled.”

    The writers of those papers hypothesise the existence of “air-filled spaces” between ground or water and ice sheets.

    Their rationale is rather straightforward.

    We know that subglacial lakes drain and are refilled at regular intervals. (The first two links). Unless we are ready to invoke para-physical phenomena, we will have to stick with the everyday notion that water needs empty space to move between lakes. It means “air-filled spaces” should exist beneath ice sheets.

    The spaces can cavities or tunnels and may vary much in size.

    Those were my two cents.