The Diane A., left, and the Janet M. sit in the ice at ice at Medomak Town Landing on Jan. 30, 1971. The picture was made by Everett L. "Red" Boutilier. Credit: Courtesy of the Penobscot Marine Museum

We sure don’t have winters like we used to, they say. Which is true.

Bangor’s average December temperature was 30.9 degrees Fahrenheit in 2022, which is 5 degrees above normal. In fact, December temperatures since 1970 have warmed by 5.2 degrees overall.

As for the rest of Maine, according to the 2020 Maine’s Climate Future report published by the University of Maine, winter is our fastest-warming season. That means more precipitation is falling as rain instead of snow, as has been seen Sunday into Monday in the Bangor area and beyond. The statewide average annual snowfall is estimated to have decreased by about 17 percent over the past century — which is bad news for Maine’s $600 million snowmobile industry and other winter-dependent businesses.

Bert Davis, a Belfast shop owner, stands on the ice at Steele's Ledge, near a navigational aid on the eastern side of Belfast Bay in 1905.
Bert Davis, a Belfast shop owner, stands on the ice at Steele’s Ledge, near a navigational aid on the eastern side of Belfast Bay in 1905. The photo was made by the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Co. for use as a postcard. Credit: Courtesy of the Penobscot Marine Museum

The warming trend is bad for ice, and the things people like to do on top of it, too. Ice fishing derbies have already been canceled in Limington, Dexter and on Lake St. George, to name a few. The ice just isn’t safe — or isn’t there at all. Two people have even died this month, going through thin ice.

With safety being the number one priority, let’s look at pictures from long ago, when the ice was thick and safe in the state of Maine. The weather may have been brutal back then, but at least the skating and fishing were good.

These historic photos come from the Penobscot Marine Museum’s massive, mostly online, collection of images.

Workers stack blocks of ice at Thompson’s Ice House in South Bristol sometime in the 1970s or 1980s. The picture was made by Everett L. “Red” Boutilier. Credit: Courtesy of the Penobscot Marine Museum

A group of people (left) crowd around Bob Brown’s ice shack, on what is probably Lake St. George in Liberty, in a photo by Peggy McKenna. Ice floats (top right) on Belfast’s Little River, as seen from Route 1, sometime around the turn of the 20th century in a photograph by Charles R. Coombs. Ice fishing shanties (bottom right) cluster close to the shore as the ice melts in an undated photo by Everett L. “Red” Boutilier. Credit: Courtesy of the Penobscot Marine Museum

Seven skate-clad people, plus one more on a sled, occupy the ice somewhere in Maine in an undated photograph made with a glass plate negative. Credit: Courtesy of the Penobscot Marine Museum
A large group of people stand around the U.S. Revenue Cutter Woodbury, atop a frozen Belfast Harbor, on March 25, 1905. The 130-foot, 350-ton, topsail-rigged steamer was photographed by the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Co. Credit: Courtesy of the Penobscot Marine Museum

Everett L. “Red” Boutilier photographed this new, 82-foot stern trawler (left) as it was launched into the ice at the Washburn and Doughty boatyard in East Boothbay in February 1980. A pig (right) lies on a small skating pond in Rockland, looking forlorn, after being dragged there by photographer Kosti Ruohomaa to re-enact the saying, “as independent as a hog on ice.” This photo was published in the April, 1959 issue of Down East magazine. Gifting another version of this photo to a friend, Ruohomaa wrote, “Of the many I have taken — this pleases me the most.” Other versions of this photo appeared in multiple publications, including the March 13, 1950, issue of Life magazine. Courtesy of the Penobscot Marine Museum

A boat sits frozen in the ice at Friendship Harbor in the winter of 1981. The picture was made by Everett L. “Red” Boutilier. Credit: Courtesy of the Penobscot Marine Museum
Avatar photo

Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.