Walden Pond’s whooping, flatulent ice (Walden 174)

“I also heard the whooping of the ice in the pond, my great bed-fellow in that part of Concord, as if it were restless in its bed and would fain turn over, were troubled with flatulency and had dreams; or I was waked by the cracking of the ground by the frost, as if some one had driven a team against my door, and in the morning would find a crack in the earth a quarter of a mile long and a third of an inch wide.” — Henry David Thoreau, “Winter Animals,” Walden

What does Thoreau mean, “whooping of the ice”? He’s describing the noise from the thermal expansion and contraction of the ice (the same process that caused the ground to crack). BBC Radio 4 has actually recorded this at Walden Pond; the audio is at the Making Noise blog. Turn the volume up — the recording levels were set pretty low. To me it sounds more like the creaking of tree trunks in the wind. Nevertheless, the passage represents the only fart joke in Walden.

(About  “A Year in Walden”)


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