I've seen a few news stories about the ocean freezing in a "instant" and trapping fish, like this Gizmodo Australia one.

Norwegian public radio (Google-translated) reports on the instant dead of thousands of fish in a bay in the island of Lovund, Norway. An air temperature of -7.8C combined with a strong east wind froze the sea water instantly, trapping and killing the fish you can see in this fishapocalyptic image:

Image of frozen fish via Gizmodo

I haven't seen anything from what I would consider a reliable news source.

A temperature of -7.5C doesn't seem that cold to freeze salt water instantly. Ariel Slotte, who was quoted in the story, is a real person, although I don't speak the language and am not certain on his exact job.

Did this happen?

1 Answer 1


More or less, yes.

Many news sources are incomplete. For the most direct account, see this report by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. This is a normally quite reliable news source. Some key elements missing in some reports. Firstly: they were trapped due to cormorants. Secondly: there is a concrete wall under the surface of the water. Quote and translation:

– 7–8 minusgrader og austavind gjorde at vågen frøs til i løpet av kort tid. Småseien var blitt jaget mot land av skarv, og har tydeligvis ikke klart å komme seg ut på åpent hav igjen, forteller Ingolf Kristiansen.

Aril Slotte, som er leder for Pelagisk fisk ved Havforskningsinstituttet, sier det ikke er uvanlig at sild blir jaget på land av predatorer.

– Vi vet at hvalen skremmer silda på land flere steder i Troms, så det er ikke utenkelig at dette kan skje med småsei og annen fisk som blir trengt opp mot land, sier han til NRK.no.


7–8 degrees below zero and an easterly wind caused the bay to freeze very rapidly. The pollock had been chased toward the land by cormorants, and could apparently not get out to the open sea again, says Ingolf Kristiansen.

Aril Slotte, head of pelagic fish [group] at the Institute of Marine Research, says it is not unusual for herring to be chased onto the land by predators.

We know that whales scare herring toward the land on many places in Troms, so it is not unthinkable this can happen with pollock and other fish chased to the land, he says to NRK.no.

And, another important piece of information:

Om sommeren er vågen ei populær badevik. Det er bygd en betongmur under vann ut mot åpent hav slik at det bare er innsig av sjøvann når det flør.


During summer, the bay is a popular bathing place. There is a concrete wall under the water toward the open sea, so that there is only seepage of water during high tide.

So, no, it didn't freeze incredibly fast — but the fish had been chased there by cormorants.

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    so it seems that the freezing wasn't instant. Rather a narrow passage that would allow the fish escape froze while the fish were trapped in an inlet by predators, then later froze in ice when the rest of the inlet froze solid as well.
    – jwenting
    Jan 14, 2014 at 14:51
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    @jwenting: There is nothing in the article about the inlet freezing. The bay is only accessible from the sea during high tide. Even if the story is not particularly detailed, it sounds as if the fish swarm entered the bay during high tide trying to escape a flock of cormorants, then was trapped as the sea level fell towards low tide, after which the bay froze because of a sudden drop in air temperature. But you are right that there is no claim of any "instant" freezing. Jan 14, 2014 at 17:23

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