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OVER AND UNDER THE ICE...
Within shouting distance of the Wisconsin capitol dome in downtown Madison, sleek Skeeter Class iceboats whip at mile-a-minute speeds around a diamond-shaped course in one of America's oldest and most venerated winter sports. Indeed, before anybody was ingenious enough to invent racing cars, speedboats and aircraft, ice-boating was about the only way a real speed demon could experience the thrill of going a mile a minute. Speed is still a major factor in the sport's appeal.
Thanks to a succession of sturdy cold fronts whistling out of Canada, the 1955 winter has brought the iceboats out on lakes all over the northern tier of the U.S. Madison's Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club played host to 50 of the 450-pound Skeeters in international class championship competition on Lake Monona, and even in the East, where relatively mild winters have prevailed recently, long-suffering iceboaters are looking forward to a renewal of the Eastern Ice Yachting Association championships.
Muffled thoroughly in foul-weather gear as protection against biting winds, iceboat sailors will haul their craft hundreds of miles on car top or trailer to compete with each other. They range in age from subteens to veterans in their 50s, all bent on the thrill that comes with speeds that can frequently approach 100 mph on downwind runs.
Skeeter pilots, snugly dressed, discuss their exploits on Lake Monona before International Skeeter Association races.
...IN A GREAT WINTER FOR IT
These adventurous citizens, bundled eerily-in rubber swimsuits, are an advance-guard type of skin diver. They are preparing to descend into 35 feet of 36� water on Connecticut's icebound Mt. Tom Pond. Skin diving under ice has been going on for several years among a few hardy folk of the northeastern U.S., but the high cost of protective suits has kept it from becoming a contagion. Equipped with regulation breathing apparatus, two skin divers and a photographer climbed down a ladder and prowled the water for two hours. Outside of numbed faces, they reported no ill effects. The suits kept them warm.
The results of the foray were otherwise disappointing. The divers didn't see much. Visibility was poor—only six to 10 feet. No fish were spotted. Skin diving the year round, while certainly possible in cold winter weather, seemed hardly worth-while compared to what the diver can see at this time of year in warmer waters.
The divers found some other sobering thoughts about under-ice skin diving. Each man had to go below with an umbilical-like rope attached to him so he could find his way back to the hole in the ice. They also chopped an experimental escape hole in the five-inch ice cover and found it required 10 minutes. In case of breathing-apparatus failure, that would be more than enough time for a man to drown.
Icebound skin diver hacks away from underneath at ice cover on Mt. Tom Pond, testing time required to chop escape hole.