HARVESTING THE ICE
When ice sculpting was revived in Fairbanks in 1988, organizers bought ice from Seattle and had it shipped to Fairbanks for an ice carving exhibition. In defense of those who purchased the ice from
Seattle, the “ rest of the story” needs to be told.
In 1988 professional ice sculptors from China and Chicago were brought to Fairbanks to display their craft. The organizers were trying to revive interest in ice sculpting and make it an annual event. Not knowing if the ice found in great abundance around Fairbanks was adequate for sculptors, and to make sure the invited sculptors had proper ice to carve, commercially prepared ice was purchased from Seattle. When the sculptors were shown samples of the local ice, they were impressed. From that early inauspicious beginning, we have gained a reputation for having the best ice in the world.
INVENTING THE HARVEST
For the year 2011 event, over 1,500 tons of ice will be used! The harvesting of these hundreds of tons of ice is a huge undertaking. It requires countless hours of volunteer time, the use of heavy equipment and constant thought about how it can be done better. In 1998, for the first time, ice was harvested from O’ Grady pond - right adjacent to where the event is held at ICE PARK. That in itself was a great improvement. No more long hauls with flatbed trucks!
The ice harvesting experts of ICE ALASKA are continually refining their methods for cutting and lifting heavy blocks of ice. Many saws have been developed for harvesting and cutting the ice once it arrives at the park. The most efficient method of harvest utilizes chain saws. A few years ago, a sled developed by Tom Gullickson was added. Pictured above, it not only makesthe harvest more efficient but, also, less “ backbreaking.” So far, the 1998 ice, which measured a record 54” thick, holds the record for thickness. Cutting this ice required a 60-inch bar on the chainsaws!
Another efficient modification for the harvest was also added several years ago. It involved the addition of the extendible boom forklift to the harvest process. (Pictured left) These large forklifts are able to remove the huge ice blocks, weighing from 3,000 - 7,500 lbs from the water, and later to transport blocks to the ICE PARK site area. Every year harvest techniques improve, allowing for the harvest of more ice to keep up with increased demands as the event grows. The one thing that never changes is it remains a lot of work. The dedication of the all volunteer harvest crew, their ingenuity, and just plain hard work for long hours at extreme cold temperatures is what makes it all happen.