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4 Days to Showtime

Published in Ralph Bolt's Blog
19 February 2014

2-20-14  Minus 24 Fahrenheit:

It was chilly coming out of the gym this morning.  It's in the student recreation center on the university campus up on the hill above town.  The sun was just rising as I left and shone like fire through the steam rising from the school's power plant.

Work has resumed on the chapel dome and significant progress has been made on the front wall.  Much remains ,though, as the dome must be finished and the archway in front has not yet been started.  We're all hopeful it will be back on track soon.

It's amazing how fast the skilled sculptors can work.  I believe just three of the Chinese crew have been working on the front entrance and in just two days have made a huge 15-foot high polar bear to guard the entrance and constructed some of the walls that will guide visitors into the ticket office.  And around back of our main building, Junichi and Junko are nearing completion of the big ice stage which will be used for the award ceremonies.  The first of those is just over a week away.

Three other Chinese sculptors are working on the ice house they started two days ago.  From the front it looks nearly complete while around back they were placing the last 200-pound "shingle".These guys are amazingly strong and seem not the slightest fazed by the deep sub-zero temperatures.

I don't know who built our ever-popular phone booth but it wasn't there yesterday and seems to have just sprung up today.  Alan Armbruster has an old pay phone sitting on my workbench in our shop.  We'll install it tomorrow.  It won't be wired up because we don't have keys to get into the mechanism but modern folks probably wouldn't know how to use a land-line pay phone anyway.  The calls home will all be made on chilly cell phones.

I'm off to our last pot-luck dinner at the ice park tonight.  We do one every two weeks to get the volunteers together and review plans and operations.  Afterward, I head out to North Pole where I'm going to do a live TV interview at one of the local stations.  That will be fun.

More later.
Ralph Bolt


12 days to Showtime

Published in Ralph Bolt's Blog
16 February 2014

2-12-14  Minus, 28 Fahrenheit:  We've finally started getting our cold ice-making temps.  We've been at or flirting with 30 below for several nights.  Minus 34 on the way to the gym the other day.

I got a text from Dawn Bates at the park late Thursday night that the Aurora was visible so Bonnie and I drove out to my viewing site north of town in the Eldorado creek valley.  The lights were quite faint to the naked eye but with the camera set at 15-second exposure, we got some decent images.  Opening the shutter for that long makes the surroundings seem like daytime but it was actually quite dark.  The half moon gave enough light at that exposure to light up the snow and trees.  Although not visible to the eye, when we moved the pics to the computer we could make out the faint red glow often associated with the aurora.  Both the red and green are from electrons hitting oxygen atoms in the ionospheric atmosphere but the green is from atoms roughly 60 miles up while the red is from atoms around 200 miles up.  We're hoping for more spectacular shows.

Work on the Chapel dome has been slowed by the cold weather.  Their ice blocks are 20 to 30 degrees below zero and when they attempt to glue them in place with 32-degree water, it shatters the block.  So they must wait for daytime temps to get closer to zero which hasn't happened for several days.

On the way over to the dome, I stopped for better pics of the snow owl and snow pig. They're really quite nice. This is the first year Ice Alaska will try sculpting snow.  This year will be an exhibition during the week after the Multi-Block are completed.  Next year  

Nearby, Mr. An and one of his crew were just beginning work on our big sponsor sign where sponsor logos and or names are etched in ice as another way to visibly recognize our sponsors.

There are nearly 50 sculptures and ice toys in the Kids Park now and roughly 30 more are planned.  Some of them take a decidedly oriental flavor, a result, no doubt, of the perspective of the Chinese and Mongolian sculptors.

Speaking of which, the Mongolians are working on one of my favorite toys--an ice bowl.  The bowl is a couple feet deep and will have a rounded ice rim.  A kid inside cannot usually get out without assistance.  If he attempts to grip the rim, his gloved hand slides off and he skids back to the bottom of the bowl.  Great lesson on dependence on parents for little kids.

Vitaly Lednev is now working on his tenth creation for the kids park.  This one will be a stage coach.  It took some linguistic gymnastics for me to finally understand what the carving would be.  But we each eventually found the words that give me a good idea of what he has planned.  We'll see.

As I left for the day, work on the big slides was continuing.  When the ice is in place, the Chinese team will turn on the buried lights and it will be a beautiful sight.

Tucked in around the corner from the slide, a large stegosaurus was watching the action.

More later.
Ralph Bolt

21 Days to Showtime

Published in Ralph Bolt's Blog
03 February 2014

Kids Park Slide and Chapel Construction

2-3-14  Zero

It was cold and clear just after sunrise this morning but the various teams of artists were already long at work.  


The Mongolian artists are freeing up two mountain sheep that have been frozen in the ice since last October.  They've butted themselves into a stupor and likely will be there 'til spring.  Nearby, Vitaly Lednev and Andy O'Grady were moving big ice for Vitaly's next project.  He's a fast worker and a wonderful artist and will produce many sculptures for the kids who will start visiting soon.  Vitaly is a friendly guy but seems to prefer to work alone--I know another guy like that.

On the other end of the park a couple of the Chinese artists were starting work on the second small slide by the slide building.  They move all the ice by hand after cutting it into large slabs which form the bumper rails of the slide chutes.  Note the big ice tongs that allow them to grip and maneuver the ice.

Back at the chapel over near the single block area, Stan and Barbro and their team have raised the curved dome wall to eight tiers.  One can now easily see the curve of the dome start to move inward.  The surface of each tier is planed smooth with a homemade planing tool designed just for ice.  It's just a bunch of drywall metal screws driven through a sheet of plywood.  Dragging it over the ice produces a flat, even surface to which the next tier will conform and bond with the help of a little water.  Note again the long pivot arm that guides the precise placement of each block.

On the way back to the main building to pick up my tools and start my day I passed one of the Chinese carving rocking horses.  Little kids love them and their stocking caps and parka hoods minimize cracked heads.

More later.
Ralph Bolt