Typically cut in two sizes the smaller blocks used in the Multi-Block Competition dimensions are 4' x 4' x 4' and weigh approximately 3000 pounds apiece, while the larger used in the Single Block Competition, and Alaska Open are 4' x 4' x 6' and weigh in excess of 7500 pounds each. Averaging about 250 blocks per day, during the course of the week of ice harvest, Ice Alaska’s “Gravel Pit” artists carve out about 1500 blocks.
To help facilitate the Icesled operator an elaborate channel system was developed where each cake of ice is floated across the pond to an open pool where awaiting fork lifts scoop them out.
Now one would believe that as heavy as this blocks are that they would prove to be quite difficult to move. Not so, armed with little more than 3/4 inch thinwall electrical conduit (an official piece of ice harvesting equipment I might add) a twelve year old could easily nudge along one of these 7500 pound blocks.
Once in the pond the last worker gently nudges the block over the forklifts tines. As the block is slowly raised it turns to a 45 degree angle as depicted in the photos above and below.
Interestingly enough I have been told that when the temperature drops to 40 below zero or colder they have to cease harvesting ice. The reason for that is that when the ice is raised out of the 31 degree water the sudden extreme temperature change causes the blocks to either explode, or fill with fissures, making them completely unusable.
Because of their highly successful ice harvests, as well as the quality of the ice itself, Ice Alaska has now become major exporter of ice, shipping hundreds of tons of ice every year to city’s all over the US and Canada.
In speaking with the Chairman of Ice Alaska and his Communications Director I was told: "Ice Alaska has received world wide acclaim for the crystal clarity, and natural blue-green coloration of its ice."
In speaking with sculptors at the event I was repeated told that the blue-green coloration of the ice "Adds a level of depth, and a richness to their sculptures that just can’t be achieved by using with conventional white ice."
Beyond taht many of the sculptors who come to compete in Ice Alaska also claim, "This ice has greater strength than conventional white ice. Allowing them to carve far more intricate pieces with horizontal elements than they can elsewhere."
Whatever it is about this event; whether it truly is the ice, the competion, or perhaps the alure of Alaska itself, the fact remains that this competition keeps growing year by year, as vetran Ice Art sculptors keep returning, while a steady stream of new talent from around their world keep arriving.
Silent sentinels in the closing hours before the contests begin.
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