Not U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Not the Internet Communications Engine.

Not criminally beautiful jewelry.

Not rocks.

Diamonds are forever but frozen water may last only until the Summer sun comes up.

Ice is simply water frozen into a solid state. Simple.

Except it is one of our more complex phenomena. It can be strong enough to drive a truck across and fragile enough to break under the weight of a twig. It is the only non-metallic liquid that expands when it freezes. It is slippery when wet. And it can be wet at most winter temps.

Ice is slippery because the surface ice molecules can’t bond properly with the molecules of the rest of the ice so they act just like liquid water. The lubrication they offer is nearly as effective as the 5W-30 in your car engine.

People all over these United States have complained about the ice this year. Here in Vermont, we’re in the middle of the third snowiest winter on record, thanks to the third largest snowfall that fell just last week. Here in North Puffin we added about 20 inches to our base; Jay Peak added feet. Snow is just puffy ice and when it hunkers down, that ice has stalled plow trucks and utility crews and made walking to the University Mall a trial. My own feet went out from under me once a few years ago as I carried a load of firewood in.

  • Black ice is nearly invisible on macadam roads.
  • Harbor ice crushes boats and stops commerce.
  • Ice can change aircraft wings and control surfaces and puncture the fuel tanks of rockets.
  • Ice can slow or stop a jet engines.
  • Icebergs didn’t actually sink the Titanic (hubris did) but we know now a little frozen water can pry the bottom off a surface ship and the top off a submarine.
  • Icing blocks the supply of air to a carbureted or fuel injected engine and cause it to fail.

My great-grandfather cut ice on Westtown Lake. He stored it through the summer in sawdust and ashes in a ten-sided ice house he built of cedar planks on a terrace above our home. That is the same technology Persian engineers used in 400 BC in the middle of the desert summer. Refrigeration made the cooling tunnel he built to store and separate milk — and ice collection and delivery — obsolete.

People around the world love ice, and not just to cool drinks or cool home made ice cream makers.

  • Ice as a fire starter: carve it into a lens to focus sunlight on kindling.
  • Ice as a musical instrument: ice drums are all over youtube; don’t lick your lips before blowing an ice horn though.
  • Ice in medicine: it will decrease blood flow which reduces swelling and pain.
  • Ice as a road: frozen rivers and lakes were once the easiest form of transportation; now they can be the only way to move supplies in the Arctic.

North Puffin sits directly on the shores of the no-longer-Great-but-still-pretty-darned-good-Lake-Champlain. Hard water out there, still. Ice is crucial to Vermont. Visitors come from around the world for our ice skating, ice hockey, ice fishing, ice climbing, curling, broomball and bobsled, luge, and skeleton racing. Not to mention skiing and boarding. And sugar on snow.

Burlington Harbor was still iced in as of Saturday evening but I saw open water in the Missisquoi River (upstream of the ice jams, of course) over the weekend. The plowed driveway here is largely clear and the only plowed lawn path that still has ice is the one at the bottom of the dooryard hill alongside the porch. It may not melt down in this cycle since melt water collects there and will freeze again and again and again.

Arguably the most famous ice in Vermont is the ice that isn’t. Joe’s Pond is still frozen today in West Danville but it will melt sometime in the next month or two.

Jules Chatot started the Joe’s Pond Ice-Out Contest as a cabin fever palliative in the 1980s. Mr. Chatot’s family and friends would “use his camp there as deer camp in the dead of winter, or spring break in deep snow with howling winds and muddy roads.” Sooner or later anyone there would start betting on when the ice will go out? at Hastings Store. Mr. Chatot kept track of the guesses in “a little notebook he kept in his pocket.”

A few hundred people bought tickets the first year. A couple of years later, a database replaced Mr. Chatot’s little notebook. The game has grown steadily; more than 12,000 people all around the world bought tickets last year. Ed Bird from West Danville won the first year (April 26 at 12:31 p.m.). April 16 has been the earliest and May 6, 1992, the latest. The Ice-Out Contest underwrites the free Independence Day Fireworks display.

That said, I’ll just be glad when I don’t have to warm my underwear in front of the fire before I put it on.

5 thoughts on “ICE

  1. I learn a lot from reading this blog. I had no idea that ice had so many uses. I thought the only thing it was good for was making JD and branch more tempting to the tongue in hot weather.

    Oh, I forgot. Years ago when I had my vasectomy I kept a bag of it against my affected area for coupla days — and nights.

    Sadly, my in Circuit Emulator nearly froze.

    — George

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