Frozen, Ice Harvesting, and My New Work-in-Progress

The new Disney movie, FROZEN, is getting a lot of attention right now, and I finally got a chance to see it yesterday with my kiddos. After sitting through seemingly endless previews, the movie opened–for me, at least–with a high note:
FrozenIce harvesting!

While this was probably the least interesting part of the movie for most of the people in the theater, my reaction was “HEY! I JUST RESEARCHED THAT!” So while everyone else was enjoying the musical number, I was focused on making sure that Disney had done their research, too. Turns out, they did. The opening scene was a fairly accurate portrayal of how people in cold-weather climates (like those in my historical fiction work-in-progress) harvested ice back in the 19th century before the days of freezers.

Here’s a rundown of how the process worked:

  • The top, porous layer of snow is scraped off by a flat, horse-drawn  framework
    plow1
  • Then a team of horses hitched to a plow would mark out grid lines on the ice, cutting deeper into the ice at each pass, and creating a checkerboard pattern in the ice.
    plow3
  • ‘Breaking out.’  Saws, forks, and long-tined tridents were used to cut and jab at the blocks of ice until they broke through.
    plow4
  • Then, they would be floated down a narrow channel and onto the ice chute.
    plow5
  • From there, they would use their ice hooks to slide the ice blocks up the slanting framework of timbers built in a sort of toboggan-slide structure and up into the awaiting wagons.
    plow6
  • Finally, they part they didn’t show in the movie was what happens to the ice once it’s been harvested. Most of the time, it’d be taken to ice houses, where it could be packed with sawdust for insulation until the summer months.  The whole process could take weeks, especially for a place like the resort I’ve written about, where the ice harvested had to be enough to last the entire warm season.

Resources to read more:
www.iceharvestingusa.com (source of vintage photos shown above)
iceboxmemories.com
www.digitalpresence.com/histarch/ice.html

harvesters

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