The Water Cycle on Ice

Tonight a small group of us headed out to see the ice sculptures at the Fairbanks Ice Park. As a kid, my only experiences with ice sculptures had been at weddings, hotels, etc. NOTHING like this! Tonight I witnessed a stunning union of creativity and high-precision craftsmanship taking form in a brilliantly simple medium.

This was my favorite piece from the 'Abstract' Contest.

If I lived up here, I would do everything I possibly could to get my students to the Ice Park for a field trip. The science was everywhere: phases of matter, refraction and reflection of light, coefficients of frictional force (or lack there of!), engineering and design cycles, and on and on and on... Plus, the Ice Park itself is a child's winter dreamland come true.

Ice Slide #1
I saw these ice slides upon arrival to the Ice Park, and just couldn't help myself... I had to go down!

Let the inner child run wild and free!

Head First!
Obed, a fellow PolarTREC Teacher and new friend of mine, snapped this shot for me as I went down the only way to go.

After a few excellent head-first runs down the ice slides, I felt like a kid again as we walked from exhibit to exhibit, with all sorts of questions flying through my head:

  • Where do these ice blocks even come from? Are they natural? Are they produced somewhere in a factory here in town?

  • Are contestants restricted to chainsaw use only? Or can they use finer hand tools for the finishing touches?

  • What kinds of chains are used on the saws? The same kind I use for cutting firewood, or are the teeth different?

  • How long does it take before the multi-block exhibits all fuse together into one cohesive mass? Do artists plan this into their design?

  • How do the artists really feel when their pieces fall victim to spring break-up, and block by block, drop by drop, molecule by molecule, return back to the water cycle that brought them here?

And the most pervasive, yet in-answerable question of them all:

  • Where in the world do these artists get their ideas for their pieces?

Ice Warrior
This was in the 'Realistic' Contest. Certainly my favorite from that category.

Medium of Duality

On the drive home I realized that ice sculpture carving might very well be one of the best examples I have witnessed for the duality of science and art. Just as scientific theories can stand strong and unmoved for decades and decades under ideal conditions, so to can these ice sculptures stand strong and unmoved for weeks and weeks under ideal conditions. And just as scientific theories remain vulnerable to the very system of data and observation from which they are born, so to are these ice sculptures vulnerable to the very system of energy and matter from which they are born.

The Great Escape
The bird of prey was one of two sculptures in this piece. The other was a ground squirrel trying to get away. This one was AWESOME!

Longer ice slides.
Before heading home I took one last ride down the ice slides to get the blood pumping! I really need to get my daughter up here sometime for this!

Ice Park, Fairbanks AK
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