Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/691

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
671
OUR ICE-SUPPLY AND ITS DANGERS.

the ice, these picturesque struggles, which recalled in little the frequent encounters between the retainers of rival houses in feudal times, have passed away, and the scene of personal encounters is mostly transferred to bai'-rooms. But the modern representative (God save the mark!) of feudal times now and again stirs up discord in the form of strikes and their retroactive accompaniments among the ice harvesters.

The days when the most approved manner of storing ice was to dig a hole in the ground, fill it with ice, pack straw around it, and cover it tightly, leaving some primitive mode of access, have long since passed, and some of the larger storage-houses are not only moderately tasteful in their construction and ornamentation, but are fairly imposing in size. The better houses, mostly of wood, have efficient drainage at the bottom. The walls are hollow, containing an air-chamber, and within this a chamber filled with some non-conducting material, such as sawdust or hay, while above is a loft with abundant ventilation. The larger houses are divided into a number of rooms, so that when they are opened for the removal of the ice the whole mass need not be exposed to the warm air which enters.

The cakes of ice, which in this region are cut of a uniform size of about twenty-two by thirty-two inches, are usually laid flat, a solid stratum at the bottom. Above this they are placed on top of one another with two or three inches of space between their edges, the joints being broken every few tiers, as in masonry, by allowing the cakes to lap over the joints below. The object of the space between the edges of the cakes is to prevent their freezing together, for if this occurred their removal would entail a good deal of additional labor in breaking them apart, and a large loss of ice which would be chipped off in the operation. When the houses are about full, a solid layer of cakes is laid on top, so that the air may not circulate between them, and the whole is covered by hay. A varying number of smaller buildings are usually clustered about the storage-houses, such as engine-house, tool-house, shop, barn, and often the boarding-house for the men.

But let us leave these dry details and get out of doors, lest Winter should steal a march on us, and we should lose those first delicate crystal spiculæ shooting out from shore and rock with which he commonly begins his work alike on lake and stream and pool. Who does not know those fragile ice-fringes, losing themselves in the open water, which the first frosty nights in autumn leave behind often only to fade away in the next day's sun? But when at length, after these early, playful exhibitions of his gathering power. Winter really bends himself to his work, the crystals grow longer and thicker, their sides join, and finally the completed film formed along the surface shuts in the water, and his dominion is complete. Now his tactics change. The caprices which he has displayed as the long crystals stole out in ever varying directions from the shore are subdued, and the stern work of