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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/692

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

strengthening his fetters fairly begins. After the first film of ice is formed, the freezing goes on directly downward as the heat from the water radiates off into the colder air above. The direction of crystallization has changed, and is now at right angles to that in which it began. Unhindered radiation of heat from the water out into the air is the secret of the continued formation of ice. If anything occurs to prevent this, the ice stops forming beneath. A fall of snow upon the already-made ice greatly retards its continued formation.

Some of the elder ice-harvesters still foster a feeble flame upon the broken altars of the old star-worshipers in their belief that the cold rays from the winter moon and stars favor in some mysterious way the growth of their ice, since this forms best on the clearest nights. Who would dispel this chaste illusion by suggesting that the clouds which draw themselves at times over the faces of their gentle deities delay the fruition of their hopes simply by preventing the escape of the earth's heat off into space? In the vicinity of Kew York, where open winters are so common and changes of temperature are so great and frequent, the formation of the ice is a matter of the greatest solicitude to the ice-farmer, upon whose vigilance and judgment may largely depend both the value and abundance of his winter's crop.

Let us suppose that Winter is fairly in possession along the river. The storage-houses, machinery, and tools for harvesting the ice are in order. Many of the horses which have dragged the last year's crop in its daily distribution about the town have been brought up on the retuning empty barges to recruit a little before their winter's work begins. The men who are to engage in the harvesting are beginning to straggle in to make their arrangements. A certain number of these are regular employés of the companies who work in town during the summer. Then along the Hudson many of the workers are farmers from the adjacent country, who, not over-busy in the winter, come down singly or in squads, looking upon their term of service to the ice companies as a sort of lark with a pecuniary bias. Then there is a large number of rovers, living, Heaven only knows how, through the rest of the year, who straggle along the river, work long enough to keep themselves drunk for a day or a week, and then brace up for another turn on the same or on a different field.

While all these forces are gathering toward the ice-harvesting centers, the superintendent is keeping a sharp lookout on the formation of the ice. The field has to be staked out as early as possible in order to secure it against invasion by competitors. It used to be necessary to make a fence four feet high around a pre-empted ice-field in order to legally secure it, but stakes or twigs stuck in the ice four feet apart are deemed sufficient now.

While the weather is clear and cold, and the colder and clearer the better, all goes well with the growing crop as slowly the water yields itself into its crystal bonds, and the domain of the clear, solid ice creeps