Regional Celebratations: Winter

Photo by Mark Kurtz Photography
You can ask anyone who lives in an extreme weather region and they will all invariably attest that it is advisable to embrace the condition and make the most of it.  One way the tiny town of Saranac Lake has been doing this since 1898 is through its Winter Carnival.

The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival began as an integral part of Saranac Lake’s history as a renowned health resort. Back in the late 1800s, the village was a thriving logging community nestled deep in the Adirondack wilderness.  Its pristine setting provided healing and rejuvenation for hundreds of sufferers of tuberculosis from all over North America. In the course of “taking the cure” here, many patients experienced a renewed passion for life, and took every opportunity – in every season – to explore the natural beauty that surrounded them. The long, cold Adirondack winters with snow-covered mountains and ice-encrusted lakes provided the opportunity to enjoy outdoor recreational activities such as skiing, sledding, and skating. In order to break winter’s chill and to promote “outdoor sports and games”, the Pontiac Club was formed in 1896, and a year later, they sponsored the first “Mid-Winter Carnival”. This first Winter Carnival was a two-day affair that featured skating races, a parade and an “ice tower” – features that have been, in one form or another, part of every Carnival since.1

Photo courtesy of facebook.com/downtownsaranaclake
One of the more interesting and most notable aspects of the Carnival is the Ice Palace.  The original was known as an “ice tower” that then evolved into an “Ice Palace.”  The Ice Palace was an outgrowth of the village’s ice industry, which, in the days before electric refrigerators, harvested ice from local lakes for use in ice boxes across the country and around the world. Despite some refinements in machinery, the Ice Palace is still constructed in much the same manner as it was in 1898, the first year it was built.

About six weeks before the Carnival, an ice field is marked off on Lake Flower’s Pontiac Bay. Once the ice reaches a suitable thickness, the ice is partially cut using a saw that was designed and built locally in the 1940’s for the harvesting of refrigeration ice.  It is essentially a huge circular saw blade mounted on a sled and driven by a gasoline engine.  The saw can cut to a depth of approximately eleven inches. Since the ice often reaches depths in excess of 20 inches, the cutting process must be completed with large hand saws that are relics of the traditional ice harvesting process.  The blocks taken from the lake are two feet wide and four feet long, are anywhere from one to two feet thick, and accordingly will weigh between four and eight hundred pounds.1

Photo courtesy of facebook.com/downtownsaranaclake
The blocks are moved onshore via a conveyor belt, and are maneuvered into place with “peaveys” – metal-tipped poles with hinged metal hooks – and ice tongs. The 2’ by 4’ blocks are hoisted onto the structure by cranes and “log loaders” and then cemented to one another with a “mortar” made of slush. As the slush freezes, the block walls become rigid.  While designs vary from year to year and reflect the theme chosen, a small palace requires about 1,000 blocks while a large one requires 3,000 or more. Within each palace is an array of colored lights that transform the Palace into a vivid sculpture of ice and light every evening!  Be sure to look at the ice blocks carefully because they sometimes have water plants, fish or other items captured within them!  The Palace is generally adorned with brightly colored flags and ice carvings reflecting the carnival theme. Fireworks over the palace take place at the opening ceremony and again at the closing of the carnival.1

While early palaces were constructed by private contractors, currently they are built by community volunteers.  As many as 75 people may provide sufficient volunteer hours to achieve a one-year membership in the Ice Palace Workers (IPW) Local #101. The volunteers often work for extended periods in sub-zero cold. Numb fingers and cold feet are warmed by the camaraderie of the workers and the support of those providing hot drinks, sandwiches and good-natured banter. As the palace rises, the workers are encouraged by the growing crowds of admirers happily snapping pictures to send to friends and relatives around the country.1

Once completed, the Ice Palace stands as both centerpiece and symbol for the Winter Carnival: for what distinguishes Saranac Lake’s mid-winter festival is that it is brought about by the efforts of its citizens, volunteering their time, energy, enthusiasm and resources so their children, neighbors and guests can enjoy a Winter Carnival.1

For a more detailed history click here

Works Cited
1 http://www.saranaclakewintercarnival.com/history/


A Warehouse In Chicago Catches Fire In January

David Schalliol
The Chicago Tribune reports a A 5-11 alarm fire engulfed a warehouse building in Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood late Tuesday night.  The result of the battle then waged with spraying water produced an amazing ice spectacle.  We do not in anyway want to in anyway minimize the potential loss the owner of the building may have suffered and most importantly, no one was injured in the blaze.  What we are left with from Photographers Robert R. GigliottiDavid Schalliol, and Darek Szupina are some stunning pictures of the aftermath to share.
David Schalliol

Robert R Gigliotti

Robert R Gigliotti

David Schalliol

David Schalliol
Darek Szupina
Special thanks, as usual, to http://www.thisiscolossal.com/


The Beetles Take LA...And It's Way Worse Than Ringo and Paul Going It Alone

Ravaged box elder at Huntington Botanical Gardens shows damage from a
voracious new beetle. Photo/Maxx Echt
"No one is certain how it got here, but the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (PSHB) is a new pest in Southern California. This boring beetle, from the group of beetles known as ambrosia beetles, drills into trees and brings with it a fungus that is lethal to some species of trees."

Female polyphagous shot hole borer. Photo by Gevork Arakelian,
LA County Agricultural Commissioner
"The beetle is dark brown to black and tiny, with females between 0.07 and 0.1 inches long, and males even smaller, usually about 0.05 inches long. Pregnant females bore through the tree’s bark, creating galleries under the bark. They plant the fungus in these galleries, where it grows and spreads throughout a susceptible tree. The female then lays her eggs in these galleries and when the eggs hatch, the larvae eat the fungus.  The larvae develop into adults in about a month. Many more of the larvae develop into females than males, and the females mate with the males (their brothers) while still in the gallery. The pregnant females then pick up some of the fungus in their mouths, and leave through the entry holes created by their mothers to start the process again."

What Is Known
"The PSHB seems to have originated in South East Asia or Africa. At first, researchers identified it as the Tea Shot Hole Borer (Euwallaecea fornicatus), which it very closely resembles, but DNA evidence points to it being a new, as yet unnamed species in the same genus. The symbiotic fungus may also be a new unnamed species, in the genus Fusarium, which is commonly associated with ambrosia beetles."

History in the USA
"The best guess as to how they arrived is that it stowed away on a Southeast Asian shipping crate. The first local sighting appears to have been in 2003 at Whittier Narrows. By 2010, it was suspected of killing box elders in Long Beach.  The first local sighting appears to have been in 2003 at Whittier Narrows. By 2010, it was suspected of killing box elders in Long Beach.

By 2011, it had infested the first of hundreds of trees at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Arcadia and the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino. By the spring of 2012, alerts were being issued throughout the avocado industry.
Now, scientists are warning that a new species of beetle, tinier than a sesame seed but devastating as poison, has gained a foothold in Southern California, threatening scores of tree species, including the native California sycamore and the iconic coast live oak.
“This has been like something out of a science fiction novel,” says Tim Thibault, the Huntington’s curator of woody collections. Thibault says the bug initially was assumed to be an exotic pest called the “tea shot hole borer” that afflicts tea plants in Asia. But when it turned up on more than 100 species, killing some in less than two years, DNA tests revealed that both it and a lethal fungus it carries were new to science."
Its Spread
"So far, scientists say, the new beetle has been found throughout Los Angeles and northern Orange Counties, as far south as Laguna Beach, as far north as Azusa, as far east as Pomona and as far west as Los Angeles International Airport, where it has infested a stand of coral trees.

Whether it has spread to wildlands such as the Santa Monica Mountains is as yet uncertain, but researchers are hoping a January 12 symposium at the Huntington for arborists, gardeners and homeowners will help track the infestation."

"Protect your trees and local habitat from a variety of pest species by avoiding moving infected wood around – use firewood locally.

PSHB has been found to attack healthy trees, but as always a good defense against disease is to keep trees in optimal health. Healthy trees are also more likely to recover more quickly from an attack. Choose trees that are appropriate for the site and don’t require a lot of additional water. Provide appropriate soils and access for roots to grow and expand. 

Avoid excessive pruning, over- or under-watering, and planting inappropriate companion plants within the drip-line. If trees are infected, systemic insecticides generally are poor for treating ambrosia beetles. Prophylactic spraying of the bark could be used to protect uninfected trees in some situations. Sterilize pruning tools between uses to avoid spreading the fungus. Chipping and solarizing/tarping infested wood may help to limit the spread of the beetle/fungus complex.

If you think PSHB is affecting your trees, please contact your local Agricultural Commissioner's office. In Los Angeles County,click here."

Positive Take-Away
"Some trees are less vulnerable than others; the main concern is for the 20 or so species of trees in which the beetles prefer to reproduce. Eskalen says the fungus, carried in the beetle’s mouth, is what kills the trees, and it spreads as the beetle burrows to lay eggs in the heartwood, attacking the plant’s vascular tissue and blocking the flow of water and nutrients."

1.) R. Stouthamer, P. Rugman-Jones, A. Eskalen, A. Gonzalez, G. Arakelian, D. Hodel, S. Drill
Department of Entomology & Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, University of California,Riverside

2.) Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner/Weights and Measures UCCE-Los Angeles County

3.) http://zev.lacounty.gov/news/beetle-mania-hits-socal-trees?goback=.gde_1008567_member_191410654

4.) http://ucanr.edu/sites/socaloakpests/Polyphagous_Shot_Hole_Borer/


Dutch Highways

Leave it to the Dutch to bravely explore and implement new ideas.  “A futuristic highway that can save energy and improve road safety is set to be installed in the Netherlands by mid-2013 that features photo-luminescent paint which are charged during the day and light up during the night; temperature-responsive paint which indicates slippery roads; interactive lights along the highway that light up as cars approach; as well as "wind lights".

Let's acknowledge and accept first that the notion of a highway and everything it entails is not a "sustainable" archetype.  Beyond that, it is really interesting to see new ideas that are attempting to improve on an old concept.

Check out the video below to hear more about the features mentioned above: