Saturday, March 29, 2008

Break Up - Alaska Style

This time of year is not called "spring" in Alaska. It is generally referred to as "Break Up". That is because the snow doesn't just melt. The ice melts and breaks up, both on the land and on the water. We were warned before we got here that we would need "break up boots". These are pictures a parking lot at a gas station. As you can guess, when all of this ice melts, you will need boots to wade across the parking lot or just to get out of your car to put gas in it.
Fortunately our own area does not look like this anymore. We have had no snow in our neighborhood since about the first week of March.

Additional Fairbanks Photos - March 16, 2008

Fairbanks Sights

There were not many “tourist” things open while we were in Fairbanks. But here are a few of the things we saw.

Trans-Alaska oil pipeline.
The pipeline is 800 miles long. It stretches from Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean to Valdez. Work started on the pipeline in 1074 and ended in 1977. It crosses three mountain ranges, the Brooks Range, the Alaska Range and the Chugach Range. The silver exterior is not the pipe itself. It is an insulated heat shield. The pipe rests on Teflon-coated bars so that it can move during earthquakes. We average 50 earthquakes a day in Alaska.

This is across the road from the pipeline viewing station. We were told that someone just turned the water on for fun and let it freeze until it becomes a frozen fountain.

Alaska’s “Unknown First Family” is a sculpture by Malcolm Alexander. It stands in the Golden Heart Plaza in downtown Fairbanks. It commemorates the 25th anniversary of Alaska Statehood.

Trivia question: When did Alaska enter the United States and which anniversary of statehood are we celebrating soon?

University of Alaska – Anchorage campus

Campus was pretty much deserted as it was spring break. It is a beautiful campus that sits high and overlooks the town of Fairbanks and the Chena River.

These are not parking meters on campus. They are electrical boxes so you can plug your vehicles in so they will start in the sub-zero temperatures. Our weather forecasts on television regularly include whether you should plug your car in or not. They say to when it gets below 20* (above zero).

Totem poles in front of the campus library. (So sorry!! I still have not found out how to rotate the pictures and make them STAY rotated!!)

Colleen & Doug at IceAlaska - March 15, 2008

I know some of you are planning to come and visit us and you have been worried about whether we have a nice house and if there will be enough room for you. Please do not worry. Here is a picture of the new guest house that we have acquired for our visitors. You will not have to worry about air conditioning!!!!!

*Phone Booth*

We even had chairs for you sit on.

Ice Alaska Multi Block Sculptures

These are some of the multi-block sculptures we saw. Some of them may be a little difficult for you to see the detail because there is a light dusting of snow on the sculptures.

Each entry had a poster which showed a picture of the sculpting team and a drawing of their initial idea of what it would look like when it was finished.

*Rough Draft drawing*

*Team Picture*
(Note the drawing sketched on the ice.)

*Finished Product*

*Night Lighting*

*Another Team Picture*
(Note the sketch on the ice and also the holes that are drilled in it.
One guy is holding the drill. )

*Finished Product*

These next 4 photos are all taken of the same multi-block sculpture, Moby Dick.

Whale's Tail


Book & Spectacles

Captain Ahab & Boat on Whale's Head

*Mythical Battle*

*Under the Ice*
This one depicted walrus and polar bears above and below the ice.

See the seal poking his head through a hole in the ice underneath the polar bear's belly.

This one was a little girl looking into an aquarium. It did look 3-D. We could see the sea life and it seemed that we were looking through an aquarium window too.

*Sea lions*
The boxes that look like birdhouses are the lights.
The holes are cut in the boxes so they don't get too hot.

*Sea Monster and Ship in a Bottle*
There actually was a ship carved in the bottle.

This man was sharpening some of the features of this sculpture because it had melted.


Ice Alaska - Fairbanks March 15, 2008

We went to the ice carving competition in Fairbanks. The competition goes on for three weeks. There are single block and multi-block exhibits. No more than two people can work on the single block ones and no more than 4 people on a team for the multi-block. Single bock sculptors have 60 hours to complete their entry. Multi-block sculptors have 10 blocks of ice to work with and must complete their entry in 132 hours (5 1/2 days). They say that teams usually work around the clock to meet the deadlines. They also have a junior competition.

The website has about 20+ web cams. You can go to the homepage and see the sculptures and activities. One of the web cams is pointed at the main stage. We stood in front of the stage called out kids, told them get online on the IceAlaska homepage and click on the stage web cam. They were able to see us in Fairbanks Alaska while we talked to them on the cell phone!! We waved to them in Texas and Nebraska.
IceAlaska home page:

One of the problems that the Ice Festival has had this year is that it has been too warm. Unfortunately, some of the sculptures had already melted a bit, destroying their intricate details and, in some cases, actually breaking off parts of the carvings. The black screens that you see hung behind the carvings are there to prevent the sun from reaching the carving so they don’t melt. They have lots of other winter activities in conjunction with the ice festival and some of their races, etc were run in slush instead of snow or ice.

We were there during the afternoon. You can see the lights behind the sculptures in some of the pictures. They are lit up at night. Some have white lights and some have colored lights.


The kids could crawl through the arms of the octopus.

You can see them inside each arm.

A child inside the arm of the octopus.

Ice Cabin/Slide

Santa Claus and chimney in the walk-through ice maze.

This is the size ice block they started with.

*Dinosaur Slide*
You can see how tall the ice slides were.
This dinosaur had steps made out of ice on the left hand side.
The kids climbed the step and slid down the dinosaur's tail - and loved every minute of it!!!!

*Ice Kayak*

*Ice Snow Machine*

*Mouse & Teapot*
Notice the etching on the teapot.


*Painting the ice blue*

(Note the detail)

Doug "absolutely" loved this one. Look closely and you will get the pun.

*Lady looking in a mirror*

These next ones you can see where the hands had melted.


*Eskimos and Seal*

*Still Life*

*Sled Dogs and Sled*