Yesterday I went with a couple of friends to ICE! at National Harbor. First there was a 7 minute instructional/safety video where we learnt we were about to enter a world of 9 degrees Fahrenheit, how the sculptures were made and instructed not to touch or lick the ice. We were then given bulky and very unflattering blue coats to put on over our own already bulky winter coats – talk about looking like the Michelin (wo)man! I had my own “puffy” coat underneath….
A woman offered to take a photo of the three of us – one day someone will find this photo in isolation and wonder about the blue coats! (not to mention the strange writing on the faces of 2 of the women).
It was a truly freezing, frozen world:
ICE! was in a 15,000 sq foot custom built “igloo” which is kept at 9 degrees Fahrenheit. Using 2 million pounds of ice some of the sculptures are made of colored ice blocks (which didn’t look like ice), some sculptures are illuminated internally by some of the 1,400 specially designed LED tube lights and some of the ice is engineered to support everything.
A group of master carvers from Harbin, China, spends nearly a month of 12-hour shifts inside a freezer transforming those two million pounds of ice.
Harbin is in Northeast China where the average winter temperature is only 2 degrees F and where the temperature has been known to drop to -36 F. Apparently Harbin stays below freezing for half the year. So, what does one do when surrounded by ice? Well…. you spend those dark, frozen months learning to carve it.
As part of an Ice Lantern Festival, the carvers would cut blocks of ice out of the Songhua River, make carvings and display them amongst intricately constructed ice lanterns. In 1963, the Mayor of Harbin created a formal competition. The displays were government-sponsored events and organized in public parks and are still held today.
Sadly for any local would-be ice carvers the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers do not freeze enough to provide the huge chunks of ice needed to make anything decent. So the display is made of ice made in an ice factory. There are 3 types of ice used –
1. Clear, “crystal” ice which is the most difficult to make. De-ionized water is used and it takes 3 days to freeze 45 gallons of water (which makes a 400lb ice block).
2. White ice which looks like compacted snow – water is frozen quickly giving it a cloudy look.
3. Colored ice – made by adding food coloring during the freezing process. The water has to be constantly stirred as the coloring is added, and as the block freezes, so that the color is consistent throughout the block (so it’s even when they make slices through the block).
The 400lb blocks of ice are delivered on pallets in 36 refrigerated trucks – 2 trucks a day for nearly 3 weeks which is about as fast as the ice factory can make it. The blocks are moved into place by forklift and the carvers get to work.
After slicing or carving a piece of ice an artisan sprinkles the surface to be bonded with “snow” . He pours water onto the piece and lifts it into position – at 9 degrees F ordinary water freezes very quickly, sticking one piece to another.
I really liked this one:
Not really surprisingly none of us felt we needed the thrill of going down a 20-feet tall ice slide on our backs
All that cold and ice made my bladder itch – so off to find the port-a-loo…
These were no ordinary construction site port-a-loos!
There was even hot water!
The back of the trailer exit door didn’t have a handle which had me worried for a second:
We went for coffee at the Gaylord Resort Hotel which still had Christmas decorations up:
It is an impressive looking hotel – all these rooms have balconies overlooking a sunlit courtyard :
And glass elevator banks –
Then we walked down to the water:
And looked at the sculpture called “The Awakening” – it would be difficult to get a photo of this without people unless one got up with the sun
The Awakening is a 70 foot giant struggling to free himself. It is made up of 5 separate pieces and was created by J. Seward Johnson in 1980 and was originally installed at Hains Point. It was dug up and moved to the National Harbor area in 2008 after the developer (The Peterson Companies) purchased it. Little kids are climbing on his bearded face and into his mouth which is open in mid-scream.
Then it was time to go home via two stained glass mosaic panels by artist Cheryl Foster. This one is titled Maryland’s Bounty Panel 1
and this one is Maryland’s Bounty Panel 2