A DAY ON THE ICE-FIELD Page 2
from Demorest's Family Magazine July, 1894
_After the snow is cleared away, the surface of ice beneath, which is more or less porous and uneven, is planed down until the clear, homogeneous body is reached. Sometimes as much as three inches of this "rotten ice" , as it is called, has to be scraped away.
_"Don't stand still till ye freeze fast, boys," is the good-natured admonition of the foreman as the men pause to exchange a rude jest or a word of gossip and the smoking horses move on again in leisurely procession.
_Our friend tells us that ice must be perfectly clear, and from nine inches to one foot thick, if for home use, and at least twenty inches thick if it is to be exported; since, not withstanding the careful provision made for preserving it, from one-quarter to one-half its weight is lost in transport.
_Where we stand upon this hillock of snow we command a view of the whole busy scene. Ice cutting and harvesting are carried on by exclusively American methods, and with American tools and machinery.
__"Who else but Americans could have invented them there?" says our friend, proudly pointing to the saws, plows, harrows, and similar apparatus before us. "Ice is an American institution. English ice is full of holes and so soft it melts if you speak loud; and as for the rest of Europe (he pronounces it "Yurrup") it hain't in sight. In Norway I believe they do have some little fair ice; but one New York hotel would use up the whole crop." He goes on to tell us that New York and Brooklyn alone use in the neighborhood of three million tons a year, and that we export vast quantities to all parts of the world, in ships built especially for the purpose.
__By this time the workmen have taken up their positions near the center of the lake, and the cutting begins. We learn that the ice in the middle of lakes and streams is always harder and purer than that near the shore and is stored by itself as a superior grade. Ice produced in the deep waters of Northern New York and Northern New England is all of high grade; that cut in the Kennebec River is the most celebrated.
__The first process in the cutting is the measuring out of a large square very accurately, the lines being deeply incised with an ice plough. Next, the original square is "marked" in smaller squares or, rather, oblongs, of a known size, generally twenty-four by thirty inches.
"It won't do to work by rule o'thumb," says the foreman. "The cakes have to be packed exactly, with no waste room. Besides, we can tell to a pound what each cake weighs when we take it out."
__The marker is a sort of harrow drawn by a horse, and provided at the back with an upright which serves both as a guide and as a handle upon which a man walking behind bears his weight so as to cause the teeth with which the left side of the marker is set to bite into the ice as it runs. The right side is a thin runner of steel. This runner is set into one of the plowed lines of the square, the horse is started and the machine travels across the field, the teeth cutting a deep furrow parallel with the side of the square. Another marker, with its runner set in the groove cut by the teeth of the first, follows, making a second groove. When the square has been marked off thus in one direction, the toothed blades are adjusted to a narrower gauge, and a series of grooves are cut at right angles to the first set. Some markers are provided with several sets of saw-teeth, so that two or more grooves are cut at one time. Those shown in the illustration are of the simpler construction.