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Resort Keeps Tradition of Harvesting Ice from Lake Alive

Neil Cederberg uses a pick pole to guide a 16 x 19-inch ice block into a channel on Squam Lake at the Rockywold-Deephaven Camps in Holderness, New Hampshire. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Resort Keeps Tradition of Harvesting Ice from Lake Alive
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In modern times, most people choose to use electrical devices, like refrigerators, to keep drinks cool. But summer visitors at Rockywold-Deephaven Camps in New Hampshire cool their drinks the old-fashioned way - using large blocks of ice in wooden boxes.

Rockywold-Deephaven Camps first opened in the town of Holderness, New Hampshire in 1897. That year, workers and volunteers first began to get ice from nearby Squam Lake.

Workers use tools such as saws and ice pikes to cut 200 tons of ice in a normal winter. They transport the ice to two storage buildings on the campgrounds, where it is kept until the summer. Then, workers provide the ice to camp guests, who place it in old iceboxes to keep drinks and food cold. Some of the iceboxes date back to the 1930s. Guests are told not to eat the ice. But some older guests still place a few pieces of the ice in their drinks.

John Jurczynski has run the Rockywold-Deephaven Camps for 29 years. He also leads the ice harvest. He told the Associated Press, “Many of the families have been coming for generations, and people who come here don’t like to see much change. They like it to be a simple, quiet place.”

Workers wait until the ice reaches a safe thickness – about 33 centimeters — before the harvest begins. They mostly use a device called an ice saw —a large, round piece of metal with many sharp points. It cuts deeply as a powered sled moves it across the ice. The blocks of ice it makes can weigh as much as 54 kilograms. They are loosened with the help of chain saws. Workers with tools called ice pikes guide the blocks along a narrow passage of water to land. There, the blocks are loaded onto a truck for a trip to the storage buildings.

Harvesting Ice
Harvesting Ice

The group collects as many as 3,600 blocks of ice each winter.

Dennis Picard is a former museum director in Massachusetts. He is considered an expert on ice harvesting. He told the AP that ice harvesting began in 1805. A man named Frederic Tudor came up with the idea of shipping ice around the world. Picard says at its peak, ice was shipped as far away as Asia. The ice harvesting business made Tudor millions of dollars. Picard added that tens of thousands of people were employed in the industry, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest.

But ice harvesting declined after World War I. Gas-powered and electric refrigerators became more popular. Today, only a few places in North America continue to harvest ice for business purposes. Wine Lake Camp in Ontario, Canada does it, as well as several places in Wisconsin, Montana and Maine. In the Maine town of South Bristol, the ice is sold and used to produce ice cream for a yearly ice cream party in July.

Rockywold-Deephaven is open to guests from June through the middle of September. In the past 122 years, the camp has never gone without an ice harvest.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Michael Case reported this story for the Associated Press news service. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.


Words in this Story

resort –​ n. a place where people go for vacations

blade n. the flat sharp part of a weapon or tool that is used for cutting

sled n. a small vehicle that has a flat bottom or long, narrow strips of metal or wood on the bottom and that is used for moving over snow or ice