Posted by: goodcoldwater | January 7, 2013

a playable record made of ice


News of this enticing object came my way in the form of a FB post from a friend. Clicking through link after link and blog after blog that tracks this innovation, I’ve discovered music-lovers and designers are offering equal amounts of enthused interweb attention to this playable record made of ice. (The image above, for example, comes from

Looks like the Shout Out Louds, an indie band from Sweden, wanted to stir up some media attention before their next album Solaris is released in late February 2013. They went to Stockholm design firm TBWA and before long the concept was firmed up – the song “Blue Ice” would be made into a seven-inch single formed of ice instead of vinyl.

So was it easy? Did they just take an imprint of the song, make a mold, pour water into it and jam it into a freezer? Or did they hire a software wizard to write code for laser etching? Or a steady-handed artist with a set of fine dental tools to inscribe the frozen surface?

Apparently it took some experimenting. Marketing mag Fast Company spoke with TBWA art director Alex Fredlund, giving us a quick look into the process:

“We talked to professors at different universities telling us it would never work out, so we had to develop the technique ourselves,” he says. After receiving a negative imprint of the song’s master cut, they started experimenting; the office became a kind of amateur chemistry lab, and the team spent hours testing different types of liquid, various drying techniques, and multiple kinds of molds.

That would be my ideal kind of office, if I ever go back to desk-work. It’s a short article, but worth a read. The mold they finally settled on is made of silicon (easy to remove); I was curious to see that when they found out distilled water works best for smoothest sound, they created a distribution package that includes a bottle of distilled water.


Using freshly boiled water also produces clearer ice, but asking someone to put the kettle on would be way more homey, thus less sleek and magical. Dig the lighting there, reminiscent of a vodka ad (image from

Only ten people get to have one of these. Ao far I can’t find who or where those ten people are, I’d love to know about their experiences, so let me know if you find out! In the meantime, there’s this YouTubeitude of what seems a pretty pop single:

I’m impressed. The sound’s scratchy, surprisingly like vinyl (at least through the layers of digitization). And the repeating bits at the end – well have a listen yourself, it’s a pleasure.

Posted by: goodcoldwater | November 6, 2012

Ice Road to Tuk – 2012 accolades

A few sparkly and exciting ice events have happened between now and the last time this blog had a regular heartbeat. Here’s one I wanted to share.

In the last post I had written in 2010, into blue noon: over a frozen road, I had just finished editing a short video, using footage from a drive up the ice road between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk, NWT. That drive stays with me in magical ways (did we really see all that … spaciousness? mysteriousness?) and in some exciting ways, so does the film itself.

In 2011, Dan Sokolowski, director of the Dawson City International Short Film Festival, encouraged me to re-edit the footage for screening at that year’s festival. The problem with some of the original sunless footage was that it became too pixelated on the large screen. So I went back to the tape from the trip I did to Inuvik in autumn, and combined the two.

The result is a trance in two seasons.

Ice Road to Tuk did indeed show at the DCISFF in 2011. And another result: it was included in a screening program in March 2012, at the Vancouver Women in Film Festival, where it won the NFB Short Documentary Film Award!! It was part of Wise + Wild: A showcase of Short Films from the Yukon, curated by Lulu Keating of Red Snapper Films (and of Dawson City, thank you very much. she’s quite the mentor and inspiration here. I’ll have to find an ice connection to tell some stories about her).

What an honour to be included in the first place, and then recognized like this. I used the prize money towards buying the c.1914 upright piano that now graces my living room … and hopefully will appear in a new short film soon.

Posted by: picnicmelt | October 23, 2012

ice = rebirth

after a two year pause, keeping The Ice Cubicle archived so all these images & interviews were not lost, there are still moments now & again when i see something that needs to be added to this collection. this blog was originally a year-long project, but took a bit longer, running from may ’09 to aug ’10. for many writers, painters, photographers, instead of ice being a killing force, ice = rebirth, time for creative focus.

2012’s winter crashes into our dawson city ecosphere with a speed that surprises. and mystifies. charms with beauty. drops the trees into their annual slow sleep before they’ve shed all their leaves.

locals say it could be the earliest freeze-up in years. the ferry between dawson city and west dawson was taken out yesterday, and usually doesn’t need to come out until early november.

and here, shoreline at the confluence, last night’s sunset.

and here, oh you tricky ice: now you revive instead of kill.“but you must have fainted, creative heart!” says the cerebral self as the shiver runs down vena cava’s curve and wakes it up. ice cakes on water add multiple lenses for light to pattern between our minds & our speaking intricate things. poetic things. struggling things.

sunlit things. some that surface, some that swim. ones that pass from shape to shape to smell to texture to shape to touch to smell to stroke to slush on river to ice that sings. talking about green one week & hearing snow the week next. listening to ice. shadowy things. hissing things? yes, shirr of crystalline forms that shrug against mud and stone.

maybe these posts will happen frequently again; possibly not.

either way, thanks for stopping by again, and
send me the ice beauties that you find, if you so desire.

Posted by: goodcoldwater | August 19, 2010

into blue noon: over a frozen road

This is my last Ice Cubicle blog post, a wrap to an intriguing project that has left me with a long list of ice-related ideas to explore.

There are so many things I didn’t get to writing about – more on glaciers and ice-shelves disappearing due to climate change; the timeline of Ice House Detroit, in which New York City artists froze an abandoned home to make a statement about the housing crisis; the story of the Pazyryk Ice Maiden, a tattooed mummy found in Siberia in 1993; or thoughts about the hand-carved styrofoam icebergs that Montreal artist Donna Akrey made to accompany the tiny suburbs, fake lawns and “sorry” stones that formed her Vague Terrain installation at the Riverside Arts Festival last week.

an iceberg by Akrey

But it’s time for me to move into slower, more creative projects (as you may have already noticed from the stoppage of blog posts here).

As a closing note, here’s a short video about one of the most beautiful ice experiences I had in the last year. It’s taken me months to absorb, and it doesn’t quite fit into words.

When three of us drove up to Tuktoyaktuk on the Mackenzie River Delta Ice Highway in late December 2009, the experience was gorgeous. We felt secure in Charles’ 4WD vehicle; the full moon was visible; the ice highway had been solid for weeks. Lance (my boyfriend) and I traded turns in the passenger seat because the back seat didn’t get as much heat. The sky never turned brighter than sunset pink. There were a lot of bumps. There was a lot of fog.

Yet the adventure, impressive as it was, seemed almost a logical extension of the Northern winter we were already experiencing – a NWT adventure woven into our snowy, low-to-no-sunlight Yukon winter days.

My almost-pragmatic response changed abruptly this summer. One hot July day in Dawson I was looking at some video footage I had taken on the ice highway. I had simply shot through the window, using my little Casio. Without the reality of minus-thirty and darkness physically around me, the Arctic journey now seemed exotic and surreal. I could hardly believe we had been lucky enough to go there.

The Ice Highway is practical. It allows heavy equipment and supplies to flow North more easily and cheaply than by air freight.  The Northwest Territories Highways website lists the Ice Road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk as a mere 187 kilometres, which is not long for a road trip or trucking route. People who live in Tuk and Inuvik drive the road regularly during the December-April season that it’s open.

Yet the Ice Highway is also magical. Driving on a frozen river, dependent on the inherited creativity of technology to keep us safe, we fell quiet. It was enough to watch the dark green-blue patches of metre-thick ice appear on the river where the snow had blown away.

And it was more than enough to give in to absorbing the streaming rhythm of fog, snowscape, bluff, ice, fog, repeat that the river architecture offered as we drove into blue noon and farther again.

Posted by: goodcoldwater | May 24, 2010

spring breakup: a swimming tale

For a while there it seemed the “spring fever vs ice” competition was over. The Yukon River broke weeks ago, and it’s hot enough in the daytime to get a slight sunburn, as I found out yesterday.

But I had to drive between Dawson City and Whitehorse twice in the past two weeks, and as we passed the larger lakes, such as Fox Lake, I was surprised to see them still carrying an unbroken layer of ice.

To top things off, on a hike yesterday, I discovered this in the shadow of Crocus Bluff:

I’ve been wrong! Ice. Lingers. On.

So I thought it would still make sense to include here a story my friend Gaby Sgaga told me recently about falling into the Yukon River during spring breakup 2009. Gaby has lived in and near Dawson for more than a decade, and alternates her seasons between working as an interpreter for Parks Canada (summers) and living the outdoor life (winters).

Gaby on the Dawson City side of the Dawson - West Dawson ice bridge, spring 09 - showing how the ice bridge remains until the Yukon River breaks apart

The free WordPress doesn’t allow audio uploads, so I’ll invite you to navigate over to this link at podbean –

But before you go, here are some of Gaby’s photos demonstrating the role of canoes and spring break-up navigation across the Yukon River. From 2007 and 2009.

Posted by: goodcoldwater | May 7, 2010

and hawaii reveals: asteroid ice

Looking beyond Dawson again – way beyond – two groups of scientists viewing the sky from Hawaii have discovered a thin layer of ice around asteroid 24 Themis. The separate research teams have measured proof of the ice, and of organic matter, using the NASA Infrared Telescope on Mauna Kea.

24 Themis, about 120 miles in diameter, is part of the Themis Asteroid Family in the outer portion of the main asteroid belt, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

And the reason this particular ice matters? It bolsters theories that Earth’s original water source may have been icy asteroids, crashing into our planet and bringing H2O to our locale.

Wired magazine offers this explanation of the possible link between the ice discovery on 24 Themis and that beautiful blue water many of us will be boating on/swimming in this summer:

“What we’ve found suggests that an asteroid like this one may have hit Earth and brought our planet its water,” said astronomer Humberto Campins of the University of Central Florida, the lead of one of the two separate teams that reported similar findings April 28 in [the scientific journal] Nature.

While there is plenty of debate around how Earth got its oceans, this new evidence suggests some of the water came from extraterrestrial sources. Here’s how it may have happened: More than four billion years ago, after a massive collision between Earth and another large object created the moon, our planet was completely dessicated. Then, during the Late Heavy Bombardment period that followed, during which lots of asteroids hit Earth, the ice that the objects carried became our store of water.

“The more we find in our asteroid belt objects that do have water, the more convinced we are that that was a possible process to rehydrate the earth,” said NASA astrobiologist Mary Voytek.

NASA’s own press release emphasizes that 24 Themis, the largest asteroid in the family, must have an ice core because surface ice doesn’t last when asteroids are so close to the sun (“close” taking on a whole new sense of distance when we’re talking about space, of course).

“Finding widespread water ice on an asteroid so close to the sun was a completely surprising result. We expect ice to evaporate quickly into space from the surfaces of asteroids,” said Noemi Pinilla-Alonso, a research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. Pinilla-Alonso is the co-author of a research paper titled, “Water ice and organics on the surface of the asteroid 24 Themis,” published this week in the British-American scientific journal Nature.

On a clear night in January 2008 … for the first time, the infrared measurements taken at the IRTF showed the characteristics of frozen water on Themis.

Although the frozen water on asteroid 24 Themis should have disappeared into space more than a billion years ago, it is still seen uniformly covering the surface. “This discovery tells us that water vapor is slowly leaking out of the inside of the asteroid at the present time and freezing on the surface in a paper-thin layer that we can measure with our telescope,” observed Pinilla-Alonso. “We also see the signs of the organic materials that are necessary for the formation of life on Earth.”

Intriguing stuff, asteroids acting almost like time machines for us.

Also intriguing – it seems that numerous “artist’s rendition” images of 24 Themis (and of asteroids in orbit generally speaking) are available online, but not photographs. And most of the artistic dream-images are just that, dreamy and a bit corny – d’oh! So the photo above is of the Mauna Kea telescope, instead, taken from

Posted by: goodcoldwater | April 30, 2010

dawson ice guessing contest: it’s all over

The wait is over. It’s been more of a melt-off than a break-up this spring 2010, but the Yukon River is running again.

The ice broke its grip at 3:12 a.m. this morning, according to Joyce Cayley, speaking on CFYT Radio on behalf of IODE. The annual Ice Guessing Contest is over.

But what’s the Ice Guessing Contest? Every spring, IODE (the International Order of the Daughters of the Empire) in Dawson City sell tickets for $2 that anyone can fill in to guess the exact minute the ice will break. The winner gets $999.00 or half the pot – whichever is larger. Yes, that’s right, a minimum of a grand!

MAY 1st UPDATE: there were two tickets with 3:10 a.m. selected as the time for the ice to break, so the prize money is split between local musician Aaron and downtown hairstylist Maria. Congrats guys!

That’s what this tripod was for – the flagged line connects to a clock, and as soon as the tripod moves due to river ice movement, the clock stops. Typically, once someone reads the clock, the Fire Chief sounds the city alarm. Not this year – maybe because of the time of night?

I took these pix on April 15. Some years, though rarely, there have been false alarms if only the ice below the tripod moves and the ice banded across the river remains locked.

The beautiful architecture in the background with one end detailed with asymmetrical “poles” is, by the way, the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre, owned and operated by the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in.

See how soft the ice looks around the tripod’s feet? April 15 was the last day I dared walk on the river ice, though others were still crossing to West Dawson for days after.

This morning, around 8:45 a.m., the same spot looked like this:

Mammoth Mapping took their daily picture at almost the exact same time, at 8:43 a.m. (see yesterday’s post for a description of who these folks are and what they do).

So who won the gambling pot? This pertinent detail is not yet officially announced! As for my Ice Guessing tickets, have a look…

Oh look, the date + time were carefully blocked out to dampen betting competition when I used this image in an earlier email. So sorry!

Posted by: goodcoldwater | April 29, 2010

almost as good as a helicopter

Almost as good as a helicopter: the website provides fodder for spring break-up obsession with photos taken from the Sunnydale Lookout, south and west of Dawson City. In other words, from the “other” side of the Yukon River, providing views currently unavailable to any of us in town unless we hire air transportation.

Here’s a view from 7:40 p.m., April 29, 2010:

And here’s one from 6:20 p.m., April 29, 2009:

And this is the view from 11:19 a.m. on May 3. The official breakup time was 12:17 p.m. that day.

Even though there’s a big stretch of open water, if you look on the left side of the image, you can see the ice jamming up as the current moves floes from the wide bend toward a slightly narrower stretch of river. When water levels rise enough, the pressure breaks through at that section and the whole river flows. (Any locals reading this, please tweak my reasoning here if it needs any!)

The other thing I enjoy about these suites of photos is that it doesn’t take too much distance to see how compact Dawson City really is.

But about Mammoth Mapping – a Dawson company that provides the Mammoth Map Guides to Dawson City and Whitehorse each year through Visitor Information Centre – why, and how, are they over in Sunnydale taking photos of spring?

When I emailed John to ask for permission to post these photos, I also asked, “what’s the story behind how you started doing these photos each year?”

John wrote back:

the story is really just that we’re (happily) stuck on this side of the river for breakup each year and we have some free time. also I have a minor obsession with documenting things like this because memory (especially mine) is fallible. you know how people are always saying things with authority about how things were last year, or 3 yrs ago… and you don’t necessarily believe them? I guess I figure pictures don’t lie. I guess I’m keeping score!

Another person keeping score! I love it.

This year’s stitched-together photos are taken by Cholena, John’s partner; the 2009 photos are taken by John. The site has many more, it’s well worth a look.

Back on this shore, with my more humble, closer-to-water view, I can’t believe the river didn’t break today. Have a look at why. The tripod in these photos is for the Ice Betting tickets – I will write a post explaining this tomorrow. For now, you just need to know that this view is taken toward the north end of Dawson (in contrast to the confluence photos I’ve been posting; both rivers are running smoothly at the confluence, with ice floe chunks along the sides).

9:00 a.m.: ice jumble leading up to the tripod:

9:00 a.m.: the tripod (tipped with safety-orange paint) and the head of the jumble’s pressure ridge (yes, I was late for work due to river-admiration):

12:30 noon: tripod again (tiny on RH side), plus more open leads

and looking south from the same spot:

next shots came after work + ping-pong, around 7:45 p.m. that’s hay on the ice, leftover I believe from dog teams keeping warm?

and still, somehow, even though melted shoreline leads have spidered out into fast-flowing channels, the river had not broken when I biked down for a look at

10:20 p.m.

Home before rainfall. Ice still doing its thing.

Thanks to Mammoth Mapping for their almost-aeriall views.

Posted by: goodcoldwater | April 28, 2010

another yukon river view: caribou crossings

To give you (and myself) a pause from the tension of waiting for the Yukon River to break, I’d like to direct you a recent post on Manuela’s blog Every Day Life in the Northern Yukon Wilderness. Manuela chronicles the flow of Yukon life dozens of kilometres away from any town.

Manuela’s posts are always thoughtful and her account of last week’s caribou crossing up near Green Creek includes the following:

I stood in awe, while those 10 animals were migrating slowly from their winter feeding grounds to their spring calving grounds. The females will give birth soon. Last year’s calves were still nursing – or trying to, I could not tell. They survived a long cold winter, the constant presence of predators, scarcity of food supplies, maggots in their skin, and crossing ice cold rivers. What really got to me though was the realization that none of these natural aspects of their habitat could do as much harm to them as my species has been doing to theirs: Over the last 150 years, humans have reduced the size of local caribou herds to a fraction of their original size. Yesterday, we saw 17 animals, but 70 years ago sternwheeler boats had to stop to give way to thousands of animals crossing the river.

Manuela’s complete post can be found here, with an amazing suite of caribou photos including one of the group sleeping on the ice itself.

(By the way, last year when I first came across Manuela’s blog, it was because her home and property had been damaged by 2009’s sudden, extreme break-up that produced massive ice jams. I wrote about that here. Here’s hoping this year’s melt is more manageable.)

As for the view of the Yukon River near Dawson, today I saw dogs swimming near the shore – a sight unseen since last October. Ahhhh. The so-far slow thaw means the gravel beach is clear enough, and sun-drenched enough, for beer-drinkers to hang out too, while ice floes glow nearby.

Posted by: goodcoldwater | April 27, 2010

spring fever 2: ice 2 – momentary truce

Today, again I walked along the Yukon from town to the Yukon-Klondike confluence and all the way to the bridge that goes over the Klondike. All clear (well, silty) running water at the bridge. And a moment of stillness at the confluence.

1 point goes to spring fever for keeping everything under control and managing to stay at work all day – indoors – hanging onto the promise of the after-work wander.

1 point goes to ice for creating a calm, reflective moment among all the fervor of clumping, floating, rotating, rolling ice floes.

Current score – spring fever 2: ice 2.

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