The ‘Castle’ has Fallen, Spring Must be Coming

Ice Castle 2016 001

The Lake Superior Ice Project formation collapsed near my workplace this week, and that means spring can’t be far behind. The photo above is from a week ago when the right part of it collapsed, and now the whole thing is a pile of ice rubble.

When the collapse in the picture happened, we weren’t sure if it was planned or not. It caused a bit of a stir in the office – especially since last year the structure had a rather spectacular and unintended collapse right in front of a New York Times reporter. But we later heard that the formation’s creator, Roger Hanson, had been working for the past few days on dismantling his ice castle.

It would have been nice if he had alerted the public that he was dismantling the structure. The woman in my photo complained that she would have come to see it earlier had she known. And it could have avoided some surprise and speculation.

I have “castle” in quotes in this posting’s title because the ice never ended up looking like the European-style castle with four towers that Mr. Hanson described in media stories. It looked more like a birthday cake with a door in it to me. I suspect our warm El Nino winter had something to do with that.

The structure also didn’t break any world height records as hoped, but it did serve as a focal point for a community Ice Festival, complete with fireworks.

Orbs 002

Ice orbs during the freezing process.

A related icy project (that I actually helped with instead of snarking about) involved bringing community groups together to create ice orbs in the shape of Lake Superior. The City of Superior’s Environmental Services Division organized this collaborative art project to highlight the importance of fresh water to the community. Different groups pledged to create a certain number of ice orbs so that 365 of them (Get it? One for each day of the year) could be installed near the ice castle for the festival.

The project was called Orb365 and, along with instructions on how to make the orbs, the project included educational messages about how water reacts to freezing and ways water is important.

I pledged 10 orbs, which I created by filling water balloons and sticking them outside in hopes that they would freeze. I started the freezing process four days before the orbs were needed, certain that would be plenty of time, especially in February in northern Wisconsin. However, the weather was so warm, the orbs didn’t completely freeze until the very last night, eliciting some anxiety on my part.


Lake Superior shaped in ice orbs.

Triumphant, I was able to deliver the orbs the following day to the “orb construction site” where a city worker artistically arranged them into the shape of the lake, and festooned them with lights. She positioned larger orbs to represent major cities around the lake.

Alas, now the orbs are melted along with the castle. The snow is almost gone, and the meatloaf-brown grass of spring is upon us. Although this winter was warmer than usual, I’m not going to complain about it. I’m sure the northern weather gods will make us pay for it next winter.


2 thoughts on “The ‘Castle’ has Fallen, Spring Must be Coming

  1. An interesting orb project! Kudos to you for helping! I can’t imagine cold like that. We hardly had any winter at all with no real frosts. Spring is here early which means we will have a long summer. You are right about the ice castle – it looks more like a melting cake. May the northern weather gods return again!

    • Thank you! Yes, people here tend to like the snow to stick around for a while because there’s more you can do with it (ski, sled, etc.) than you can with mud. I fear with the snow melting so early, we’ll have a dry spring, which can lead to wildfires. But let’s hope not!

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