Jon Spence and John Jurczynski break up the cut ice chunks with the crew then channeling them towards the chute for loading during the Rockywold-Deephaven Camp annual ice harvest on Squaw Cove Wednesday. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)
By Roger Amsden
FOR THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
SANDWICH — The annual ice harvest which will fill the antique ice boxes at the Rockywold-Deephaven camps on Squam Lake next summer got underway yesterday at Squaw Cove, a few miles up Route 113 from the camps.
The three-day harvest will see about 3,300 blocks of ice, weighing around 120 pounds each, cut from the 12-inch-thick ice and pushed and pulled through a 16-inch-wide channel cut into the lake, where they are winched up a ramp and layered into the back of a pickup truck, which hauls them away 15 blocks at a time.
John Jurczynski, manager of the Rockywold-Deephaven camps, oversees about a dozen workers during the harvest, said that about 20 years ago the camps tried to switch to electric refrigerators but got no support from their customers, who wanted the old, historic ice boxes instead.
He said the ice harvest tradition stretches back over 100 years at the camp and usually takes place in mid or late January, when the ice reaches a depth of at least 12 inches on one of the two coves used as harvest sites.
Carl Hansen of Sandwich, who operates the 36-inch motorized ice saw, said the undercarriage of the apparatus is 60 to 70 years old, but a new engine and a clutch have been added to make its operation more safe and efficient.
The saw is used to cut 40-foot-long rows, 16 inches apart, and then cuts across the rows at 20-inch intervals to separate the blocks. The saw penetrates deep into the ice but stops short of making contact with the water, which would freeze on the saw and slow its operation as well send plumes of water into the air which would make the lake's ice surface even more slippery.
"The saw can go as deep as 13-and-a-half inches and some years we've needed all of that because the ice got to 16 inches thick." said Hansen, who has been handling the sawing operation for about 13 years. He's a novelist, having recently completed "Destiny", which he describes as an ''eco-thriller" and is also an accomplished woodworker.
Helping out at the harvest was Dave Lacasse of Center Harbor, a maintenance worker at the Rockywold-Deephaven camps, who said the harvest is a lot of fun, in part due to the number of spectators it attracts, but also takes a lot of hard work.
He said that, unlike previous years, the weather is really nice this year, with temperatures approaching 40 degrees, but he' rather have it a little cooler.
"When it's in the 20s, the ice slides right along and can be handled better," he said.
Helping push the blocks through the channel was C.C. White of Sandwich, whose husband, Dave, was working with a power saw to cut the ice blocks apart.
''We get to keep about 150 blocks of ice for our ice house,'' said White, adding that she and her husband use an ice box instead of a refrigerator at their home, which produces its own electricity and is not connected to the electrical grid.
''We're totally off the grid. We don't even have running water. We have a well and use hand pump to draw the water," she said.
She's an artist and has been painting for years, and her husband is a retired builder. She grew up in North Conway and said she and her husband moved back to New Hampshire in 1998 and bought the land for their house, which they built totally themselves in 2001 and is super insulated, with solar panels producing its electricity.
Watching the harvest from a distance was Norm Lyford, 89, of Ashland, who last year marked 70 years of taking part in harvesting ice from Squam Lake. He started harvesting ice with his father, Colby, and recalls that in the early years teams of horses were used to pull the blocks of ice from the lake and haul them to ice houses.
Jurczynski said Lyford attended a training session Tuesday for volunteers but is not taking part in this year's harvest.
Chris Burrows and Alex Sands precisely position ice blocks as they slide into the Rockywold Ice House during the ice harvest on Wednesday. The two ice houses at Rockywold-Deephaven Camp will be full to the rafters (approximately 10-11 layers) after the three-day ice harvest. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)
Carl Hansen operates the ice cutter with precision during day one of the annual three day ice harvest with the Rockywold-Deephaven Camp crew on Wednesday. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)