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To go along with the ivory tower, UAF builds ice tower

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Posted: Sunday, November 11, 2012 11:37 pm | Updated: 12:09 pm, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — The growing conditions for the 40-foot ice wall at the University of Alaska Fairbanks are ideal when the weather is colder than 15 above.

So the growing season is here for the popular spot where the ivory tower meets the ice tower.

The water is sprayed onto the tower from a couple of nozzles, building an every-thickening layer of ice for the winter. The fog is the portion of the water that becomes tiny pieces of ice.

Sam Braband, who leads the ice farming project, says a temperature below 15 degrees is needed for good growth. He runs a one-inch hose to the tower, which is just west of the student rec center at UAF. There are three power washer nozzles connected to a six-foot section of galvanized pipe.

“We move it around every two to three hours,” he said, starting from the bottom to create an ice foundation.

Braband said the ice is attached to the wall by spraying water on pieces of chain link fencing, which are anchored to the tower with lag screws and two-by-fours.

If the weather holds, he said the tower could be ready for ice climbing in a couple of weeks, smothered in ice about two feet thick. Ice has to be added to throughout the winter, as climbers using crampons and ice axes on the tower tend to chip off pieces.

The ice produced by the spray is called “cauliflower ice” and while it does not replicate a mountain waterfall, it does provide good technical training, he said.

UAF has one-credit recreation classes both for those who have never climbed ice and those who want more advanced instruction.

“It’s an opportunity to give them the skills so they can go ice climbing themselves,” Braband said.

The climbing wall will be open from 4-8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday when the ice is ready.


DUCK TRANSPLANT: Last week, I wrote a blog posting saying the ducks outside the state courthouse should be killed instead of left to wander the streets looking for people to give them food.

Upon reflection, I’m willing to agree that transplanting the ducks to the section of the Chena River downstream from the power plant that does not freeze might be a more popular solution than exterminating the ducks.

The ducks like the warm pavement at the court house. Unfortunately, they have been trained by some people downtown to walk up to people for food.

We have a strange set of inconsistent rules about wildlife in our society. Our notions of what is deemed appropriate regarding the treatment of wild animals are also inconsistent.

 The ducks are hunted if they do what they are supposed to and fly south, with some of them not making it across the Tanana River when duck season starts.

If they don’t, they are treated like semi-pets by people, which results in ducks ignoring the laws of nature. But they are not treated like real pets, except when people are handing them food, so they are left to fend for themselves most of the time.

These animals, and those downstream past the power plant, are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The worst thing would be to leave them sitting in the middle of the street, waiting to get run over.

It’s a waste of time to put them in the Chena right downtown, as the open water is fading fast.

Four of the ducks planted themselves in the middle of Lacey Street about 4 p.m. Thursday. When I went to take a closer look they all came up to me, expecting to get food. When cars approached, they did not move.

I’m sure that the people who have chosen to feed them have good intentions, but the results are harmful to the ducks.


FIRST BABY: Congratulations to Chelsea and Samuel Barney, of Huslia. On Friday at 6:16 a.m., Chelsea gave birth to Daniel Barney, 7 lbs., 11 oz., the first baby born in the new home of the Alaska Family Health and Birth Center on 30th Avenue.

The birth center is expected to complete the move of its offices from Gaffney Road to the new building, which is between Peger Road and Lathrop Street, next to the Montessori School.

Dermot Cole can be reached at or 459-7530.

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