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The Forgotten Craft & Community of Ice Harvesting

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 23, 2021

Ice Ball is a short documentary that follows legendary polar explorer Will Steger and the community that he’s built up around harvesting ice from frozen winter lakes near Ely in northern Minnesota. Steger lives off the grid and uses the harvested ice for refrigeration — the ice keeps everything cool in the ice house for the whole year, until the next harvest.

Best known for his legendary polar explorations, Will Steger’s life work grew out of a single log cabin he built after moving to the Minnesotan wilderness at age 25. Reliant on sustainable energy and natural commodities, Steger formed a community and culture based on the principle of mutuality. Central to Steger’s operation is the lost art of cutting ice for refrigeration. This annual harvest formed a tradition spanning fifty years that became known as the “Ice Ball”. While this old world technology inevitably became obsolete, its disappearance parallels a concerning loss of social interdependence in modern society.

Come for the ice harvesting, stay for the wonderful Minnesotan accents. (via colossal)