Friday, March 29, 2019

Watching Ice Melt

Let’s get something straight.  Nenana is the town and Tenana is the river.  Each year the people of Nenana, Alaska watch the ice melt on the Tenana.  And its a big time thing.  This year the person who can guess the date and time that the ice melts wins $225,000.00.  That’s right.  The date and time that the ice melts on the Tenana River.  Previous ice melting dates and times all the way back to 1917 are published for people to look at to assist them in making their guess.  In order to guess a person has to purchase a ticket.

The official way of measuring when the ice melts (down to the last second) is done with a large tripod that sits on the ice on a specific spot on the ice. The tripod, which actually has four supports, is usually positioned about 300 feet offshore in the same general spot each year. The people of Nenana celebrate the placing of the tripod with a festival.  A line is somehow attached from the tripod to a clock and once the tripod moves 100 feet from its position the line is broken and the clock stops marking the exact moment that the ice melted.  In 2018, the ice officially melted on May 1 at 1:18 pm.

I was curious as to how this all began and did a little digging.  It seems that it began in 1906 with a group of fellas with names like Gunnysack Jack, Jonesy, and Duke in a bar looking for something to do and they all decided to bet on when the river ice would melt.  The winner that year was none of those guys but was a man named Oliver  (what?) who won a few free rounds of drinks at the bar.  The real, serious contest did not actually begin until 1917 but had its beginnings with Gunnysack, Jonesy, Duke, and of course, Oliver.

So, if you are looking for something to do this coming winter, entrer the Nenana Ice Classic and watch the ice melt on their webcam.  It is better than watching paint dry.

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