on the topic of 36.25°N, 116.82°W

what do you know about ice? the top three answers according to my informal survey: it’s cold, it forms at 32 degrees (we’re in america so presume that’s on the fahrenheit scale), and, i busted my ass once slipping on it. brilliant.

as early as 1,000 bce, the chinese cut natural ice and stored it for summer use. 500 years later, people of egypt and india would make ice, “on cold nights by setting water out in earthenware pots and keeping the pots wet.” what we, in the u.s. anyway, would consider the origin of ice is largely attributed to frederic tudor – the ice king.

the ice king. from boston. in 1806 tudor set sail from boston with 130 tons of ice, cut from his own pond; the ship was bound for martinique in the caribbean. he was 23.

his first venture was a failure, as was his second (240 tons bound for cuba), perhaps even his third or more. but he learned from mistakes and through innovation, planning, and a partnership in 1825 with nathaniel wyeth, the ice king prevailed.

india was the ice king’s cash cow – no pun intended – and with his storage innovations, he was able to sail for four months with hardly any loss of cargo. by 1856, tens of thousands of tons of ice left boston each year bound for over 40 countries. this was the birth of the natural ice trade and it persisted quite well until around the first world war.

given that, you might think that artificial ice production is a 20th century invention. you’d be wrong.

dr. john gorrie was awarded the first patent, for an ice making machine, in 1851 after debuting his invention four years earlier. it was in apalachicola, florida, and all the ice from the north, in their insulated stores, was gone. the french consul was having a party and iced champagne was a big hit.

gorrie, however, was not the first with this idea. there was William Cullen in glasgow, scotland, 1748.  american, oliver evans, in 1805 designed a refrigeration machine although he never built one. jacob perkins developed an experimental compressor in 1834. at least six others seriously experimented with refrigeration in the late 19th century. it wasn’t until willis haviland carrier’s u.s. patent did things get efficient. that was 1906. as george l. chapel of the apalachicola area historical society states, “these inventions have had global implications.”

Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny.
– william shakespeare

so what exactly does all this have to do with 36.25 degrees north and 116.82 degrees west? those coordinates are for an area in death valley, california. it is the salt pan of badwater basin and was formed when lake manly evaporated some 11,000 years ago.

it’s hot there.

i’ve endured hot before but death valley heat is different – it’s nearly spiritual. recently, while spending the day there, i had an opportunity to see and contemplate many things. at day’s end, while setting up my camp at 7 pm and 110°f, i relished a newly purchased bag of ice like no christmas present i’ve ever opened. believe me when i say nothing – No Thing – is as marvelous as ice. at the end of a long day. in death valley.



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