Six-Story Ice Sculpture Collapses On Shore Of Lake Superior

Yesterday morning, this six-story ice sculpture collapsed on the shore of Lake Superior near Superior, Wis. Roger Hanson had been constructing the sculpture for the past few months. He used recycled water from a geo-thermal heating system and a robotic arm to continually spray water on a structure base.

He was attempting to nab a Guinness World Record for the tallest unsupported ice sculpture. It was close, but then fluctuating temperatures led to the sculpture becoming unstable and eventually its untimely demise.


Hanson gave some background on the project: “I heat my home with a geo-thermal system. The waste water from this process is then discarded into a river or pond. This process is very efficient because it is just transferring heat from one source to another. Instead of dumping the water into the river, I use it for the ice sculpture. When the furnace doesn’t run, a temperature probe on the nozzle triggers a valve when the temperature reaches 32 degrees. This keeps the water lines from freezing.

The robot that directs the spray is made from two antenna rotators that I have modified to position within ¼ of a degree. One rotator is attached to the other to allow azimuth and elevation motion. These antenna rotators are controlled by a computer using software that I have created. The computer program also uses weather info from a weather station on the top of the spray tower. The weather information such as the wind direction and speed is used to more accurately target the spray.

A steel cable that stretches across the top has a 150 foot span at a height of 65 feet. This cable can be raised and lowered by remote control.

Every year I try to improve. My goal is to make it bigger and better. This year I have enhanced many aspects of the project. Improvements include stronger and taller towers, break away devices, nozzle design, weight control, pressure control, six temperature probes, software design, and many other advancements.

As with previous structures that used a frame of conduit for the water to freeze onto, this structure has no supporting structure. This is one of the requirements to qualify for the world record.”

Eric Lemke

Eric is a contributing writer based in Bozeman, MT. An avid climber, mountain biker, backpacker, and snowboarder, he earned his degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota - Duluth. When not living the GearJunkie life, he can be found exploring the Montana backcountry.