ST. AGATHA, Maine — Two secret weapons created by a St. Agatha plumber may be just what it takes to return the glory of the World’s Largest Ice Carousel record to Maine.
Roger Morneault, a licensed master plumber from St. Agatha, designed an ice cutting machine and an ice disc spinner he hopes will aid in the endeavor.
Morneault is a member of Northern Maine Ice Busters, which successfully carved out a 2018 World Record Ice Carousel on Long Lake in Sinclair in April of that year. The northern Maine championship ice disc weighed 11,000 tons, or 22 million pounds.
Volunteers used augers and chainsaws to cut a 427-foot diameter circle through some 31 inches of Long Lake ice over three days to achieve the world record ice carousel.
Since then, the international race to claim the World’s Largest Ice Carousel has found a new champion in the Sunny Zwilling Memorial Ice Carousel Extravaganza of Little Falls, Minnesota, organized by Chuck Zwilling. Other record holders over the years included teams in Quebec, Finland and Estonia.
The World Ice Carousel Association monitors the events.
“The current world record is 749 feet and we aim to beat that,” Morneault said. “Finland is cutting one this week. I don’t know how big they’re going.”
Morneault’s machines could bring things to yet another level.
The industrious Mainer doubled the teeth on the chainsaw of a Ditch Witch dirt trencher so the machine could cut through ice.
Volunteers will use handheld augers to drill 2,500 precisely placed holes in the Long Lake ice which Morneault’s trencher will connect if all goes well.
“It’s a huge team effort to do this,” Morneault said.
Simply cutting the largest ice carousel, however large the diameter, is not enough. The ice disc must spin for one full revolution to qualify for the world record.
The 2018 Ice Busters endeavor initially struggled to reach this goal.
Despite three days of cutting through Long Lake in March 2018, volunteers weren’t able to get the free floating ice chunk to spin more than six inches, before extreme cold caused the edges of the carousel to refreeze in places.
After cutting through and widening the trench in early April, crews set up four outboard motors and successfully rotated the ice carousel to claim the 2018 record.
Other record seekers have also spent days cutting through ice only to be met with defeat.
“Chuck [Zwilling, the current record holder from Minnesota] went for a 850-footer and failed this year,” Morneault said. “It was horrible. I felt bad for him. His circle wasn’t true- it never did a full revolution.”
Morneault also attached a 24-inch brass propeller to a potato harvester blower motor to create a machine to try and spin the latest northern Maine ice disc.
A friend visiting Alaska brought the propeller back at Morneault’s request.
“I was trying to come up with a plan,” Morneault said. “In the past we used small outboard motors, but I knew as the diameter increased it would be harder and harder to turn.”
The Northern Maine Ice Busters will begin cutting into ice at the St. Agatha area of Long Lake the first weekend of April.
Should Morneault’s machines fail, the Ice Busters are prepared to create their latest ice carousel the old fashioned way — with the use of more ice augers, chainsaws, outboard engines and additional northern Maine volunteer muscles.
On the morning of April 10, the public is invited to a ceremony on Long Lake where organizers hope the ice carousel will spin.
Although many details of the April 10 ceremony are yet to be determined, The Ice Busters are planning to fly the national flags of the United States, Canada, Finland and Estonia on the Long Lake ice that day.
“We want to show respect for the previous world record holders,” Morneault said.
The St. Agatha group has formed a friendship with other ice carousel champions over the years, and this was solidified when Morneault traveled to Little Falls in 2019 to deliver the traveling World Ice Record trophy to Zwilling’s crew.
The Northern Maine Ice Busters are hoping to receive such a visit this spring.
Camaraderie aside, the Northern Maine Ice Busters are in it to win it.
Morneault refused to say on record just how big a diameter the Ice Busters are aiming to slice their ice disc on Long Lake this April, so as not to tip off the competition.
He did provide a hint though about the Ice Busters plans for a new world record ice carousel.
“It’s gonna be a big one, and it’s not gonna be easy,” Morneault said.