ST. AGATHA, Maine — Plans to return the record for World’s Largest Ice Carousel to Maine became more difficult last week when a group in Finland successfully spun a monster-sized ice disc.
At more than 1,000 feet in diameter, the Finnish disc conquered a 749-foot record set in 2019 by Sunny Zwilling Memorial Ice Carousel Extravaganza of Little Falls, Minnesota.
The international race to build the World’s Largest Ice Carousel may come down to homemade machines built by a St. Agatha plumber and a Finnish scientist who consults for NASA.
Northern Maine Ice Busters, a group from northern Maine, 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 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 spinning disc.
The Northern MaineIce Busters aims this spring to bring the world championship trophy back to Maine.
The Finnish group, led by World Ice Carousel Association Chair Janne Kapylehto of Helsinki, took the record with a carousel measuring just under 1,020 feet in diameter carved on Lake Lappajarvi in Lappajarvi, Finland.
Kapylehto, a scientist who trains NASA personnel in mathematical software and material physics, built a special machine for the Lake Lappajarvi endeavor. The ice cutter, which he calls “The Red Devil,” has a giant circular saw from a helicopter blade used to clear grid paths in the forest.
“I built the unit using a stump grinder as base,” Kapylehto said.
The enthusiastic Northern Maine Ice Busters are not deterred from their mission to reclaim the record they held in 2018.
“We’re just making it slightly bigger than we had planned,” ice buster Mike Cyr said. “We’re gonna do a 336-meter, or 1,102-foot-diameter, circle. We were [planning] 1,000 feet anyways, so we’re just going a little bit bigger.”
Ice buster Roger Morneault, a licensed master plumber from St. Agatha, also designed an ice cutting machine and an ice disc spinner for the Maine endeavor.
The industrious Mainer doubled the teeth on the chainsaw of a Ditch Witch dirt trencher so the machine could cut through ice. 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.
An unusually mild northern Maine winter may aid the endeavor.
“The ice is much thinner this year which makes it easier, but we also cannot get as much heavy equipment on the ice as well, so we have to balance the equipment we’re using with the thickness of the ice,” Cyr 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.
“It involves calculation of math and weight and physics — it’s math in motion,” Cyr said. “It’s very interesting how a 20,000-ton piece of ice can be rotated with very little effort once it’s perfectly round.”
Northern Maine Surveyors, which Cyr owns, will position the circle with a real-time kinematic GPS system.
“If there are any deviations the carousel will not rotate,” Cyr said. “It will hit its imperfections and stay stuck.”
The Kapylehto team surveyed their cutting path with a Leica Geosystems distance laser.
“It was a bit slow but very, very accurate, within 1 millimeter,” Kapylehto said. “It is way more accurate than RTK GPS.”
On the morning of April 10, the public is invited to a ceremony on Long Lake where organizers hope the ice carousel will spin.
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.
Kapylehto also traveled to Little Falls that year.
“This is a friendly competition,” Kapylehto said. “We share tips on how to build an ice carousel.”
Cyr said his group is happy for Finland for its latest ice carousel championship success.
“The purpose of ice carousels is to bring joy and community spirit to the area and happiness all over the world,” Cyr said.
The Northern Maine Ice Busters are looking forward to cutting an ice carousel on Long Lake again this spring, whether or not they bring back the world record trophy.
“This is all to have fun and we are gonna do our best to do it this year,” Cyr said. “If we’re not successful, in 2022 we’re gonna be at it again.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the brand of laser Kapylehto used.