Sunday, February 03, 2008

Winter Carnival 2008, 2nd Installment

After a "Lake Clear General Store" pizza for supper, we headed into Saranac Lake for the lighting of the Ice Castle by the Winter Carnival Royalty...the town also hosts a fun fireworks show, and Ben had never been to see fireworks before...

It was about 20 degrees out and mixed snow and sleet was falling (and then freezing) on everything and everyone out to enjoy the fun and festivities...


There's quite a crowd for the lighting of the Ice Castle, so Ben enjoyed sitting on my shoulders, both to get a better view and to avoid the slippery crush at ground level...

Once the Ice Castle was lit, the fireworks began, it was a great show that lasted for about 20 minutes...




Some of the fireworks exploded so low to ground that we worried that they might blow off the back of the ice castle...



Some of them exploded hundred of feet above us, and with so much power that the blasts had our ears ringing and actually blew our coats around...



it was a great show, and once it got started Ben got down off of my shoulders and was talking and shouting and laughing his way through the whole thing, leaning further and further back into me or Gail to watch the spectacle overhead...


After the fireworks, we walked around the Ice Castle to inspect the lights and look at/for the hidden treasures within...this year, there is a "Mole Hole", a tunnel going under the thickest part of the Ice Castle, about 20-30 feet long...there are also fish and aquatic plants frozen into the ice blocks (they're about 15"X15"X40", and must weigh hundreds of pounds each)...

We were looking for royalty, Ben likes to be photographed with Winter Carnival royals and characters (wait for next weekend, or look at past years' blogs), and found a "Prince" who was eager to help us out...


We also ran into this chilly looking little dog, whose owner seemed more interested in chatting than noting her dog's shivering...Gail gave and received kisses and little nips and softened by one more degree towards my eventual goal of owning a silly little dog, completely unsuited to the North Country...


The lighting of the Ice Castle from between the blocks fascinated Ben, and in this picture you can see him getting up close and personal with the ice...close enough that we cautioned him not to taste it...


And now for something completely different...



This is a picture of a Chinese giant salamander (Andrias Davidianus), it is the largest salamander in the world, reaching a length of 5 1/2 feet. Native to China, it is considered a critically endangered species.

It has a big head, small eyes and dark and wrinkly skin. It lives among the cold water streams in the mountains, where it feeds on insects, frogs and fish. The giant salamander has very poor eyesight, so it depends on special sensory nodes on its forehead to detect even the slightest movement in the water. It prefers to live in caves.


These amphibians are among the most endangered creatures on Earth, and although I will likely never travel to China to see one, I think that the world will be a generally less interesting place when there aren't anymore 5 foot long orange salamanders skulking in cold mountain streams and caves...Ben deserves a world with beasties like this one in it!

The EDGE website has a cool page on these, and other, remarkable animals...they focus on Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (hence EDGE) animals, and actually have a plan in place to try and save the Chinese giant salamander from extinction...once the tax refund comes in, they'll be getting a gift from us...in Ben's name...I urge everyone reading this to do the same...

2 comments:

mushroomprince said...

I <3 salamanders. Don't want to see them go :/

Rus said...

Hmmm... is it wrong that I wonder what salamander tastes like? ;)