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April 27, 2015 - Final Update - I Made a Promise

On February 22nd, the following challenge was issued:

For nine of the ten years the Goshen Meltdown has been held, participants have been urged to pick a date in April.  For nine of the ten years the Goshen Meltdown has been held, the ice has melted and the block has sunk in..wait for it…April.  With that in mind, I issue the following challenge for the sake of the contest.  Over the past 10 years, an average of 1,572 tickets have been sold each year.  If more than 1,750 tickets are sold for the 2015 Meltdown, ice or no ice, I will jump into the lake on Sunday, April 26th just to prove to you frozen non-believers that the ice will be gone by May 1st.  After all, no sacrifice it too great to make for the success and profitability of the 2015 Meltdown.

As the April 1st deadline approached, I knew that we were shy of our goal to sell 1,750 tickets.  That was about to change.  On April 13th, I received a letter in the mail from a supporter in Ohio.  Inside the envelope was another envelope with a March 31 postmark on it that contained 25 tickets.  That letter was originally mailed to the wrong address.  Since that envelope containing those tickets were mailed before 4/1, I chose to include them in the final count.  It was those 25 tickets that brought the final tally to 1,752 tickets sold.

The headline in Saturday’s Gazette was clear. “Goshen Meltdown Ends, Organizer to Take Frigid Plunge into Hammond Pond”  The pressure to put up or shut up was palpable.  As a result, two months and four days after the challenge was issued, I found myself standing on the Hammond Pond dam staring out at an ice-free body of water wearing my Speedo bathing suit.  I had gone to church earlier in the morning where several parishioners approached me to ask if I was really going to do it.  When I told them I had made a promise and that I planned to fulfill it they offered their prayers for me.

The stage was set.  The air temperature was 52 degrees.  The water, rippled from a breeze that had kicked up, was 48 degrees.

A small group of supporters had gathered on the shoreline.  Another couple had paddled over in their canoe.  They were all there for the same reason – to see my body go into hypothermic shock.  What they didn’t realize was that they were in for a double feature – Steve Daiber, a neighbor, friend and Meltdown supporter wasn’t going to let me take the plunge on my own.  He was going to join me.

In a blink of an eye, we both jumped in.  We both agreed that the act was truly breathtaking and provided us with a new appreciation for that term.  Click here to see the video that was uploaded to YouTube for your viewing pleasure.  It speaks for itself.

Not surprisingly, donations are still finding their way to the Highland Ambulance Building Fund.  As of right now, they will receive a check for over $1,200.  While it might not seem like a large sum of money in the grand scheme of things, it was amassed through the generosity of hundreds of people.  For that, I am truly grateful to all of you.

Until next time, THINK SUMMER.

April 17, 2015 - The Block has Sunk

It was under the cover of darkness with rain, temperatures in the 50’s and a southerly breeze that the block slipped into the darkness of Hammond Pond this morning at 4:17AM.

I’ll get to the winner in a moment, but first, some comic relief…

Sometimes, I just can’t help myself.  In the interest in sharing some e-mail banter I received from Meltdown fans with Meltdown fans, a gauntlet was thrown down by Steve (that’s his real name but we’ll pretend it’s not) when responding to my last update:

“Please feel free to tell people that after my cohort wins, should they like to learn a refined approach that I would be happy to teach them.  Maybe this is the precipice that will bring them back to math class.  People are always asking for real-life scenarios.

If my wife wins with the “I think the block will fall now approach” then they can see her.”

To which John (that’s his real name too but once again, we’ll pretend it’s not) replied:

“Ok so let me make sure I have this straight…The “refined approach” notably predicted a 4/15 clock-stopping block drop….correct? My calendar shows the date as 4/16, and said event – by all evidence – not having yet occurred… thus making the “after my cohort wins” a moot point – an event taking place (our esteemed colleagues would surely hope) at some undetermined future point in time. Being no stranger to math class, albeit with a different emphasis, I am nonetheless looking forward to the fruits of the current actual real-life scenario, and eagerly await the opportunity to meet “her” and discuss the various benefits of more intuitive approaches to said event, and with certainly a higher probability than our “refined approach” colleagues of not only being able to do so, but also more  particularly with the vast monetary proceeds we are highly more likely than they to be able to enjoy. Two other pieces of temporal wisdom come to mind—-Not just “Only time will tell” from our unrefined perspective, but “Wait til next year!” to encourage our associates, and unknown Canadian allies, to continue their Hammond Pond Meltdown predictive activities. Bon chance!”

Less than an hour after sending his response, John followed it up with this afterthought.  

“Oh yeah — one more thing “NAH NAH NAH NAH NAH!”

Did I mention that both these gentlemen are teachers?  As a result of today’s results, it appears that John and Steve’s wife Kristen need to talk.  I’ll start working on that.  By the way Steve, Kristen’s gut pick of 4/17 at 12:05PM was significantly closer to the actual time that the block sank than your mathematically calculated pick of 4/15 at 1:48PM.  And, you know what?  I didn’t even have to use math to figure that one out.

Did I mention that both these gentlemen are teachers?  As a result of today’s results, it appears that John and Steve’s wife Kristen need to talk.  I’ll start working on that.  By the way Steve, Kristen’s gut pick of 4/17 at 12:05PM was significantly closer to the actual time that the block sank than your mathematically calculated pick of 4/15 at 1:48PM.  And, you know what?  I didn’t even have to use math to figure that one out.

2015 Meltdown as of 04/17/2015
Now, on to the reason you’re continued reading this far.  The winner of the 2015 Meltdown is Logan Martin.  With a pick of 3:59AM, his pick was 18 minutes away from when the clock was disconnected from the outlet at the gatehouse.  At 16 years of age, Logan becomes the youngest winner of the contest.  Logan lives with his parents Mike and Dorothy in Longmeadow MA.  The family also have a cottage up here at Hammond Acres.
This marks the second year in a row that a member of the Hammond Acres Association wins the contest.  When I spoke to Logan today, his immediate reaction when I told him that he had won was to say “Wow!  That’s cool!” – but with much less emotion than my exclamation points suggest.  He went on to say that he really wasn’t giving the date and time much thought when he filled out his entry.  As for what he plans to do with his winnings of $811, Logan thought it might be a good idea to deposit the money in the bank since he’ll need the money soon to buy his first car.
When I asked him where he got the money to purchase the ticket he told me that it was his Dad’s dollar.  I suggested that he might have to take his Mom and Dad out to a nice dinner and pick up the dinner tab.  So Mike, I know you’re reading this.  I’m thinking Delaney House and I can drive you there if you want company.  I promise I won’t eat much.
2015 Meltdown as of 04/17/2015
Honorable mention needs to go to Linda Garner of Cheshire.  Her pick of 3:15AM was only out of the running by 62 minutes.  Richie Cooke of Agawam had a pick of 12:35AM.
Chronologically speaking, Logan’s date/time selection was 649th out of 1,752 picks.  Translated, that means that 37% of picks had gone by.  A full 63% of you thought the block would sink later than it actually did.
Thanks to the additional generosity of many of you, the Highland Ambulance Building Fund will receive a check totaling $1,218 ($811 from the contest proceeds plus $407 is straight donations to the cause).  For that, we are all grateful.
In normal years, this would be my last e-mail until next year.  However, in an effort to boost ticket sales, I opened my big mouth a few months ago and offered to jump in the lake on April 26th.  It was also my attempt to convince people who were picking dates in May that there won’t be ice at that time.  Looking at the 10 day forecast, I’m seeing daytime temperatures near 50 degrees and several nights below freezing.  Maybe I spoke too fast.  Great!
So far, no one has gotten back to me saying that they wanted to join in with me.  Guess it’ll be just me and my GoPro’s.
Until next time, please THINK WARMER TEMPERATURES for my sake.
2015 Meltdown as of 04/17/2015
2015 Meltdown as of 04/16/2015
2015 Meltdown as of 04/16/2015

April 15, 2015 - It's Not Over Yet

I’ve received quite a few comments on yesterday’s post.  It appears that a friendly behind-the-scenes competition growing between some non-engineering types and those in academia regarding who’s got the better guess.  On one side of the argument, there are those who praised the work done by the students and teachers at Monument Mountain High School.  On the other side of the argument, there are those who feel like this:

So the MMHS guys have until midnight to be correct using the scientific method—-I’m feeling really lucky – using the old highly unscientific “Hmmmm, I wonder when the block is gonna drop?” approach…. let’s see who prevails!” and
What do all those Canadian guys know about ice anyway?
2015 Meltdown as of 04/15/2015

The clock that’s plugged into the outlet that has a rope tied to the extension cord that goes through the concrete wall of the gatehouse that’s snaked through the eyelets of three reflectors and secured to a 69 pound concrete block is now in place.

2015 Meltdown as of 04/15/2015

As you can see from these pictures, the open water was covered with a thin ice layer this morning thanks to freezing overnight temperatures.  However, the 60+ degree temperatures this afternoon made the open water, well, more open.

2015 Meltdown as of 04/15/2015

Lastly, there’s been an update in the number of tickets sold.  I discovered 6 envelopes on my desk with tickets in them that I hadn’t included in my final count.  The new count is now at, wait for it, drum roll please, 1,752.  Not only was my challenge of selling 1,750 tickets surpassed, we have now received $363 of straight donations with more on the way.

2015 Meltdown as of 04/15/2015
2015 Meltdown as of 04/15/2015
2015 Meltdown as of 04/15/2015
2015 Meltdown as of 04/15/2015
2015 Meltdown as of 04/15/2015
Looks like someone is going swimming in 10 days.  Anyone want to join me?  My guess is no.
Sunny skies and 60 degree temperatures tomorrow could spell the end to the contest.  There are 95 picks over the next 24 hours from people that are really hoping that it will.  Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

April 12, 2015 - We're Getting Close

Sorry for the late update but we were called to a structure fire in Williamsburg tonight and are just getting back home.

I found out from Jim Miller today that we made the Daily Hampshire Gazette again.  This time, it was in the “A Look Back” section of the paper which read as follows:

10 Years Ago 

At 4:47 p.m. Tuesday, the ice on Hammond Pond broke and Sonny LaFond (a school bus driver in Huntington) went home nearly $400 richer. Robert Labrie, organizer of the Goshen Meltdown, said he expects the meltdown to become an annual event.

Looks like my expectations of this contest becoming an annual event were met.  Don’t you think?

2015 Meltdown as of 04/14/2015

With full credit to Steve Estelle and his students at Monument Mountain High School in Great Barrington MA, I received several submissions with from them with their best calculations for when the block would drop.  My favorite reads in part as follows:

All of the models had negative correlation which makes sense given that the ice is melting over time.  The exponential model had the strongest correlation coefficient of -0.7269.  Generally speaking -0.8 to -1 is considered strong for a negative correlation.  Therefore, the results should not be considered ideal.

The given exponential model only aids in determining the thickness of the ice.  The next question is when the ice would not be able to support the flag, cinder block and pallet.  After consulting Bob, the block weighs 69 lbs.  According to Uline, a pallet manufacturer, a wooden pallet of 36″ X 36″ weighs 30 lbs.  The pallet in question appears to be smaller and a reasonable estimate of its weight is 25 lbs.  Gold’s formula of P = A * h2 (squared) is a generally accepted model for ice strength and is used to determine ice safety guidelines.  In the function, P is the allowed load in kilograms, A is a parameter that depends on the strength of the ice and includes a safety factor (between 3.5 ~ 7), and h is the effective thickness of the ice in centimeters.  A generally accepted A-value for the purpose of construction safety as determined by the Canadian Department of Transportation is 4 (Canadian DOT, Ice Construction pamphlet 2007).  Converting the total of 94 lbs. of the cinderblock and pallet into kilograms gives a weight of 42.64kg.  P = Ah2 or 42.64 = 4h2 or h = 3.3cm.  The weight can be held by a minimum of 3.3 centimeters or 1.3 inches.

1.3 = 849.64 * 0.94x or 0.0015 = 0.94x or log 0.94 0.0015 = x or x = 105.

The ice will be approximately 1.3 inches thick on the 105th day of the year or April 15th.

First of all, who knew there was a formula to calculate the strength of the ice?  Apparently, the students at Monument Mountain did.  Secondly, who ever thought of calculating the number of days it would take to melt the ice using that formula?  The answer is the same. The students at Monument Mountain did.  My hats off to all of you and your teacher for your research, creativity and it’s application to the contest.  You guys rock!

2015 Meltdown as of 04/14/2015

What a difference a few days of 60 degree temperatures and sunshine can have on 20″ of ice.  When I came home tonight, I was very surprised at how translucent the ice had become.  It gets that way when there isn’t much left.  Goshen is still forecasted to have sunny skies and temperatures around 60 degrees for the next two days followed by showers on Thursday night, Friday and Saturday.  The one thing that I think will spell the end of the ice, if it doesn’t melt in the next few days, will be the patchy fog being forecasted for Friday night.  The humidity that comes with fog is an ice killer.

My prediction?  I’ll be surprised if the ice makes it to the weekend.

Suffice it to say that I will be hooking up the clock tomorrow morning before going to work.

2015 Meltdown as of 04/14/2015

April 12, 2015 - 1,644

On a day when the azalea bushes at the Master’s in Augusta Georgia were in full bloom, the ice on Hammond Pond in Goshen was still 20″ thick.

2015 Meltdown as of 04/12/2015

Now that ticket sales are over, it’s time for statistics:

    • Three hundred and fifty-seven people bought an average of 4.6 tickets each for a total of one thousand six hundred and forty-four tickets sold for this years contest.
    • The Highland Ambulance Building Fund will also receive $333 in straight donations made by contest participants.
    • 4/15 was the most popular date with 95 picks followed in order by 4/18 (94), 4/22 (90), 4/23 (87) and 4/16 and 4/20 both with 86 picks.
    • The most popular time was 2PM with 50 picks followed by 1:30PM (37), 12 Noon (33) and 1:15PM (29)
      The earliest pick was March 15th while, for the second year in a row, July 4th was the latest date.
      The ratio of AM to PM picks was 33% / 67%.

With daytime temperatures topping out at around 60 degrees for the upcoming week, expect more frequent updates on the condition of the ice and the block that sits on top of it…for now.

2015 Meltdown as of 04/12/2015
2015 Meltdown as of 04/12/2015
2015 Meltdown as of 04/12/2015

March 30, 2015 - Time is Running Out

The stock market is near it’s highest point in history.  Crude oil prices are below $50 a barrel.  As each day goes by, we add another 3 minutes of daylight.  Most of Goshen is still covered in over a foot of snow and the geese are back.  Life is good, right?

I went out to measure the ice thickness this morning while it was snowing.  I made a hole using an 18″ drill bit just behind the block and wasn’t able to find water.  I went over to the hole we had cut in the ice a few weeks ago for the ice rescue training and found that the open water had been replaced by a 7″ thick layer of ice.
2015 Meltdown as of 04/10/2015
2015 Meltdown as of 04/10/2015

According to Chief Meteorologist Eric Fisher at WBZ-TV in Boston, MA, “February was the coldest month ever recorded for most of New England. For the encore, March is going to go down as the coldest in 31 years. An historic stretch of chill!”

From Ashfield MA to Yardley PA, from Christ Church New Zealand and Twead Head New South Wales Australia to Rome Italy – ticket sales have once again gone global.  Thanks to those of you who have already mailed in your picks, we have surpassed the 1,000 ticket mark and and additional $200 is straight donations to the Highland Ambulance Building Fund.

2015 Meltdown as of 04/07/2015

Thanks to some scientific work done by students and teachers at Monument Mountain High School in Great Barrington MA, I now know that there’s a formula to calculate the load bearing capacity of ice.  It’s referred to as Gold’s formula.  After doing a bit of research, I’ve also learned that ice sheets have several common features that reduce their strength.  According to , “examples include wet cracks, changes in thickness, areas that froze later than what you are presently standing on, etc.  Snow drifts can inhibit ice growth and reef currents, gas holes, etc can thin the ice from underneath.”

2015 Meltdown as of 04/04/2015

According to the website, there are 2 kinds of ice when it comes to calculating its load bearing capacity:

(a) Blue ice (clear ice) – formed by the freezing of water. All calculations are based on the strength of an ice sheet consisting of blue ice.
(b) White ice (snow ice) – formed when water-saturated snow freezes on top of ice, making an opaque white ice which is not as strong as clear ice. Its thickness counts as half.

If you reference the video that I posted a few weeks ago, you can clearly see the blue and white ice layers that are being referenced above.

2015 Meltdown as of 03/30/2015

All this to say that the ice is still around 2 feet thick and even though the sun is getting higher is the sky, it’s still unseasonably cold with no significant change in the weather pattern being forecasted.

Time is running out to get your submissions in.  The deadline for ticket sales is 11:59:59PM on Wednesday, April 1st.  As long as tickets that you can get here are in the mail and postmarked by April 1st, your picks will be gladly accepted.

As you can see from this batch of pictures, the block isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

2015 Meltdown as of 03/30/2015
2015 Meltdown as of 03/29/2015
2015 Meltdown as of 03/26/2015

March 16, 2015 - Winter's Curtain Call

As winter takes its final bow, some of us are still waiting for it to make a curtain call.

The Goshen Fire Department conducted an ice rescue drill last Tuesday night on Hammond Pond.  Firefighters got together the Sunday before to cut a hole in the ice for the practice session.  We thought a chain saw with a 20″ bar would be plenty long enough for the job since I had measured the thickness of the ice at 18″ a few days before.  However, we discovered that there was a layer of slush sandwiched between two think layers of ice that we couldn’t cut through with the equipment we had.  A call went out for a chain saw with a 36″ bar which was answered by the Plainfield Highway Department.  Firefighters who cut the ice last Monday said the ice was 35 3/4″ thick because the saw was just able to cut through it.

As you can see from the attached pictures, there was over a foot of snow on top of the ice a week ago.  Warmer temperatures that are still less than seasonable are starting to have a modest impact on the deep snowpack which still remains in Goshen.  Overnight rain on Friday turned into freezing drizzle on Saturday morning that led to a motor vehicle rollover in the center of town.  This past Sunday, several firefighters got together again for another round of training where we estimated that the ice was still over 2 feet thick.

2015 Meltdown as of 03/22/2015
2015 Meltdown as of 03/20/2015
2015 Meltdown as of 03/08/2015
2015 Meltdown as of 03/04/2015

Here’s a link to an article that appeared in the Daily Hampshire Gazette on February 21st entitled “Goshen Meltdown begins, Highland Ambulance to get half of the proceeds

February 22, 2015 - The 2015 Meltdown Contest Has Begun!

It’s well past time to starting thinking about spring.  The 11th annual Meltdown has begun again.

The block sits on a wooden pallet that holds a flag.  The flag is simply a marker that shows where the block is in the event it gets completely covered in snow.  The block is connected to an electric clock by a rope.  The clock is plugged into an outlet in the gatehouse on the dam holding back Hammond Pond.  Once the block falls through the ice or the ice floe moves away from the dam, the tension on the cord will pull the plug out of the wall socket and stop the clock.  It’s that straightforward.

2015 Meltdown as of 02/08/2015

This year’s fundraiser will benefit the Highland Ambulance Building Fund.  Highland Ambulance, the successor of the Goshen Fire Department ambulance service, was created in 2004 when it combined with the Cummington and Ashfield ambulances services.  Since that time, their two ambulances were housed in the Goshen firehouse.  Plans are now under way to build a new facility in Goshen so Highland Ambulance can continue to serve the towns of Ashfield, Chesterfield, Cummington, Goshen, Plainfield and Williamsburg.

2015 Meltdown as of 02/10/2015
2015 Meltdown as of 02/08/2015

The deadline for ticket submissions is April 1st.  Back in 2012, the block fell through the ice on March 19th – almost two weeks before the deadline.  While I can only do so much to regulate the impact climate change is having on our contest, my sense is that it will be some time before we’ll have open water on Hammond Pond.  Tickets received after April 1st (unless they were postmarked on or before that date) will be returned.  This date is weather dependent and will be irrelevant if the block falls through the ice before the deadline.

Here are some statistics from the past 10 years of Meltdown events to consider as you make your selections:

- The most popular dates were 4/10 (552), 4/12 (542), 4/1 (527), 4/4 (513) and 4/15 (512).

     – The ratio of morning to afternoon picks was 25% and 75% respectively.

     – 73% of all guesses were for dates between April 1st and April 21st (hint, hint).

     – Daylight savings time starts on Sunday, March 8th.  Keep that in mind when making your selection.

The official ends of the previous contests were as follows:

2014      04/14    11:51 AM
2013      04/16    12:19 PM
2012      03/19     2:14 PM
2011      04/14    12:44 PM
2010     04/02   11:52 AM
2009     04/05   11:02 AM
2008     04/16     3:04 PM
2007     04/21   12:00 Noon
2006      04/01     8:18 PM
2005      04/12     4:47 PM

Other significant dates to consider are as follows:

 – 3/20 at 6:45 PM – First day of Spring (it’ll never go this early)
 – 4/06 at 1:00 PM – First pitch on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium against the Toronto Blue Jays
 – 4/13 at 1:10 PM – First pitch on Opening Day at Citi Field (Mets) in New York.
 – 4/13 at 3:05 PM – First pitch on Opening Day at Fenway Park in Boston against the Washington Nationals.
 – 4/15 at 2:45 AM – Day and time the Titanic sank in 1912.