ambience: Sound of windsled
For those who think that winter can be isolating, try living in Northern Wisconsin, on an island in Lake Superior, where the only bridge between you and the mainland is a thin sheet of ice or a ride on a home-made windsled. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. During much of the winter, locals on the island of Madeline can drive their cars onto the thick frozen lake and over to the mainland. But there’s a small window of time when the ice is too thick for ferries to cross, and not thick enough to hold the weight of a car. It’s during this time, that locals have to use their best alternative, the windsled.
ambience: Boat starting up and revving
Ronnie Nelson is one of the owners of the windsled, a unique, home-built transport that looks a bit like a mix between a flat-bottom boat and an airplane. It’s actually an new incarnation of the 1930s windsled, when islanders strapped propellers to the back of Model-A car-bodies, and slid across the ice.
“This machines is 17 years old, and it’s been through four engines. It takes a lot of abuse. And it’s made to go in and out of the water. We’ve been in and out of the water with 13 men in that sled, broke through and then came back up. But you could be in the water quite a while just breaking it like an ice-breaker.”
Well, sliding 30 miles per hour on the cold two-and-a-half mile journey across the ice and water isn’t an ideal commute. Some residents say its cold and unsafe for their kids, and unreliable in the event of an emergency. But for the school children, teachers, and other workers who use it every day, it’s their only option.
“It’s fun for some people and its frightening for some people. It’s cold, noisy, bumpy, but it’s a way of life up here, getting back and forth this time of year. This is the link, from when the ferries stop to when they start driving.”
Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.