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The Ice King of Boston

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Boston, MA, USA

July 22, 2007

“The romantic – that was what I wanted. I hungered for the romance of the sea, and foreign ports, and foreign smiles. I wanted to follow the prow of a ship, any ship, and sail away, perhaps to China, perhaps to Spain, perhaps to the South Sea Isles, there to do nothing all day but lie on a surf-swept beach and fling monkeys at the coconuts.”

-Richard Haliburton, The Royal Road to Romance

After a week of clearing the vegetation out of fields the rest of the crew arrived and we finally broke ground on the Archaeology sites. Worked all day digging- just as I remember it. I swore that I was going to find a new way to work up my bean money last year, but I have been sucked back into this line of work, and it is too easy to just stay in it. It suites my lifestyle, I must say. I seem to be able to stomach no more than three months of work in any given year. Archaeology is project work: I sign on to a job and only work until its end, which is usually no more than a month or two. Then I am free to go wherever I choose to ramble. It is also road work, so I can hobo it around the USA (or other country for that matter) and weigh down my pockets all the while. Yet far I have worked on Archaeology projects in at least 15 US states and also in South America.

The job that I am on now is just to the North of Boston and is primarily focused on Pre-historic Native American sites

One of the kids that I am working with wears a kilt. But this is no ordinary kilt, it is a WORKING KILT. That is right, it is made for doing hard manual labor in. It has big pockets in it an all. I am envious of this attire. Though I am skeptical of how practical it is whilst working in the thick briars and poison ivy. Oh well, he looks cool.

Archaeologist tend to be their own breed. I mean this, but can not seem to put my finger on it. Most of us study anthropology in university, and what better line of study for a misanthrope than that of culture? Perhaps we are just trying to figure out the reasons why we seem to be unable to fit into any social pattern- I do. Anyone who spends over two seasons in the field tends to share this affliction. This is my seventh field season, and I think that I fit into my profession rather inconspicuously.


The above two photographs are from a culver that was once used by the Ice King of Boston to transport water to make ice. I am told that the tunnel that was boared through the bottom of it (shown in bottom photo) was an engineering marvel of its time.

Fredrick Tudor was a Bostonian dreamer who dropped out of school at the age of thirteen with the absolute assurance that he would make it big in business. While hanging out in the West Indies he pondered up the idea that he would make his money by shipping ice taken from the frozen winter lakes and ponds of New England and ship it to the Caribbean, where it would be viewed as a delicacy and, ideally, net a big profit. At this time, in the first half of the 19th century, there were not any refrigeration methods to keep the ice from melting during the long, hot ship journey down to the Caribbean, so people thought that he his idea was ludicrous. It was. His first load that he shipped melted on a Caribean dock because nobody knew what to do with it….or, possibly, what it even was. He failed at his attempt for twenty years! For twenty years he kept at it- designing new packing strategies, better shipping procedures, quicker handling methods- losing money the whole time. But he knew that he could do it, he knew that it was possible. Eventually he was put into debtors prison. Upon getting out he jumped right back into coming up with new means to get ice intact down to the tropics. After a while of borrowing even more money to make this dream a possibility he was again put into debtors prison for a second time. Upon his release he began shipping ice again! He knew that this was possible, and eventually he made it so. After twenty years of failing he struck upon a shipping method that worked- whereupon he became rich, and thus ice became available in the tropics for the first time since the ice age. What resolve, what absolute resolve!

I love crazy little tales.

Steve plays the guitar but does not know any songs. “Improvising is my favorite thing to do.” I believe him, as it seems as if he improvises our way home from work each evening when he drives us in the wrong direction repeatedly. Just shaking things up, I am sure.

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Filed under: Archaeology, Cities and Urban Development, North America, Travel Inspiration, USA

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3053 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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