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The Last Ice Merchant
June 3, 2013 8:13 AM   Subscribe

"The natural ice from Chimborazo is the best ice. The tastiest and sweetest. Full of vitamins for your bones. But nobody wants natural ice from Chimborazo anymore. They have factory ice. My father taught me and my brothers how to work in the ice mines. My name is Baltazar Ushca Tenesaca. Now I'm the only ice merchant of Chimborazo." El Último Hielero (The Last Ice Merchant), is a short documentary.

Chimborazo is the highest mountain in Equador, and the highest peak in close proximity to the equator. Baltazar is 67 years old, and the last person to harvest or mine ice from the glaciers. At the peak of activity, there were up to 40 people mining ice, with hundreds of donkeys hauling the ice back to Riobamba, the closest major city. Baltazar's two younger brothers used to work with him, now he is alone, working with three donkeys, mining ice and taking it to market the same way his father taught him when he was a teenager.

There is more information on this short documentary on the website for The Last Ice Merchant.
posted by filthy light thief (24 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
Chimborazo! Romance!
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:21 AM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yikes. Just looking at the slides of this brings on a soroche-like feeling, not sure if I can watch the actual video.

The slideshow of them coming to NYC is glorious, though. I love his sassy new vacation poncho.
posted by elizardbits at 8:31 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The video doesn't induce any fear of heights/high altitude feelings for me, as there are no continuous scenes of ascent or descent, and no shots along precarious trails along the side of a steep slope. It feels like the trek up to the ice is a gradual incline, and Baltazar only goes as far enough to reach decent icepack, so there are no vistas from the peak of the mountain.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:50 AM on June 3, 2013


(nah, it's just because i know how insanely high up they are that it makes me woozy. the perspective is fine and nonscary.)
posted by elizardbits at 8:54 AM on June 3, 2013


I saw this! At ... Silverdocs, probably? I loved it and have remembered it and hoped it would come to more people. This is super news.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 8:57 AM on June 3, 2013


Also bear in mind, this is a glacier near the equator. Ponder that for a moment - a mountain glacier in the tropics. At that altitude, it's pretty close to trying to breathe on Mars. Riobamba is twice as high as Denver.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:00 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sweet... Bunch of friends worked on this movie like 2 years ago. Nice to see it here. Someone finally convinced Sandy to put it online last week and it immediately got seen by a shitload of people. PUT YOUR MOVIES ONLINE, FOLKS.
posted by nathancaswell at 9:01 AM on June 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


This brought to mind the first line in Cien Años de Soledad:

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to see ice for the first time."
posted by papafrita at 9:12 AM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


papafrita has a more sophisticated mind than me, because this is what came to mine.
posted by Eyebeams at 9:20 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Beautiful video, I'm surprised there isn't more of an upscale market for this exotic ice. All natural single origin ice or some such.
posted by sp160n at 9:24 AM on June 3, 2013


At that altitude, it's pretty close to trying to breathe on Mars.

However the partial pressure of oxygen on Mars is much lower than at 6200m on Earth. Mars does not have a breathable atmosphere.
posted by Mitheral at 9:25 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The top of Chimborazo is also the farthest point from the center of the earth, thanks to the equatorial bulge.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:32 AM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


And also the birthplace of biogeography, fwiw.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:47 AM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


PUT YOUR MOVIES ONLINE, FOLKS.

Amen. As someone who sees a decent number of doc shorts and rarely knows how to show them to ANYONE, it's so great when this happens. There was one called "Water" about a woman carrying water on her back in Nepal that I've always wished had shown up, but I've never seen it anywhere.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 9:50 AM on June 3, 2013


That's a picnic compared to the ice mines of Kessel.
posted by w0mbat at 9:56 AM on June 3, 2013


The top of Chimborazo is also the farthest point from the center of the earth, thanks to the equatorial bulge.

And if you ever go to Ecuador, the locals will make certain you know that.

Actually, I would have mentioned it if you hadn't.
posted by nickmark at 9:59 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, the hippo is the most dangerous animal in Africa.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:09 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised there isn't more of an upscale market for this exotic ice. All natural single origin ice or some such.

It doesn't seem that there is any upscale market in Riobamba. Baltazar's next younger brother, Gregorio, makes home-made ice cream that he sells for $0.15 or $0.20 per little cone.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:16 AM on June 3, 2013


From the Wikipedia link for the Chimborazo: "While Chimborazo is not the highest mountain by elevation above sea level, its location along the equatorial bulge makes its summit the farthest point on the Earth's surface from the Earth's center."

I did not know this! Fascinating! Thanks!

I was aware that our planet isn't a perfect sphere at what would be local sea level but I didn't realize the difference was big enough to make up for the 2,000+ metres difference between Chimborazo and Mt. Everest.

I will try and impress people with this new exciting factoid.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:59 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stereoscopic images of ice harvests in Minnesota a century ago:

Image 1

Image 2

image 3

Whitney and Zimmerman ice harvest images on Wikimedia Commons
posted by larrybob at 3:34 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also bear in mind, this is a glacier near the equator. Ponder that for a moment - a mountain glacier in the tropics.

It's kind of remarkable how much difference elevation makes in the tropics. The climate and vegetation change completely depending on how high up you are.
posted by empath at 7:33 PM on June 3, 2013


That's so Borges.
posted by basicchannel at 7:54 PM on June 3, 2013


Full of vitamins for your bones.

[citation needed]
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:44 AM on June 4, 2013


That's an excellent little documentary. Great post, filthy light thief.
posted by homunculus at 1:09 PM on June 5, 2013


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