Misawa sailors' Sapporo snow anchor drops with warm temperatures
February 4, 2011
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Unseasonably warm temperatures spelled disaster this week for a U.S. Navy team participating in the annual Sapporo Snow Festival on the northern island of Hokkaido.
The sailors watched in shock as their completed snow sculpture, a giant anchor tilted at a jaunty angle, collapsed Thursday, leaving a giant pile of snow and ice.
Early Friday morning, they were back on site — augmented by a group of Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) troops — scrambling to try to rebuild their entry for the 62nd annual festival.
Navy spokesman Chief Petty Officer Dan Sanford said the team leader — Chief Petty Officer Billy Knox, a Navy Seabee — is sure they’ll have an anchor up and ready by noon Saturday.
But Sanford said with temperatures in the 40s again Friday, the team faces a difficult battle “against the elements.”
“They have a tough task of building it and reinforcing it at the same time,” he said.
Sanford said this is the 28th straight year that the Navy has sent a team of sailors from Misawa to Sapporo. They’re hosted by the JGSDF and stay at Camp Sapporo, about a 10-minute ride from the city center.
The team joins craftsmen from around the world who produce nearly 250 sculptures. According to event organizers, more than 2.4 million people attended the weeklong festival in 2010.
The sailors spend the first week building their sculpture and the second week interacting with the crowds, posing for photos, and enjoying the attention.
None had ever built a snow sculpture before the event, said Petty Officer 3rd Dan Grimes.
“It’s been crazy,” he said. “When we first got here, that thing was a block of ice.”
Grimes said they used ice picks, shovels, and something akin to a cheese grater to carve the anchor. And when the weather turned on Thursday, he said, they tried their best to save it.
“The sun was beating right down on it,” he said. “It started dripping a little bit and a little bit more.”
He said he was sure the team would succeed Friday.
“We’re going to be busting our tails to make it as good as, if not better than, the first one,” he said.
Sanford said team members joked that while few people can say they’ve had a chance to build a sculpture in a world-famous festival, ever fewer can say they’ve carved two statues the same week.
Other team members include Navy Airman Johnny Tran, Petty Officer 3rd Class Draylon Polk and Petty Officer 2nd Class Tywan Ballard.