The Weekly Star March 8, 1907
ICE WORM COCKTAIL
The story of ice worms and blue snow apparently impressed Robert Service as well as the local chechakos and The Ice Worm Cocktail was the result:
"...A cocktail I can understand - but what's an
Said Deacon White: "It is not strange that you
should fail to know,
Since ice-worms are peculiar to the mountain of
"The Ice-Worm Cocktail", BAR-ROOM BALLADS
by Robert Service @1940 Reginald Saunders, Toronto.
TO HUNT ICE WORMS
Dr. L.S. Keller of Skagway arrived Wednesday evening of this week on a scientific mission, he having lately received several orders from societies of scientific research for specimens of ice worms which are found only in the great vale of the Yukon.
The Doctor's investigations and explorations to secure data and knowledge along this line will probably extend over a period of three weeks or a month.
AN OLIGOCHAETE COCKTAIL?
The Stroller always liked to put one over on "the scientific guys" as Service called them, so he would have been pleased to know that scientists 50 years later would still be debating the topic, some saying there really are ice worms!
No less an authority than the Polar Record (issued by the Scott Polar Research Institute, of Cambridge, England) published a brief scientific article on the little creatures in Vol. 6, No. 43 of January 1952. N.E. Odell, esquire, reported that he had found a considerable number of these Oligochaetes on Seward Glacier in August, 1949.
Mr. Odell's species differed from those reported by several other scientists in that his discoveries appeared to be "negatively photo tactic, appearing on the surface of the snow in late afternoon, and retreating below the surface soon after dawn."
Mr. Odell's suggestion that the worms might be migrating from one glacier to another is interesting" the Polar Record commented, "and might be connected with their daylight activities". And it went on: "The records of the occurrence of Oligochaetes in ice are sufficiently numerous for the fact that they do so occur to be accepted."
In the land of the pale blue snow, where its 99 below,
and the polar bears are roaming o'er the plain.
…in the shadow of the Pole, I will clasp her to my soul,
and we'll be happy when the ice-worms nest again."
The Whitehorse Star, March, 1907
The following is a letter pertaining to Ice Worms addressed to the Whitehorse Star editor E.J. White also known as "The Stroller".
U.S. Department of Agriculture,
Central Office of the Weather Bureau,
March 23, 1907
Care of the "Weekly Star",
Whitehorse, Y.T., Can.
I am interested in some of your letters, signed "The Stroller," as you seemed to have introduced a new term, "ice worms," which now belongs to English literature and must be mentioned in our dictionaries.
I should like to have a short paragraph stating the origin and history of this word, and some account of the myths connected with it.
Professor and Editor
If there is anything in which the Stroller takes special pleasure it is in imparting light - leading the blind, so to speak, from the slough of ignorance to which so many otherwise enlightened and progressive people are prone to wander.
On the subject of ice worms, Mr. Abbe, the Stroller is a wellspring of knowledge. Every man has his specialty. President Roosevelt's hobby is the denunciation of race suicide, the Sultan of Turkey can dilate knowingly and at length on the subject of harems, but when it comes to ice worms even governments must come to the Stroller for information.
The ice worm differs in appearance and habits from a fish worm, a ring worm or a tape worm; also from a worm fence or the worm of a moonshine still. It incubates only when the temperature reaches 75 degrees Fahrenheit, below zero. It grows very rapidly and has been known to attain a length of three and a half feet in 20 days.
When the temperature moderates to 50 below, the ice worm experiences a "gone" sort of the-morning-of-the-5th-of-July feeling and at 45 below it staggers up to the ropes and announces that it is of no use to continue the go.
At from 68 to 88 below zero the ice worm is fat, juicy and succulent and tastes not unlike the Saddlerock oysters they used to drive overland from Baltimore to chicago.
The chirp of the ice worm is not made with the mouth but from a whistle on its tail. The head end is always too busy to engage in vocal exercise, being constantly at work boring more house room in the solid ice in order that it may have room for growth and expansion.
The Sourest of all Doughs once informed the Stroller that he and his native wife, Limpin' Grouse, were accustomed to dry ice worms and makes a soup of them following mild winters when the temperature did not drop to exceed 60 or 65 below zero.
He said dried ice worms were vastly superior to stuff shipped into the country during the first years of the mining excitement and labeled "Specially Prepared for the Klondike."
Some years ago and while at Dawson, the Stroller received a request from London to forward a sample of the Yukon ice worm by express but the express company refused to accept the shipment on the grounds that the worms might become remains and develop too much strength before reaching their destination.
Incidentally, Mr. Abbe, you might mention in your dictionary that ice worms flourish best and that the tail whistle concert is loudest and most harmonious when the ice is covered with from three to five inches of blue snow.
Dictated by E.J.W.
Typewritten by Ann Jones.
Mending of all kinds. Buttons sewed on while you wait.