One midsummers day a fleet of United States war-ships were lying at anchor in Guantanamo Bay, on the southern coast of Cuba. The sky was cloudless, and the tropic sun shone so fiercely on the decks that the bare-footed Jackies had to cross the unshaded spots on the jump to save their feet.

An hour before the quavering mess-call sounded for the midday meal, when the sun was shining almost perpendicularly, a boat's crew from one of the cruisers were sent over to the supply-ship for a load of beef. Not a breath was stirring, the smooth surface of the bay reflected the brazen sun like a mirror, and it seemed to the oarsmen that the salt water would scald them if they should touch it. Only a few hundred yards separated the two vessels, yet the heat seemed almost beyond endurance, and the shade cast by the tall steel sides of the supply-steamer, when the boat reached it, was as comforting as a cool drink to a thirsty man. The oars were shipped, and one man was left to fend off the boat while the others clambered up the swaying rope-ladder, crossed the scorching decks on the run, and went below. In two minutes they were in the hold of the refrigerator-ship, gathering the frost from the frigid cooling-pipes and snowballing each other, while the boat-keeper outside of the three-eighth-inch steel plating was fanning himself with his hat, almost dizzy from the quivering heat-waves that danced before his eyes. The great sides of beef, hung in rows, were frozen as hard as rock. Even after the strip of water had been crossed on the return journey and the meat exposed to the full, unobstructed glare of the sun the cruiser's messcooks had to saw off their portions, and the remainder continued hard as long as it lasted. But the satisfaction of the men who ate that fresh American beef cannot be told.

Cream from a famous dairy is sent to particular patrons in Paris, France, and it is known that in one instance, at least, a bottle of cream, having failed to reach the person to whom it was consigned, made the return transatlantic voyage and was received in New York three weeks after its first departure, perfectly sweet and good. Throughout the entire journey it was kept at freezing temperature by artificial means. These are but two striking examples of wonders that are performed every day.

Cold, of course, is but the absence of heat, and so refrigerating machinery is designed to extract the heat from whatever substance it is desired to cool. The refrigerating agent used to extract the heat from the cold chamber must in turn have the heat extracted from it, and so the process must be continuous.

Water, when it boils and turns into steam or vapour, is heated by or extracts heat from the fire, but water vapourises at a high temperature and so cannot be used to produce cold. Other fluids are much more volatile and evaporate much more easily. Alcohol when spilt on the hand dries almost instantly and leaves a feeling of cold—the warmth of the hand boils the alcohol and turns it into vapour, and in doing so extracts the heat from the skin, making it cold; now, if the evaporated alcohol could be caught and compressed into its liquid form again you would have a refrigerating machine.

Alcohol is expensive and inflammable, and many other volatile substances have been discarded for the one or the other reason. Of all the fluids that have been tried, ammonia has been found to work most satisfactorily; it evaporates at a low temperature, is non-inflammable, and is comparatively cheap.

The hold of the supply-ship mentioned at the head of this chapter was a vast refrigerator, but no ice was used except that produced mechanically by the power in the ship. To produce the cold in the hold of the ship it was necessary to extract the heat in it; to accomplish this, coils ran round the space filled with cold brine, which, as it grew warm, drew the heat from the air. The brine in turn circulated through a tank containing pipes filled with ammonia vapour which extracted the heat from it; the brine then was ready to circulate through the coils in the hold again and extract more heat. The heat-extracting or cooling power of the ammonia is exerted continually by the process described below. Ammonia requires heat to expand and turn into vapour, and this heat it extracts from the substance surrounding it. In this marine refrigerating machine the ammonia got the heat from the brine in the tank, then it was drawn by a pump from the pipes in the tank, compressed by a power compressor, and forced into a second coil. The second coil is called a condenser because the vapour was there condensed into a fluid again. Over the pipes of the condenser cool water dripped constantly and carried off the heat in the ammonia vapour inside the coils and so condensed it into a fluid again—just as cold condenses steam into water. The compressor-pump then forced the fluid, ammonia through a small pipe from the condenser coils to the cooling coils in the tank of brine. The pipes of the cooling coils are much larger than those of the condenser, and as the fluid ammonia is forced in a fine spray into these large pipes and the pressure is relieved it expands or boils into the larger volume of vapour and in so doing extracts heat from the brine. The pump draws the heated vapour out, the compressor makes it dense, and the coils over which the cool water flows condenses it into fluid again, and so the circuit continues—through cooler, pump, compressor, and condenser, back into the cooling-tank.

In the meantime, the cold brine is being pumped through the pipes in the hold of the ship, where it extracts the heat from the air and the rows of sides of beef and then returns to the cooling-tank. In the refrigerating plant, then, of the supply-ship, there were two heat-extracting circuits, one of ammonia and the other of brine. Brine is used because it freezes at a very low temperature and continues to flow when unsalted water would be frozen solid. The ammonia is not used direct in the pipes in a big space like the hold of a ship, because so much of it would be required, and then there is always danger of the exposed pipes being broken and the dangerous fumes released.

Opposite as it may seem, heat is required to produce cold—for steam is necessary to drive the compressor and pump of a refrigerating plant, and fire of some sort is necessary to make steam.

The first artificial refrigerating machines produced cold by compressing and expanding air, the compressed air containing the heat being cooled by jets of cool water spirted into the cylinder containing it, then the compressed air was released or expanded into a larger chamber and thereby extracted the heat from brine or whatever substance surrounded it.

It is in the making of ice, however, that refrigerating machinery accomplishes its most surprising results. It was said in the writer's hearing recently that natural ice costs about as much when it was delivered at the docks or freight-yards of the large cities of the North as the product of the ice-machine. Of course, the manufactured ice is produced near the spot where it is consumed, and there is little loss through melting while it is being stored or transported, as in the case of the natural product.

There are two ways of making ice—or, rather, two methods using the same principle.

In the can system, a series of galvanized-iron cans about three and a half feet deep, eight inches wide, by two and a half feet long are suspended or rested in great tanks of brine connecting with the cooling-tank through which the pipes containing the ammonia vapour circulates. The vapour draws the heat from the brine, and the brine, which is kept moving constantly, in turn extracts the heat from the distilled water in the cans. While this method produces ice quickly, it is difficult to get ice of perfect clearness and purity, because the water in the can freezes on the sides, gradually getting thicker, retaining and concentrating in the centre any impurities that may be in the water. The finished cake, therefore, almost always has a white or cloudy appearance in the centre, and is frequently discolored.

In an ice-plant operated on the can system a great many blocks are freezing at once—in fact, the whole floor of a great room is honeycombed with trap-doors, a door for each can. The freezing is done in rotation, so that one group of cans is being emptied of their blocks of ice while others are still in process of congealing, while still others are being filled with fresh water. When the freezing is complete, jets of steam or quick immersion of the can in hot water releases the cake and the can is ready for another charge.

The plate system of artificial ice-making does away with the discoloration and the cloudiness, because the water containing the impurities or the air-bubbles is not frozen, but is drawn off and discarded.

In the plate system, great permanent tanks six feet deep and eight to twelve feet wide and of varying lengths are used. These tanks contain the clean, fresh water that is to be frozen into great slabs of ice. Into the tanks are sunk flat coils of pipe covered with smooth, metal plates on either side, and it is through these pipes that the ammonia vapour flows. The plates with the coils of pipe between them fit in the tank transversely, partitioning it off into narrow cells six feet deep, about twenty-two inches wide, and eight or ten feet long. In operation, the ammonia vapour flows through the pipes, chilling the plates and freezing the water so that a gradually thickening film of ice adheres to each side of each set of plates. As the ice gets thicker the unfrozen water between the slabs containing the impurities and air-bubbles gets narrower. When the ice on the plates is eight or ten inches thick very little of the unfrozen water remains between the great cakes, but it contains practically all the impurities. When the ice on the plates is thick enough, the ammonia vapour is turned off and steam forced through the pipes so the cakes come off readily, or else plates, cakes, and all are hoisted out of the tank and the ice melted off. The ice, clear and perfect, is then sawed into convenient sizes and shipped to consumers or stored for future use. Sometimes the plates or partitions are permanent, and, with the coils of pipes between them, cold brine is circulated, but in either case the two surfaces of ice do not come together, there being always a film of water between.

Still another method produces ice by forcing the clean water in extremely fine spray into a reservoir from which the air has been exhausted—into a vacuum, in other words; the spray condenses in the form of tiny particles of ice, which are attached to the walls of the reservoir. The ice grows thicker as a carpet of snow increases, one particle falling on and freezing to the others until the coating has reached the required thickness, when it is loosened and cut up in cakes of convenient size. The vacuum ice is of marble-like whiteness and appearance, but is perfectly pure, and it is said to be quite as hard.

More and more artificial ice is being used, even in localities where ice is formed naturally during parts of the year.

Many of the modern hotels are equipped with refrigerating plants where they make their own ice, cool their own storage-rooms, freeze the water in glass carafes for the use of their guests, and even cool the air that is circulated through the ventilating system in hot weather. In many large apartment-houses the refrigerators built in the various separate suites are kept at a freezing temperature by pipes leading to a refrigerating plant in the cellar. The convenience and neatness of this plan over the method of carrying dripping cakes from floor to floor in a dumb-waiter is evident.

Another use of refrigerating plants that is greatly appreciated is the making of artificial ice for skating-rinks. An artificial ice skating-rink is simply an ice machine on a grand scale—the ice being made in a great, thin, flat cake. Through the shallow tanks containing the fresh water coils of pipe through which flows the ammonia vapour or the cold brine are run from end to end or from side to side so that the whole bottom of the tank is gridironed with pipes, the water covering the pipes is speedily frozen, and a smooth surface formed. When the skaters cut up the surface it is flooded and frozen over again.

So efficient and common have refrigerating plants become that artificially cooled water is on tap in many public places in the great cities. Theatres are cooled during hot weather by a portion of the same machinery that supplies the heat in winter, and it is not improbable that every large establishment, private, or public, will in the near future have its own refrigerating plant.

Inventors are now at work on cold-air stoves that draw in warm air, extract the heat from it, and deliver it purified and cooled by many degrees.

Even the people of this generation, therefore, may expect to see their furnaces turned into cooling machines in summer. Then the ice-man will cease from troubling and the ice-cart be at rest.