Fleeing Tibet

The Jeffco Team


Under the cover of darkness, on March 17th, 1959, a small group of Tibetans fled their homeland for India. The Dalai Lama, the religious and spiritual leader of Tibet and it's people, escaped with his life and began the two week journey to safety. The group fled to escape threats and abuses by the Chinese Government who claimed sovereignty over Tibet and who have continued to repress the Tibetan people and culture. Forty years later, the Dalai Lama is still in exile and Tibetans continue to struggle to retain their culture and freedom.

This sculpture depicts the Dalai Lama and several Tibetan people fleeing Tibet in 1959. We used figures in their battle against the elements to depict the groups struggle during this little known historic event.

Fleeing Tibet was created in January/February 1999 on Dow's Lake, Ottawa. The sculpture won second place in the General Public Category.





Click to view the "Fleeing Tibet" photo gallery

Fleeting Tibet Daily Updates

99/01/08 - Official Entry Due.
The entry was sent in at the last possible moment as usual. Last-minute changes in wording and design are hardly uncommon. Actually changes will probably still come, but we like to be as close as possible on the original entry.

99/01/14 - Orientation Meeting.
Pretty much same as always. Dave did another how-to-sculpt discussion which was well received. We got to meet old friends and talk with some new teams. We met the new organizers who seem nice and on-the-ball. Not too much new though after having been to the same orientation six years in a row...

99/01/14-22 - Preparations continuing including working on plasticine models and 3D rendering. Met several times with Dave to discuss how we will pull off the spoked wheels on the cart and the yak. More meetings however to make sure we have our facts straight historically. This year we're looking at having our usual poster with information about the sculpture professionally printed and therefore things have to be done sooner. We're also working to translate most of our text into French to include more of the public. All this means however that more time is required. Everything's still on schedule and no one's worried. In fact, nothing major seems to be going wrong yet. That's the only worrisome part...

99/01/27 - Last minute changes seem to be the norm. Weather conditions have forced the delay of construction, setting everything back one week. An inconvenience yes, but it does give us more time to go over plans and make sure everything's perfect. We have finished the poster for explaining our sculpture and it turned out very well. It should capture a few people's attention. Now all we have to worry about is the projected high of 7 degrees Celsius for next Tuesday. Next up: possibly more delays or a change in location...

View from the front of the people, but the rear of the sculpture

99/02/04 - Still waiting to see if it's going to be delayed or changed or anything because the weather is still too warm (it's raining now). If we don't hear anything today I would assume we're still on for tomorrow.

99/02/05 - Day One: Sculpting begins. Weather has done an about-face. Minus 4 to minus 14 or so with a wind-chill. Great for us except for the wind. We started slow which is usually the case, getting everything thought out right on the site. Decent turnout with Dave, Jeff, Adam, Rustin, and a new guy John helping out. We actually had two new people helping out. They saw what we were doing and I guess they wanted to help so we let them. That's never happened to us before and it caught us off guard, but I think it worked out well for both parties. With everyone's help we managed to set up the base of the sculpture and the podium with our explanation of the sculpture. The organizers were on-the-ball this year and everything was ready for us (a nice change for anyone who knew of last year's difficulties with our second sculpture). Tomorrow is the first day of Winterlude so we can expect large numbers of visitors, but after tonight, I think we'll all be sleeping in (the first day is usually the hardest since it's been so long since we've done this sort of thing).

99/02/06 - Day Two. An excellent day weather-wise. We got the fresh snow we were hoping for (to make up for the frozen clumps we'd been using). It was cold but not too cold and there wasn't much wind. We managed to get a lot done considering we started later than we intended and ended earlier. We started the front guy and the monk at the back. Both were constructed entirely of chunks of pre-found snow which are easy to put up and carve. We positioned the yak's legs out of frozen tube pieces and continued to build upon them as they froze. We have the base almost complete and it should be nicely frozen by tomorrow. We're going slower than we'd like, I think, but our turnout has been a bit slower than we'd hoped. Andrew and Lori joined the party yesterday and that helped a lot We think Mike came, but he had to leave before we got there. It's still only the second day however and there's still lots of time. It's just difficult because we've never done a sculpture where the parts were so dependent on other parts being finished first. (We can't do the people behind the cart until we do the cart, which we can't do before we freeze the wheels, etc.) It's making it a challenge to schedule everything to make sure everything is finished on time.

Getting the frozen wheel to sit and freeze in place

99/02/07 - Day Three. Perfect weather. Many people out on the canal to watch and to help out. We made significant progress in forming the body of the yak, setting the first cart-wheel and giving the lead character form. The foreground figure is also coming along nicely. We are concerned that we may not get the detail we had wanted at first because of fewer people coming out than first expected. That's okay though, especially in comparison to our next major problem: above-freezing temperatures forecast for the next few days and even rain possible for Thursday. We'll do what we can, but that would be devastating. For now though, all is going well. We did have to deal with the unfortunate problem of people who do not respect our work, even having one person today walk over some of our molds and kick one on his way by. Several people walked in and around our sculpture even as we were standing there. We're hoping nobody gets any ideas about getting too close to anything else as they are still quite fragile. It's unfortunate that we can't just worry about the weather.

99/02/08 - Day Four. Weather still the biggest concern. Again, it is still okay today but the rest of the week is supposed to be quite warm. We have been moving quite quickly with hopes that we can have something substantial done in case weather costs us a day or more. We are having great success with molds and getting pieces in the right place, but there two more figures we haven't even started yet and many more things we'd like to be working on but have not as yet had time. For now we're just doing our best to keep everything moving along. As for the rest, we'll just have to wait and see.

99/02/09 - Day Five. Excellent progress for much of the day. Bodies were going up as fast as they ever have. The Dalai Lama is one of the finest figures we've ever done. Calvin came by to do some more spectacular drapery and add movement to an otherwise static figure. Dave managed some remarkable carvings of snow blocks into huge planks of slow for the cart. We also had some great feedback from people hitting the site. We saw the statistics and if I read them correctly we've had over 3200 people visit the site since Sunday alone. That's more than visited all of last year. That's the good news. The bad news is the rain which came early, and the plus three temperatures which effectively destroyed Dave's progress and has the team concerned about what will survive and what won't. We check the weather hourly, but there's little we can do but hope. We had nine people out to help tonight but had to send everyone home because the slightest touch caused some parts to drop to the ground. Some nights you just have to cut your losses.

99/02/10 - Day Six. We are successfully keeping the weather at bay for now. It was hovering around zero all day after reaching almost three degrees during the night. That combined with a harsh wind eroded a lot of the back half of the sculpture. It took almost 6 big buckets of slush and several hours just to repair the damage and bring us back to where we were last night. We managed however and continued to plod on after that. We added many more body parts, especially to the Dalai Lama who is almost complete now. It was too warm for adding limbs in our usual fashion, but it was moist enough that it seemed to hold anyway. We'll see if it's still up tomorrow but it's supposed to be cold tonight so we're confident. Today was also media day with local news using us as a background for the weather report and an interview with CBC. We're starting to get more visitors too as we approach the end of the week. That's always nice to see.

View from where the frontmost character sat

99/02/11 - Day Seven. Preoccupation with weather has proved excessive. The sky has been turbulent and winds have made things difficult, but the temperature has remained below zero despite forecasts predicting numbers as high as 12 degrees. Rain has also been delayed but may happen tonight. We have taken the basic precautions but are confident that the structure is sufficiently stable to withstand reasonable exposures to such hardships. We have completed all of the structural elements and are now in the enviable position of adding detail at our leisure. We expect a record turnout tomorrow so we have to be careful not to break anything and to keep everybody busy without ending up with an overly busy sculpture. As I said however, these are hardships we can deal with. Here's to a largely uneventful last day...

99/02/12 - Day Eight: Last Day. The weather was cruelest this day. Temperatures reached a high of 8 Celsius and held it for a while. That combined with wind and rain made the cause look hopeless. Most of us stayed off the ice after having to watch heads and arms and horns fall to the ground. We stayed inside and watched the rain continue to fall and the temperature continue to remain high. It wasn't until after 6:30 that temperatures reached freezing again and the gang rejoined to repair and replace. We were lucky though, one team had their sculpture destroyed and another had theirs condemned because the weight of their sculptures caused fractures in the ice which made them sink into the lake and flood with water. We were very fortunate that the ice structures we had built held and, relatively speaking, the repair work we had to do was minor (about 7 arms and a head). We fixed everything, added more details, cleaned the site, then headed home around 11 pm. Quite good actually. Many teams were still out when we left, but we'd done enough. We finished a great sculpture through incredibly difficult conditions and that was enough. It was time to go home and dry out. We'll gather again tomorrow for one last look and for the awards.

99/02/13 - Awards Handed Out. We went to a nice ceremony held on the canal and found out we had been awarded second place in the general public category. It's always nice to receive some sort of official recognition, but for us we will always know that we did the sculpture we set out to do, and we did it well. We pushed the envelope with theme, structure and detail and continued to do work of which we could be proud. Considering this was done in some of the worst possible weather conditions for our type of sculpting, we did an amazing job. The pictures and the stories will be around for many years to come. We hope you enjoyed the final result.