A MILLIONAIRE “ice pirate” wants to hijack an iceberg and tow it from the South Pole to the United Arab Emirates.
The bold plot – which involves a 5,500-mile haulage operation – is intended to supply freshwater to the arid Arab state, as well as provide a tourism boost locally.
It’s being funded by Abdulla Alshehi, an Emirati businessman who has been working on the project for six years.
He believes that the journey will take around 10 months, resulting in an iceberg being deposited 3km off the UAE’s Fujairah coast.
The iceberg is expected to be taken from Heard Island near the South Pole, and will likely measure 2km by 500 metres, with a depth of 300 metres.
A metal “belt” designed to prevent the iceberg from breaking up during its journey is also in development, according to Euronews.
However, the big ‘berg is still expected to lose around 30% of its mass before reaching the toasty Arabian coastline.
A trial run will be conducted later this year, with a smaller iceberg hauled by tug-boat to Australia or South Africa.
This first test is expected to cost between $60million and $80million (£48million to £64million).
But the final mission to deliver a full-size iceberg to the UAE is forecast to cost $100million to $150million (£80million to £120million).
The main goal is to deliver a large quantity of drinkable water to the UAE.
The desert nation lacks water sources and, as a result, consumes 15% of the world’s desalinated seawater.
Alshehi believes his iceberg could provide fresh, drinkable water to around a million people for up to five years – and is the cheapest, most eco-friendly option available.
“It will be cheaper to bring in these icebergs and utilise them for freshwater rather than utilising the desalination water,” he explained.
“Because desalination plants require a huge amount of capital investments.
“[Desalination] is pumping a huge amount of brine water to the Gulf, making the salinity of the seawater very high, killing even the fish and marine [life] on the Arabian Sea.
“So we believe it will be a more economical and environmentally friendly project to utilise the icebergs’ water not only for the United Arab Emirates, but throughout the world.”
Alshehi claims to have conducted an environmental impact assessment, which revealed a minimal impact to the environment.
And the wealthy businessman believes the iceberg could even have a positive environmental effect on his Gulf homeland.
“It’s expected that the presence of these icebergs may cause a weather pattern change,” Alshehi said.
“Because they are cold bodies, they will attract the clouds – which are moving on the Arabian sea – to its centre.
“Once brought into the centre, we expect it will attract more rain to the region.”
Another perk will be tourism, with Alshehi hoping that visitors will go on “iceberg outings”.
He even mooted a new travel concept of “glacial tourism” in the Gulf, where the average temperature in August is 36C.
But the iceberg itself will be stationed along the Gulf coast, where temperatures are a more balmy 26C.
This should prevent the iceberg from melting rapidly, giving Alshehi and his “ice pirates” a chance to quickly acquire freshwater for drinking.
“We will start the harvesting process immediately and we expect it will take us two to three months,” he said.
What is an iceberg?
Here’s what you need to know…
- An iceberg is a large chunk of ice made from freshwater
- It has typically broken off from a glacier or an ice shelft
- The name is a loan translation from the Dutch ‘ijsberg’, which means ice mountain
- Icebergs are found floating freely in open salt-water
- Around 90% of an iceberg is below the surface, and therefore not visible
- That’s why they’re considered to be a major shipping hazard
- The most famous iceberg-at-sea incident was the 1912 loss of the “unsinkable” RMS Titanic, which capsized after hitting an iceberg
- The largest iceberg ever recorded is Iceberg B-15, which was calved from Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf in March 2000
- It measured 183 miles long, 23 miles wide, and had a surface area of 4,200 square miles – bigger than Jamaica
Just last month, we wrote about another so-called “ice pirate” named Nicholas Sloane.
His plan is to cart a 125million-ton ‘berg across the sea to melt down for drinking water too.
Sloane, 56, is a professional marine salvager who recently oversaw the refloating of capsized Italian cruise ship the Costa Concordia.
But rather than the UAE, Sloane’s final destination is Cape Town: he hopes to solve South Africa’s water crisis by nabbing an ice berg from the South Pole.
Severe drought in 2017 led to Cape Town nearly running out of water, and the city – which Sloane calls home – still has restrictions of 70 litres per day.
“My wife used to take a bath every night and a shower every morning. She told me, ‘You’d better do something’,” Sloane said.
He now plans to harness and tow an enormous Antarctic iceberg, and then convert it into drinkable water.
“To make it economically feasible, the iceberg will have to be big,” Sloane explained.
He said it would need to be 3,281 feet long, 1,640 feet wide, 820 feet deep – and weigh around 125million tonnes.
“That would supply about 20% of Cape Town’s water needs for a year,” he added.
Although nabbing an iceberg might sound like theft, it’s actually not a bad move.
More than 100,000 Antarctic icebergs melt into the ocean every single year.
These fresh-water bergs are effectively wasted in the sea, and could instead be used as a vital source of hydration for drought-stricken nations.
And as Bloomberg notes, iceberg-harvesting isn’t an entirely new concept either.
In the mid 1800s, Chilean breweries would tow small icebergs – sometimes fitted with sails – for refrigeration purposes.
And the UAE previously plotted to drag icebergs from the Antarctic to provide water to the desert kingdom.
Nasa recently discovered an incredible mile-long perfectly rectangular iceberg floating in the Antarctic.
And the space agency recently warned that an “iceberg twice the size of Manhattan” could break away from the South Pole.
Scientists recently warned over an ancient Antarctic ice sheet collapse that caused a “global flood”, which could happen again.
Do you think this is a good idea? Let us know in the comments!
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