Arctic cowboys: Meet the people wrangling icebergs for drinking water

by NEW YORK DIGITAL NEWS


Iceberg showing submerged section when viewed from above, Greenland's National Park, Northeast Greenland. August 2015.

EACH June, tourists flock to Newfoundland to catch a glimpse of icebergs. Sparkling as they twist in the frigid waves of the Labrador Sea, icebergs have become one of the Canadian island’s most important industries, attracting more than 100,000 visitors a year. But not everyone is satisfied merely watching the behemoth blocks of frozen freshwater – Ed Kean tries to catch them.

He uses his large fishing boat to harvest icebergs, then melts them and sells the water. Many local people swear to its purity and delicious taste. Kean’s mother won’t drink anything else.

But Kean won’t have the iceberg business to himself for much longer. For decades, there has been talk of towing icebergs from the poles to warmer climes to slake the thirst of increasingly parched communities around the world. Now, there are at least three outfits with plans to make it happen. Iceberg harvesting is a concept that has always intrigued me, so I set out to discover whether it is really feasible on a large scale, and whether it can be done safely, without damaging our planet.

Iceberg wrangling isn’t as fanciful as it might sound. The UN predicts that, by 2030, half of the world’s population will face severe water shortages. Yet, there is no absolute shortage of fresh water. It is just that around two-thirds of it is locked away in ice caps and glaciers, which produce tens of thousands of miraculous parcels of frozen fresh water every year and send them into the salty oceans.

First identify your iceberg

I began my investigations by finding out how Kean works. He…



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