Although it sounds like the stuff of 21st century techno-fantasy, the idea of towing icebergs from their polar home to the shores of countries desperate for potable water actually goes back to the 1950s, with research projects by the US Army. It gained momentum in the 1970s, notably under the influence of the famous French polar explorer, Paul-Emile Victor, his friend (and Arts et Métiers engineer) Georges Mougin, and a Saudi prince named Mohamed al-Faisal. The first international convention on the use of icebergs, held in Iowa in 1977, was attended by 200 people, including respected engineers, scientists, military personnel, officials and journalists.
But the technical obstacles were both complex and formidable; experimentation required astronomical budgets, and the relevant technologies did not yet exist. In the ensuing years, the excitement died down and scientists turned towards more realistic, less controversial and less costly projects.
Now, a reputable company has devoted its formidable computing muscle to the concept – with encouraging results.
Read more about turning icebergs into drinking water in PM’s September 2012 issue – on sale on 20 August.
In the meantime, watch a sneak preview of a 60-minute documentary titled “Ice Dreams”, which tells the story of Georges Mougin’s quest to tow an iceberg…