Calving glaciers in Greenland

Ice Cubes Away!

By —— Bio and Archives--August 10, 2018

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Ice Cubes Away!
Remember the RMS Titanic? She hit one of those while on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City, in the year 1912.

The Titanic is long gone but the icy cubes are still coming down from Baffin Bay. They are pushed southward by the cold Labrador Current flowing along the shores of the continental land of the Province of Newfoundland & Labrador. This region is aptly named “Iceberg Alley.”

Large icebergs are known to drift as far south as approximately latitude 40 degree North. There, they meet up with the warm Gulf Stream and rapidly melt away.



Icebergs are large pieces of solid ice. Even sea-ice growing on quite salty seawater is, essentially, pure frozen FRESH-water (without salt content). As an aside, a few decades ago, we actually used that effect to concentrate dissolved impurities in freshwater to be analyzed. Some icebergs come in unusual shapes, like with large holes or other rare accoutrements.

Of course, the large icebergs are created and making their way (mostly) from calving glaciers in Greenland that result from many years of accumulated precipitation over Greenland’s land mass and not from formation on the sea.

Before I go on, allow me to comment on that RCI picture nearby. It clearly is an artist’s rendition, for two reasons:

  1. You’d never be able to see any whole iceberg like that—and
  2. you’d never want to be near any iceberg of that (artistic rendition) shape as it would likely turn over soon with a tremendous wave front resulting.

So much for artistic depictions of icebergs.

One problem (or potential benefit ?) of icebergs is that you can only see a small fraction, i.e. ~10%, of its total mass above the water; the much larger part (of ~90%) is below the water surface. So, any iceberg of size represents a large mass of (frozen) freshwater—practically speaking—a giant ice cube.


Ice Cubes

Now we are getting down to reality. When you find that the supply of ice cubes for your drink has mysteriously vanished from your freezer compartment, no problem. Just go and take a chip from some of those things floating in the Atlantic. The cruise liners and sailboats plying the high seas will be glad. In fact, the International Ice Patrol (IIP; International Ice Patrol ), active since 1913, wouldn’t mind if you’d took it all, to eliminate the risk of iceberg collisions. They’d rather not see any of such ice cubes at all. Another IIP report says “More than 1,000 icebergs drifted into North Atlantic shipping lanes in 2017.”

An article in National Geographic (published in 2012) concludes with “Ice continues to be a shipping hazard in Iceberg Alley and across the North Atlantic, with hundreds of collisions since 1912. But thanks in part to the IIP and improved radio communication, no single incident has resulted in more than a hundred casualties. It also states that the average iceberg has the volume of 840,000 ice cubes. Such miniscule “ice-chips” would barely qualify as “growlers.” In my opinion this cube number is too low by two orders of magnitude or more.

So, what to do with all those free ice cubes?

What could be more obvious—ship them to where they are welcome and where people will actually pay for them! Places like the countries on the Arabian Peninsula and other warm-climate beneficiaries would welcome such freebies. Indeed, enterprising folks came up with that idea already in the 19th century. None ever materialized. The ice cubes had a habit of melting away while being towed to the intended destinations. Speedy delivery is crucial!


Speedy delivery is crucial!

Unfortunately, the former dreamers of towing the bergs across the Atlantic hadn’t yet heard of Prime Air and other fast delivery services that are available these days. Clearly, there are some significant delivery voids to be filled, pronto.

In any case, with Arctic sea-ice and Greenland land ice (see graph nearby; credit: Danish Met. Inst.) volumes/masses being close to record highs, locating and tracking icebergs in the Atlantic shipping lanes continues to be as necessary as in the past 100+ years.

Arctic sea-ice and Greenland land ice


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Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser is author of CONVENIENT MYTHS, the green revolution – perceptions, politics, and facts Convenient Myths

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