Iceberg could save Cape Town from drought, marine salvage expert says

An Adelie penguin stands atop a block of melting ice near the French station at Dumont díUrville in East Antarctica January 23, 2010. Picture taken January 23, 2010. REUTERS/Pauline Askin/File photo

South African marine salvage expert Nick Sloane, who sprang to international fame when he refloated the massive Costa Concordia wreck in the Mediterranean in 2013, is hatching a plan to tow icebergs to Cape Town to ease the city’s water crisis.

It may sound off the wall, but Sloane says the iceberg proposal has generated enough interest among experts for him to hold a seminar on the project in Cape Town in mid-May.

Engineers and University of Cape Town academics have been assessing it.

Dr. Chris von Holdt from Aurecon’s advisory practice, who has done a technical assessment and economic evaluation of the iceberg proposal, said: “I believe it has sufficient technical feasibility and economic merit to be considered seriously as a supply option for filling the supply gaps during periods of drought.”

The plan is to guide huge chunks of ice across the ocean, chop them into a slurry and melt them down into millions of litres of drinking water.

A single iceberg “could produce about 150 million litres per day for about a year”, around 30% of the city’s needs, says Sloane.

Estimates are that more than 2000 billion tons of icebergs break off the Antarctic ice-shelf every year and drift with ocean currents until they melt in warmer water.

The Southern Ice team hopes to capture icebergs that have drifted northward to Gough Island, about 2 700 km south west of Cape Town.

Not just any iceberg will do. Norwegian glaciologist Dr. Olav Orheim, who was the director or the Norwegian Polar Institute from 1993 to 2005, has analysed 271 000 icebergs. He says of that total, only 7% would be suitable.

Orheim and French engineer Georges Mougin are part of Sloane’s team.

After three years of low rainfall Cape Town has been warned that it may have to turn off water supplies, but seasonal rains averted the crisis.

Mr. Sloane is looking for investors for the scheme that he has said would cost $130m (£95m) and experts will gather in mid-May to discuss whether his plan is possible.


News24, BBC

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