It is a plan as crazy as the situation is desperate—towing an iceberg from Antarctica to Cape Town to supply fresh water to a city in the grip of drought.
Earlier this year, Cape Town came within weeks of shutting off all its taps and forcing residents to queue for water rations at public standpipes.
The cut-off was narrowly averted as people scrambled to reduce their water usage and Autumn rains saved the day. But the threat is expected to return to the coastal South African city again next year and beyond.
“The idea sounds crazy,” admits maverick salvage expert Nick Sloane, the brains behind the tow-an-iceberg scheme. “But if you look at the fine details, it is not so crazy.”
Sloane suggests wrapping the iceberg in a textile insulation skirt to stop it melting and using a supertanker and two tugboats to drag it 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) towards Cape Town using prevailing ocean currents.
The iceberg, carefully selected by drones and radiography scans, would be about one kilometre in length, 500 metres across and up to 250 metres deep, with a flat, tabletop surface.
Melted water could be gathered each day using collection channels and a milling machine to create ice slurry—producing 150 million litres of usable water every day for a year.