French engineer Georges Mougin has spent the last 30-plus years trying to figure out how he could tow freshwater icebergs across the Arctic Ocean and deliver them to places in the world where people go without clean drinking water. Using oceanic forecasting, 3-D technology and recently declassified data provided by satellites, Mougin believes he has finally solved the problem he set out so long ago to answer. Fast Company's David Zax takes a closer look:
It might sound outlandish, but Mougin has been trying to tap the icecaps for decades. In the 1970s, Mougin was enlisted by prince Mohammad al-Faisal, a nephew of the Saudi king, along with other engineers and a polar explorer, in a venture called "Iceberg Transport International." Millions of dollars was invested with the aim of wrapping a 100-million-ton iceberg in sailcloth and plastic and tugging it from the North Pole to the Red Sea. For a swank conference on "iceberg utilization," Faisal even managed to ship, via helicopter, plane, and truck, a two-ton "mini-berg" from Alaska to Iowa, where the giant block of ice was chipped apart to chill delegates' drinks. According to a Time report from October of 1977, Faisal predicted that he'd have an iceberg in Arabia "within three years."
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He was wrong. Thirty-five years might have been a more accurate prediction. As the 3-D rendering (one of three) embedded below shows, Mougin believes the proper way to transport an iceberg is to use a tugboat attached to a floating geotextile belt. Made rigid by a series of poles, the belt can extend 20 feet below the surface of the water and will cushion the iceberg with cold water to keep it from melting too quickly. Mougin's team has compared the tugboat pulling an iceberg to "a nutshell towing a mountain," but the genius of Mougin's newest idea is that the tugboat doesn't do all that much work. The system harnesses the sea's natural forces using oceanic forecasting.