Stamp says that his company has already completed much of the engineering for its next project—essentially a floating bottling plant. This operation will be centered on what Stamp calls a "mother ship," where the meltwater is to be filtered and bottled. A seventy-five-foot-long iceberg excavator will do the actual harvesting ("It's basically like coal mining," Stamp says), and ice fragments will be suctioned back to the mother ship by a sort of pneumatic tube. "We got the idea from central vacuuming," Stamp says.
The Canadian Iceberg Vodka Corporation is also gearing up for a major expansion. Before the end of the year the company hopes to start construction on a 240,000-square-foot drinking-water bottling plant near the tip of Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula, close to productive iceberg fields. "We've developed a conveyor-and-auger system, and we'll use mining techniques to carve into the side of the iceberg," Gary Pollack, the company's president, told me. "It's very similar to open-pit mining." Pollack envisions a fleet of "maybe thirty ships" that will eventually prowl the seas in search of icebergs, making frequent trips back to the plant.
Talk of these projects inevitably raises the question, Why go to the considerable expense and hassle of capturing and melting icebergs? Why not, say, just back a tanker truck up to a garden hose?
The answer, not surprisingly, has to do with marketing. "A lot of people want pure water, and they'll pay the price," Pollack says. Proselytizers are quick to point out that the water in these icebergs fell on Greenland as snow 10,000 or more years ago and has been bound up in glaciers ever since, safely sequestered from modern contaminants. Pollack and Stamp claim that their product is purer than spring water (which is merely filtered naturally) and more natural than distilled water (which is mechanically processed). "It's great that a large inland city can clean its drinking water and strip out impurities," Stamp says. "But ten million people pee in it on a daily basis. And you know what? Nobody peed in mine. Isn't that worth an extra ten cents a bottle?"
"We're talking about a major, major pure product—it's the purest water on earth," Pollack says. Iceberg water is so pure, he claims, that the vodka produced from it can be consumed in quantity with little or no risk of hangover. "I've seen people drink a whole bottle and not have any problem," he says. "Not that I'm recommending that to the general consumer."
Although no environmentalist opposition has arisen to the mining of icebergs, the impact on tourism has yet to be fully gauged. After Stockley and others made the press aware of the Twillingate iceberg grab, Iceberg Industries untethered itself from the local attraction and moved up the coast, where other icebergs awaited safely out of view of tourists. "Tourism has its place," Stamp admits, although he insists that his industry's expansion offers an entrepreneurial opportunity for the tourist trade: "People do factory tours all the time."