In the 1970s Saudi Arabia was planning to start towing icebergs to land as a source of fresh water…and this plan is being taken seriously again today.
In the 70’s a nephew of the Saudi king enlisted engineers and polar explorers in an effort to bring an iceberg to his country for fresh water.
One of these engineers was Georges Mougin. Mougin predicted that he would be able to do this within three years. That didn’t happen.
There were too many obstacles, one of which was the estimated price-tag of $100 million.
Flash forward nearly 40 years and Mougin thinks he’s finally found a way to transport icebergs to bring fresh water to those who need it. This time working on the issue himself, he enlisted help from a French design firm named Dassault Systèmes which specializes in running elaborate 3-D simulations.
Together they used 3-D technology, recently declassified satellite data, and the new science of oceanic forecasting to create an elaborate method for hauling huge icebergs using a "skirt" and a tugboat. This works in three main steps.
The first step is to find an iceberg of the right size and shape. You want one that’s not too big but not too small, while being relatively smooth and flat for easy toeing. A floating belt is deployed around the iceberg to keep waves from eroding it.
The second step is to deploy a “skirt” that covers the iceberg underwater all the way down to over 500 feet deep. This, again, keeps the water in ocean currents from eroding the iceberg too quickly.
The third step is getting the iceberg to its destination before it melts. This is more than just a race against time, as numerous variables come into play. They need to know the boat's fuel supply and the iceberg's melt rate on the one hand, and then the countless variables of the fickle ocean itself, including sea currents, swells and winds.