Fishing for icebergs, the crazy project to save The Cape from the drought

Nick Sloane, a South African-Zambian 56-year-old, presents her project to tow an iceberg to The Cape, on 16 may 2018, (Photo by RODGER BOSCH. AFP)

“The idea seems to be delirious”, conceded the captain Nick Sloane, “but if we look closely, this is not so crazy”: to supply water to the metropolis of Cape town, the victim of a historic drought, why not “pick” of icebergs in Antarctica?

Nick Sloane is accustomed to projects outside the norm. This South-African-Zambian 56-year-old founder of the company Sloane Marine Ltd, has already shown leading to the bailout of the cruise ship Concordia after the ship sank off the coast of Italy, which had been 32 deaths in 2012.

His greatest challenge and success to this day.

But not as titanic as his last bet, which would make access Nick Sloane is sure to seed if he was carrying out, and that would be a world first.

At the south-western tip of South Africa, Cape town and its 4 million inhabitants are suffering from a terrible drought.

This year, the city narrowly escaped the “day zero”, where the water will cease to flow to faucets, at the cost of water restrictions in drastic still in force. But the worst-case scenario may become reality if the rains expected in the months to come did not materialize.

To save The Cape, Nick Sloane offers to go hunting for icebergs, those immense reservoirs of fresh water, that float up to 2,000 km away the south african coast, in the Antarctic.

“Each year, thousands of icebergs break off and drift towards The Cape”, he explains. “Mother nature made us in the eye, telling us: +I’m here, just take me+”.

So far, no one has achieved such a feat.

“In Russia, they have already pushed the icebergs that were floating toward oil facilities. But they weighed around half a million tonnes. Here, we talk about… 100 million tonnes,” says Nick Sloane.

– Cover giant –

In his viewfinder, icebergs that look like a gigantic “coffee table”, so-called tabular form. They are between 850 and 1,000 metres long, about 500 metres wide, and 220 deep.

The iceberg ideal will be identified from the sky, thanks to drones and satellite images. The easy part of the operation. The ice giant captured will then be packaged in a fabric insulator and a powerful tug will guide you slowly to the southern tip of the african continent.

Not question however of the store in Cape town. The current is too hot. It will be towed to some 150 km to the north, in the bay of St. Helena, in South Africa.

The location is ideal, according to Nick Sloane: there, the cold current of Benguela maintains the water at a dozen degrees and a former river bed underwater will be parking at the iceberg.

The work of collecting the water will then start. The water that melts will flow directly into a huge saucer built for this purpose, while a machine pilera ice.

The gathering will last for one year. Each day, an estimated 150 million litres of water will be recovered and transported in tankers to the Cape.

“We’re not going to solve the water crisis in the Cape, but it will provide between 20 and 30% of the annual demand for water in Cape town”, anticipates the captain Sloane.

– “Unknown” –

The cost of the project is obviously enormous: about 160 million dollars for an iceberg. What a shower the city of Cape town.

According to deputy mayor Ian Neilson, the skeptical, “it appears that the use of groundwater and surface projects of desalination are cheaper or of equivalent cost”. “We also wondered about the feasibility to inject the water of the iceberg in our distribution network,” he said to the AFP. “Without counting the risks inherent to this project, especially the unknown of the water volume that the iceberg will actually produce.”

“It is not easy to ask for public funds for a first”, says Olav Orheim, a specialist in Norwegian icebergs, which has already worked on such an operation there is a period of forty years, at the request of saudi Arabia.

“The project is crazy. No doubt about it”, concedes there willingly, by listing the “unknown”.

Never a weight as heavy has been reached. The iceberg will it break during shipping ? How to manage the current while towing ? What will be the rate of melting ?

But “the project is no longer unrealistic in the extent to which the knowledge has changed a lot in forty years. It is a project that is high risk, but with a sacred reward to the key”, says Olav Orheim.

Here it is now embedded in the adventure, as the French engineer Georges Mougin, who board him also for years on a project of towing icebergs.

A swiss company, Water Vision, water specialist, is also associated with the captain Sloane.

With droughts becoming more common, this technology has huge potential, believes its CEO Wolfgang Foerg, who has already been contacted by Australians to tow an iceberg to Australia.

The team says it is ready to move very quickly to action. “If one has the green light from the city, you can have an iceberg here at Easter”, says Nick Sloane from The Cape.

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