I read somewhere someone someone had the idea to try to move a 'small' iceberg with giant tugboats used to move oil-rigs. I thought if an Iceberg could be moved, why not move it $NORTHWARD$ maybe above the latitude of where it 'broke' off. Maybe it could be anchored there somehow. Is this feasible?

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    $\begingroup$ Relevant: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pycrete $\endgroup$ – Deer Hunter Sep 27 '14 at 7:40
  • $\begingroup$ Why was this downvoted ; it seems like a useful idea to help people and the environment? $\endgroup$ – user128932 Sep 30 '14 at 3:26
  • $\begingroup$ Because this is a shipping question, not a question about any of the earth sciences. If you had made this question more about the icebergs (as the answer suggests) it may have upvoted instead. $\endgroup$ – Richard Sep 30 '14 at 19:22
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    $\begingroup$ The question is mainly about moving an iceberg north to slow melting ,a bit. $\endgroup$ – user128932 Oct 1 '14 at 3:04
  • $\begingroup$ Moving Icebergs 'back' to where they came from ( or approximately so) to slow down all the melting Ice; good idea?? $\endgroup$ – user128932 Oct 3 '14 at 20:24

Some background. The idea of towing ice bergs to provide a source for fresh water in dry climate zones was first proposed in the 1970s by Weeks and Campbell (1973) and Hult and Ostrander (1973). This sparked interest that resulted in several studies published in conferences (Husseiny, 1980; IGS, 1980). The focus of the work was manly on the wastage of ice during transport and of course the technical aspects of towing ice. The main issue, however, concerns the integrity of ice bergs during transport. The mechanics of ice bergs is still poorly understood and it is known that bergs gradually break up. How this is affected by ocean swells and other forces acting upon a berg under tow is still investigated (see a wealth of publications in particularly Journal of Glacology and Annals of Glaciology). The idea has, however, not been forgotten and more possible technical solutions are proposed (e.g. Fast Company. So while the financial aspect of the process may be calculable, the strength of ice bergs, and the forces acting upon them in the open sea and under tow requires more research before towing could become a reality.

On top of this are legal issues. Who owns the ice? and also how can towing ice berg across busy shipping lines be safe, particularly in the event of a break-up in mid-ocean.

To respond to your specific question on towing northward and anchoring: The towing in any direction is subject to the same issues as described above. Anchoring, the ice bergs will melt and degrade over time so that moorings will continually have to be renewed. Most ice bergs in the north will go through at least one cycle of being caught in seasonal sea ice but eventually will be set free to follow ocean currents in whatever direction they move locally. Since the ocean water will carry some heat, it will not matter where the ice berg is located, it will slowly melt. On top of that is the issue of disintegration since melting will change the shape of the berg and hence its stability and centre of gravity causing stresses within the block to alter.

If one takes a longer-term perspective and ignores the practicalities (incl. costs), moving ice to a place where it melts slower would momentarily decrease the contribution but eventually one would reach a new equilibrium where the same rate of melt water will be contributed and the temporary benefit will be lost. So apart from being highly impractical from all aspects, the longer-term benefits will be nil.


Hult, J.L. and Ostrander, N.C., 1973. Antarctic icebergs as a global fresh water resource. Rand Corporation, Santa Monica. Report No. R-1255-NSF. 83 pp.

Husseiny, A.A. (ed.) 1978. Iceberg Utilization. Proceedings of the First International Conference, Ames, Iowa, 1977. Pergamon Press, New York. 759 pp.

IGS (International Glaciological Society), 1980. Proceedings of the Conference on the Use of Icebergs. Annals of Glaciology, 1 136 pp.

Weeks, W.F. and Campbell, W.J., 1973. Icebergs as a fresh-water source: an appraisal. Journal of Glaciology, 12, 65, 207-233.

  • $\begingroup$ My idea is if moving an iceberg southward is feasible then moving it northward to about the latitudes where it came from to possibly prevent it from melting as fast would not only get some floating icebergs out of shipping lanes but also 'slow' down all the melting.. $\endgroup$ – user128932 Sep 27 '14 at 21:21
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    $\begingroup$ Could moving 'small' icebergs northward towards where they first 'broke free' (or thereabouts) free up some shipping lanes and possibly slow down all the melting if only a 'bit'? $\endgroup$ – user128932 Sep 29 '14 at 1:20
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    $\begingroup$ Say one iceberg has a million tons of water 'frozen' in it and it is towed to much colder waters where it doesn't melt anymore or it freezes to the surrounding ice 'landscape' ; this venture would stop a million tons of water being added to the oceans. So for this moment on for maybe a month a million tons of water was kept frozen. $\endgroup$ – user128932 Oct 5 '14 at 4:46
  • $\begingroup$ Has any user on one of these sites promoted an idea that was read by someone else who actually caused the idea to be implemented in real life? $\endgroup$ – user128932 Nov 27 '14 at 5:27

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