Startup shipping Arctic ice to Dubai bars from Greenland

A Greenland start-up is being accused of doing titanic damage to the environment by shipping ice from glaciers over 100,000 years old to be used in cocktails served at high-priced bars in Dubai.

Arctic Ice, which started this year, touts its product as the “oldest and purest” ice in the world as it is harvested from icebergs in Greenland — a distance of more than 4,730 miles from the Middle Eastern megalopolis.

Though the makers say they hope to highlight global warming’s effects on ice sheets with the their business model — and even stop sea levels from rising — the scheme is getting a frosty reception.

The startup Arctic Ice has come under fire for shipping ice from Greenland’s icebergs to Dubai, where it is being used to chill pricey cocktails. Jam Press/Arctic Ice
Chunks of ice more than 100,000 years old are sold to bars and restaurants in Dubai. Instagram/arctic_ice_officiel/

“Guys. This is nuts,” one person wrote in the comments section on Arctic Ice’s Instagram page in response to a promotional video. “The planet is freaking burning.”

The company’s website hammers home the point that the ice destined to chill drinks in glitzy watering holes halfway around the world is taken from icebergs already naturally detached from the glacier and floating in Greenland’s Nuuk fjord.

“We do not take any ice from the glacier. Millions or billions of tons of ice breaks off the glaciers every year,” the site stresses. “Our very limited production thereby has a very insignificant impact.”

More so, Arctic Ice argues that by using icebergs that would otherwise melt into the ocean, it is preventing the ice from contributing to rising sea levels.

A selected chunk of iceberg is carefully inspected before being hoisted with a crane onto the company’s ship, where it is splintered into smaller pieces with sanitized chainsaws and hammers, and packed into insulted food-grade crates for transport.

The company says that it only uses icebergs that already naturally detached from the glacier and would have melted into the ocean. Jam Press/Arctic Ice

Samples are then taken from each iceberg and sent to a third-party lab to be tested for the presence of any potentially harmful ancient microorganisms or bacteria.

The ice is then packed into refrigerated shipping containers for international transport and is conveyed to Dubai, where it is distributed to local bars and restaurants.

Arctic Ice claims that its operations are designed to minimize the impact on the environment by using exiting cargo shipping routes and reducing carbon dioxide emissions per container shipped to and from Greenland — all the while raising awareness about the arctic.

The company promises that its ancient ice is the purest in the world, having been untouched by human pollution. Instagram/arctic_ice_officiel/
Icebergs are hauled from the Nuuk fjord onto a ship and hacked into pieces with chainsaws and hammers. Jam Press/Arctic Ice

But not everyone is convinced that hacking icebergs into bits and shipping them to a desert city aboard vessels powered by fossil fuels is a net positive for the planet. 

“Global warming and a business like this are killing the planet… why exploit Mother Earth even more ?!” one critic posted on Arctic Ice’s social media page.

“As if you were doing a good deed for the planet… While you are helping to destroy it!” another seethed.

Arctic Ice co-founder Malik Rasmussen told CNN he has been surprised by the backlash.

Arctic Ice argues that harvesting the icebergs prevents them from further raising the sea levels. Jam Press/Arctic Ice

“We knew there was going to be criticism but did not anticipate it to amount to death threats and constant harassment,” he said.

The company promises its costumers that its ice “has never been polluted in any way by modern industry,” and unlike ice made from tap or mineral water, it has little to no taste, ensuring that it does not change the flavor of drinks as it melts.

But Jennifer Francis, a senior scientist at Woodwell Climate Research Center, told CNN she is not impressed by Arctic Ice’s sales pitch.

Samples from the harvested ice are tested by labs for microorganisms or bacteria that could be harmful. Jam Press/Arctic Ice

“I would file this under the category of highly energy-wasteful gimmicks that appeal to ultra-wealthy individuals,” she said. “I would wager that no one could tell the difference in taste between glacier ice and non-glacier ice.”

Rasmussen disagrees, contending that beyond the pure taste, the higher density of the ice means that it melts slower than its garden-variety counterparts, amounting to a unique experience.

The fledgling business has big plans for the future, including using more efficient hybrid or battery-power ships and reusing all transport crates. The ultimate goal is it offset double the amount of CO2 than it produces — but the company admits it has “a lot of work to do” in that direction.


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