Right out of the ice
Baffin icebergs will be used in beverage making

Maria Canton
Northern News Services

Qikiqtaaluq (Feb 14/00) - One of Nunavut's most plentiful resources is going to be a big part of a beverage venture.

Ice harvested from icebergs along the eastern coast of Baffin Island will be used in iceberg vodka, beer and water in the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation's latest project to create jobs and promote Nunavut.

After being approached by Newfoundland-based Iceberg Industries Corporation last fall, QC saw the value of supplying ice that will be harvested and then travel south in what would normally be an empty sealift ship.

"It's always in our interest to identify projects that involve resources from Nunavut and Iceberg has given us an opportunity to use a resource that is so common to us -- ice," said Michael Brown, director of environmental services for QC.

"What is particularly interesting is our other venture with Nunavut Eastern Arctic shipping and what will now amount to the equivalent of a shipload of ice (going south), rather than the sealift going back empty."

Icebergs in protected coves along Baffin Island are preferred for harvesting, says the vice-president of Iceberg Industries, because open waters can be too dangerous.

"Ideally and often times (the icebergs) are grounded and we harvest from them with our harvesting vessel. We try to (harvest) in protected coves and not open water because it's difficult and quite often dangerous," said Maurice Murphy.

Transported to Newfoundland by ship and kept frozen until it is needed to make the vodka, beer and bottled water which is consumed nationally, Murphy says this venture will guarantee a constant and reliable supply of ice.

"Last year availability (of ice) wasn't that reliable in our particular area and we'd like to have some reasonable assurance of a constant supply," he said.

"This will give us that assured supply and create additional employment opportunities as well as income to QC."

About a dozen jobs will be created in Nunavut to help with the harvesting and loading of ice that will likely begin this summer.

The advantage of drinking iceberg water over glacier water, says Murphy, is that iceberg water is from ice that has never had an opportunity to be polluted by humans.

"The analyses that we've done on the iceberg water has shown absolutely no contaminants, the only thing that we've ever found is volcanic dust, which is of little significance," said Murphy.

"Glacier water is taken from the surface and iceberg water is taken off the bottom of the glacier where it can be anywhere from 15,000 to 100,000-years-old."

To keep the ice pure and clean, the procedures are carefully watched and controlled and all of the tanks and equipment are sterilized.

The drinks are bottled at a plant in Trepassey, Nfld.