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Alex Bellini contemplates the ice Alex Bellini contemplates the ice Alex Bellini
17 Mar
2015
What would it be like to live on an iceberg for a year? Alex Bellini intends to find out

Alex Bellini will spend a year living on an iceberg, cocooned in a small metal capsule. The Italian adventurer has previously rowed the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and run across the United States. For his latest challenge, psychology rather than physical effort will be the decisive factor.

‘The project has a number of purposes,’ says Bellini. ‘We want to witness and testify how an iceberg lives. We want to investigate the psychological impact from fear, pain and lack of sleep when a person is alone. Plus we want to see how a person deals with a situation where there is a lack of control, where I don’t have control of perception and myself.’

The iceberg in question has yet to be decided upon but will be selected for its shape and dimension. Ideally it will be a ‘tabular’ iceberg with a flat surface and dimensions to match two football pitches.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 10.29.18Iceberg types (Source: US Coastguard)

‘We are looking for a southbound iceberg off Greenland,’ says Bellini. Not all icebergs go southwards due to the current, so Bellini’s sojourn may end up being static if the berg catches on the Greenland coast.

Bellini will land with his temporary home by helicopter and once in place will only have to leave the capsule to collect snow for water, and to carry out minor repairs. ‘I believe 90 per cent of my stay will be in the capsule as any step away from it will be a step into unknown territory,’ he says.

Survival Capsule will provide Bellini’s pod. The company manufactures diving bell-like capsules that feature GPS tracking and personal air supplies and are designed to provide a safe shelter during a tsunami. A surround-sound audio system comes as an optional extra.

capsule-doorOpenSurvival Capsule’s smaller model (Image: Survival Capsule)

The capsule’s designers decided to build the device following the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. Bellini’s capsule will be a specially constructed ten-man version with spider-like legs that attach the capsule to the ice. Each leg tip will contain a heated element that melts the ice to grip the berg. When turned off the ice will refreeze, holding the capsule fast.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 10.28.47Tallest sighted iceberg by International Ice Patrol, March 1957 (Image: US Coastguard)

Bellini will be most at risk when the iceberg flips over, something most icebergs do as melt rates increase on a southward journey. ‘We can’t predict when it will happen,’ says Bellini. At that point the capsule will detach from the berg and float free.

Icebergs can have a long life (‘A Greenland iceberg caught offshore has been there since 2012,’ says Bellini), but the Italian is set for a year-long stay. However, he hast a gut feeling that the adventure will likey last four to five months. ‘The longer I stay the happier I am,’ he says.

All being well, Bellini’s adventure starts later this year. You can follow (and contribute to) his endurance task here.

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