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What’s It Like To Drink Water That’s Thousands of Years Old?

Scientists working at the coldest places in the world are often drilling for ice core samples, which can be tens of thousands of feet below the frozen tundra. In an interview, one researcher from the University of Maine revealed that he and his team will sip a melted sample. Is that even safe?

 Paul Mayewski says yes, because the areas where the samples are found are so remote, they often don’t contain as much pollution as you would imagine. It’s safe to drink. As for taste, Mayewski describes it simply as “clean.” The older the ice, the more air bubbles are trapped. These bubbles are actually carbon dioxide that could be tens or hundreds of years old. When they come into contact with water, they pop, and scientists experience a puff of ancient air. It must feel surreal.

Most of us aren’t Arctic scientists, so we can’t taste this unique water, but several companies are making liquor like vodka from glacier water. With liquor, the purer the water, the better the final product, and water from glaciers is about as pure as it gets. In Alaska, permits are required to use water from glacier. Only one man, the head of Alaska Distillery, has one. He uses water from icebergs broken from Prince William Sound. In Europe, a sea captain travels to Canada for icebergs, which he hunts out the best for a vodka maker, a brewer, winery, and Newfoundland-based water company. “Iceberg harvester” has to be one of the most unique jobs out there. It can be done beginning in the spring and ending in late September.

These companies join a centuries-long tradition of trying to get fresh water from icebergs. It’s a hard job and involves large boats, nets, cranes, ice picks, and other equipment. It’s an industry rife with scams, as well, and just good old-fashioned price gouging. In 2017, a high-end grocery store pulled bottles of Svalbardi, a 750ml bottle of ‘iceberg water,” from its shelves after negative reviews. The price? Over $900 each. At a certain point, water is water, even if that water is hundreds or thousands of years old.