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How to grow a glacier
February 7, 2008 10:55 PM   Subscribe

Villagers in the mountains of northern India and Pakistan have been growing their own glaciers for centuries. They're small domesticated glaciers, cultivated by hand, and they provide a reliable source of water for agriculture. Legend has it that they made glaciers to block mountain passes and keep the Mongol Hordes out! More detail in New Scientist - subscription required, but you can probably see this instruction sheet.
posted by moonmilk (28 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
Frost pets!

I achieved a similar effect when my fridge's defrost heater failed recently. <tap-tap-tap> Is this thing on?

As for substantial commentary, I find the bursting-water-gourds most intriguing. Somewhere there's a tangential solution to the global warming problem here. Or at least, that'd make a sweet movie...or book, or somethin' or other.
posted by lordaych at 11:18 PM on February 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the gourds are great -- I'd probably hide a few candies in some of them as a special treat for my pet glacier. I also like that you need a good balance of male and female ice to grow a glacier.
posted by moonmilk at 11:26 PM on February 7, 2008


Cool.

Never would have thought of such a thing. I wonder if there are any mountains elsewhere where you could do this.
posted by eye of newt at 11:31 PM on February 7, 2008


Sure, they say they're domesticated, but if you have one of these glaciers around your house, and you have a new child, the glacier can get jealous and attack or even kill the child. It's still a wild geological formation, people! Glaciers do not make good pets!
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:33 PM on February 7, 2008 [6 favorites]


eye of newt - the full article concludes "Researchers as far away as the Andes, where the terrain is similar, have already shown some interest."
posted by moonmilk at 11:51 PM on February 7, 2008


What an awesome and interesting post moonmilk.

Wish I'd seen this when I lived in Northern India for 6 years, must have been a bit West of where I was in Himachal Pradesh. More towards Pakistan. A Wikimapia of that area of these amazing home grown glaciers.

Some Flickr photographs of that beautiful part of the world.
posted by nickyskye at 11:55 PM on February 7, 2008


How many boards would the Mongols hoard if the Mongol hordes got bored?
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:55 PM on February 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Here's a paper on glacier grafting [microsoft word] from the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme.
posted by moonmilk at 11:57 PM on February 7, 2008


More images of glaciers and the extraordinarily spiky mountains in that part of the world.
posted by nickyskye at 12:01 AM on February 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


That's so incredibly cool! What a great post. Weird that up in the higher valleys lack of rainwater rather than lack of land is the problem.
posted by YouRebelScum at 2:40 AM on February 8, 2008


This is remarkably close to where my project is based. Also it may be one of the coolest things I've seen that I'll have to finish reading later due to being busy on said project.

That's so incredibly cool! What a great post. Weird that up in the higher valleys lack of rainwater rather than lack of land is the problem.

Well, if you have the people, regardless of relief and instability of the landscape, you'll make room for homes-- one reason the 2005 quake and ensuing landslides in this area killed so many people (over 82,000 is the accepted number now, I think). It blows my mind though to read about how the uplift of the Himalaya altered wind patterns. They've cut themselves off to any reliable monsoon influence from the southeast and have (according to extensive research from my adviser) re-routed the Westerlies, pushing them farther north.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 3:50 AM on February 8, 2008


Weird that up in the higher valleys lack of rainwater rather than lack of land is the problem

Ladakh & Zanskar, up on the Tibetan plateau in the north of India, are incredibly barren. I took a flight into the capital of Ladakh, and you could see from the plane these occasional fertile deltas where the locals would irrigate fields from the runoff of glaciers. The rest of the countryside - ahem, mountainside - was just dirt & rocks. Probably more than 99% of the area was a mountainous version of desert - no point living there, because you couldn't grow crops or graze animals.

It's an interesting shift, a delta at the beginning of a river.

These runoffs all fed into the Indus, which - way downstream - watered Harappa & Mohenjodaro, arguably the first urban civilisations in the world.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:59 AM on February 8, 2008


Weird that up in the higher valleys lack of rainwater rather than lack of land is the problem

Ladakh & Zanskar, up on the Tibetan plateau in the north of India, are incredibly barren. I took a flight into the capital of Ladakh, and you could see from the plane these occasional fertile deltas where the locals would irrigate fields from the runoff of glaciers. The rest of the countryside - ahem, mountainside - was just dirt & rocks. Probably more than 99% of the area was a mountainous version of desert - no point living there, because you couldn't grow crops or graze animals.

It's an interesting shift, a delta at the beginning of a river.

These runoffs all fed into the Indus, which - way downstream - watered Harappa & Mohenjodaro, arguably the first urban civilisations in the world.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:59 AM on February 8, 2008


*stupid fucking technical problems*
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:01 AM on February 8, 2008


*woah*!!!

fpp material here!

if anybody wants to pick up the baton, that's fine by me. i'll be locking myself in my room for a week.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:09 AM on February 8, 2008


That is really freakin' cool, thanks.
posted by Divine_Wino at 4:20 AM on February 8, 2008


if anybody wants to pick up the baton, that's fine by me

fpp'd

posted by UbuRoivas at 4:40 AM on February 8, 2008


"Ladakh & Zanskar, up on the Tibetan plateau in the north of India, are incredibly barren." Fair enough. I worked at altitudes between 800m-3000m in the Hindu Kush, where lower down there was not enough water. As you got higher lack of water became less of a problem because upstream villages have dibs on the meltwater. The restrictions on agriculture were more the technical difficulty in terracing, increase in labour costs in prepping the land etc. Never really thought water would be the issue higher up, but I suppose it depends how high you go.
posted by YouRebelScum at 5:13 AM on February 8, 2008


Well, it's not quite bonsai mountains, but it's a start.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:27 AM on February 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


What? No pet rock jokes?

(Good stuff!)
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:36 AM on February 8, 2008


This is the kind of post which makes Metafilter great.
posted by caddis at 7:04 AM on February 8, 2008


I want one. I don't think South Philly is the right climate for this activity though.
posted by Mister_A at 7:08 AM on February 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pshaw - you and your tasteless, mass-produced Made-in-China glaciers. When it comes to glaciers, I'm afraid I demand strict adherence to the old, traditional, organic means of production. I know all-natural glaciers are getting harder and harder to find these days, and that means I pay more for them, but at least it keeps the riff-raff away.

I am a card-carrying member of the Slow Ice movement.
posted by kcds at 8:20 AM on February 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is very DIY!
posted by easternblot at 8:30 AM on February 8, 2008


"While the Arabs in the desert are dying of thirst, even the dogs in Isfahan are drinking ice water!"

In ancient Isfahan engineers built a high wall that shades a sort of shallow moat from the sun during the wetter winter. Water is pumped into the moat and freezes in the shade. The ice was chipped out and stored in underground caverns. During the dry summer heat, Isfahanis enjoyed sipping cool drinks. The above Iranian saying demonstrates their disdain for the Arabs and their pride in their own achievments. Anyway, another example of ancient Asian methods of ice making and water storage. The more you know...

I should also point out that the Tibetans that I met in Yunnan China always pointed out the "male" and "female" glaciers and said that for every male there was a female counterpart. I don't know if they had any equivalent technology, but they always had a similar pairing.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:47 AM on February 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


I blame this post for the fact that all morning I've been singing to myself -

"how do you grow a glacier like marrrriiiiiaaa...."
posted by freebird at 10:41 AM on February 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


And I, in turn, blame freebird for the same thing.

Thanks to nickyskye and UbuRoivas for the amazing links. I could get lost in that wikimap all day - in fact, I did. I love seeing a vast rocky wasteland and zooming in to see a note that says "city surrounded by irrigated farmland" - and zooming in another 16 times to see little cement houses and terraced fields, and trying to imagine what it's like to live there.

Interesting Isfahan ice info, Pollomacho! I remember reading a story about a precolumbian south american prince having sorbet for breakfast in the morning - every dawn an army of slaves would collect the overnight frost from a garden of hundreds of clay frost collectors until they had enough for a small bowl. I have no idea if that was pure fiction or something based on an actual discovery of a frost garden.
posted by moonmilk at 1:36 PM on February 8, 2008


wow, that wikimap is great!

this link
might work, hopefully. it's the polo field you see in this picture. the photo was taken towards the north.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:27 PM on February 8, 2008


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