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Dwarf-Lord_Pangolin t1_ism5ek7 wrote

Uhhh ... wouldn't it have been faster to get it from Antarctica? I'm assuming there's something that prevented them from doing that, but darned if I can figure out what it is. Unless it's the strong currents that circle Antarctica?


stumcm OP t1_ism69gm wrote

Well, for a start, humans had only made fleeting visits to Antarctic waters by 1851. The Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration was 1897–1922.

There were no structures, buildings, or any sort of a human settlement in Antarctica that they could use as the basis of an ice trade industry. And by the time of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, people were able to make their own ice in Australia (and elsewhere) using mechanical refrigeration.


lsanborn t1_isme579 wrote

Also the Antarctic is considered a desert. You have to have fresh water for most uses of ice.


thehazzanator t1_isojo8a wrote

It's only considered a desert as it gets so little rainfall per year. It's a permanent (not for long) ice sheet containing 90% of the earth's fresh water


KypDurron t1_ispv9gl wrote

Are you under the impression that the literal mile of solid ice sitting on top of the Antarctic landmass is not freshwater?


lsanborn t1_isqkk8y wrote

Guess I blew that one. The penguins are always shown on dry rocky land. So I guess that mile of ice doesn’t cover the whole continent. And salt water ice is a thing.


KypDurron t1_isqu5v4 wrote

It covers 98% of the continent.

And ice formed from sea water has such a low salt content that it's potable - you can drink it (and not die of thirst).


CruisinJo214 t1_ism6hdk wrote

Setting up infrastructure in Antarctica is pretty next to impossible. Boston had industry, ships and ports ready to go.


bostwickenator t1_ism9fyf wrote

But the distance to Boston is unimaginably big as well, there was no Panama canal either. Both this and sailing for Antarctica seem like terrible ideas. What's really odd is they didn't use domestic sources of ice/snow or sail to New Zealand and source it from there. There are or were many glaciers less than a mile from the west coast of NZ.


southernwx t1_ismjwd0 wrote

It’s much much much easier to harvest seasonal ice from a lake with dedicated infrastructure for that than it is to do so from a Glacier in most cases.


bostwickenator t1_ismtdj6 wrote

Absolutely just thought it might have been worth the labor to avoid a 100 trip.


southernwx t1_ismw0n1 wrote

Well, snow for one can be a poor choice as it takes a very long time for it to laminate and will never reach the density of “plain” frozen water in a season. Which while that may save you in transit time results in water that is still melted by mid “summer”.

I suppose it’s a similar argument to 100+ years from now, incredulous posters to whatever exists at that time can’t understand why McDonald’s bought billions of tiny plastic toys from China.


TocTheEternal t1_ismhwgn wrote

I'd have thought that sending some ships with machinery and just living out of them for the duration it took to fill up the transports would have been more efficient than literally sailing to the other side of the world.

I.e. send a bunch of ships with basic "infrastructure" (machinery, tools, quarters) when spring started, then send a lot of large transports which could carry fuel and supplies down, and ice back up, until the season was over. No permanent bases required.


Pain_Monster t1_ismnnei wrote

A lot of people died during 1800s Antarctic exploration. We didn’t have it down to a science yet. It was a perilous journey and many ships got stuck in the ice. Many diseases also flourished during these expeditions so it’s not like they had modern day conveniences or equipment. It was dangerous and arduous.


SenorTron t1_isn7cl7 wrote

Sounds like a whole lot of costs, when the alternative is to buy it from a company in Boston already producing ice and just pay for a few extra weeks of shipping time.


TocTheEternal t1_isn9z5h wrote

Months. Of fuel and losses. And the production/gathering itself, which had to happen on some scale in one place or another.


PublicSeverance t1_isnlhg7 wrote

The cost of ice was roughly equivalent to the cost of cotton, even at the furthest destination (east USA -> Australia).

The journey was 110-120 days, the boats carried 400 tons and the goods sold for not really all that much profit.

The chilled apples on the boats sold for more than the ice.

The ice was a convenient partner because it was also used as ballast.


SenorTron t1_isnb317 wrote

Yeah but the people and equipment to gather it were already there in Boston. Are you factoring in the time and cost to transport people down to and back from Antarctica, house them, and the higher wages they'd need?

Someone elsewhere in the comments used the analogy of modern supply chains and it's entirely accurate. It's the same reason it's usually cheaper to buy a household item produced on the other side of the planet than one produced locally.


kokopilau t1_ism90ti wrote

There are also glaciers 2000 km away in New Zealand.


lsanborn t1_ismgmm0 wrote

I’m thinking some enterprising Yankee had some room in the hold, or maybe something else he wanted to keep cold, in a ship already headed for Australia. We already had the infrastructure for domestic ice production and transport. He took a risk, the Aussies said okay we’ll take that and he made a pile of money until they figured out something better. It happened they figured out how to make their own quicker than someone else figured out how to get it from NZ at a profit.


cptkl1 t1_ism5pxh wrote

What I was thinking as well.


TheStoryGoesOn t1_ism6edo wrote

Labor? You’d have to build a port and be able to staff it year round.


microgiant t1_ismvso4 wrote

I guess OP stumcm already gave you an answer to this, but I just wanted to say this seems like an eminently reasonable question. Antarctica is really close by.