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When the 'Water Prince' Brought an Iceberg to Iowa

November 15, 2017, 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM (US Central)

2019 Morrill Hall

When the 'Water Prince' Brought an Iceberg to Iowa: Muhammad bin Faisal's Frozen Fantasies of Antarctic Arabia

Earlier this year, an Abu Dhabi-based green technology firm announced plans to harvest water from Antarctic icebergs for the United Arab Emirates. Strangely enough, this was not the first time that such a proposal had made international headlines. Forty years ago, in October 1977, Iowa State University hosted an international conference on iceberg utilization. The conference was the brainchild of Muhammad bin Faisal, a Saudi prince, who dreamed of towing Antarctic icebergs to provide freshwater for his parched kingdom. In addition to bringing together nearly 200 researchers from around the world, a giant chunk of Alaskan glacier was flown into Ames for the event. The spectacle of a Saudi prince and an iceberg visiting Ames, Iowa played out before bemused locals and a flurry of national and international media attention. Though the prince is often remembered for this zany scheme, his most important legacy was his visionary founding of Saudi Arabia’s desalination sector. Fueled and financed by its massive oil reserves, Saudi Arabia is now the world’s largest producer of potable water converted from seawater. By retelling the story of the “water prince,” this lecture will remember one of the more colorful episodes in Iowa State’s history and explore the tangled histories of oil, desalination, and climate change and adaptation in the Arabian Peninsula. This lecture is held in conjunction with the ReACT Gallery exhibition exploring water.

This lecture is presented by Dr. Michael Christopher Low, Assistant Professor, Department of History. 

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