Can You Drink Melted Sea Ice?

By Antonia Čirjak on April 11 2020 in Did You Know

Even though we wonder why you would need to drink melted sea ice in the first place, we are here to provide you with an answer.
Even though we wonder why you would need to drink melted sea ice in the first place, we are here to provide you with an answer.
  • In order to dring melted sea ice, you would need to wait for it to appropriately age.
  • 7% of our planet's surface is covered in sea ice.
  • Multiyear ice is completely safe to drink when it melts as salt droplets have already drained.

Maybe you’ve gone swimming and accidentally drank some seawater, forcefully realizing that you should not drink it, or you just know that by freezing seawater, salt should disappear. Still, you have undoubtedly asked yourself the question, is it safe to drink melted sea ice? Like many other questions we often ask ourselves, we can’t answer this question with a simple yes or no.

The correct answer is most definitely yes, but it comes with a few caveats that you should be aware of. Even though we wonder why you would need to drink melted sea ice in the first place, we are here to provide you with an answer. Maybe, you are planning to go on a polar expedition, or are just thinking in advance in case a post-apocalyptic scenario happens that drains all of our sweetwater sources. In any case, read on to find out.

Is It Safe To Drink?

You can drink melted sea ice, but it is recommended to wait for it to age. Once the sea ice is formed, it is incredibly salty because there are concentrated droplets of salt in it. These droplets are called brine, and they are placed in pockets between the ice crystals. This means that melted sea ace would not make good drinking water if the ice is relatively fresh. 

However, as the ice begins to age, the salty droplets drain through the ice, and through time all of the brine disappears. This is called multiyear ice. The majority of multiyear ice is fresh enough that people can drink its melted water freely. It comes as no surprise that multiyear ice supplies polar expeditions with water. Without being able to drink melted sea ice, those expeditions would have a much tougher time succeeding.

As the ice begins to age, the salty droplets drain through the ice, and through time all of the brine disappears.
As the ice begins to age, the salty droplets drain through the ice, and through time all of the brine disappears.

There is a way to speed up the process a bit if you are in a rush, although we can’t imagine a scenario where you would be so desperate that you need to drink melted sea ice quickly. Since the salt solution inside the frozen seawater becomes more concentrated and forms small pockets of bubbles that are trapped in the ice, you can crush the ice, which will make the brine go away. However, you need some freshwater to rinse this crushed ice, which will then be safe to melt and drink.

What Is Sea Ice Exactly?

Sea ice is what arises from the sea when seawater freezes. Since ice has less density than water, seawater ice floats on the surface of the sea. It covers around 7% of the surface of our planet, and the majority of it is enclosed inside polar ice packs. Ice packs are most easily described as the ice that covers the oceans. Those ice packs can be found in the polar regions of our planet. This means that we have the Arctic ice pack found in the Arctic Ocean and the Antarctic ice pack in the Southern Ocean. 

These polar ice packs go through yearly changes in their surface. This is a natural process that influences the ecology and the ecosystems of the oceans greatly. Through the actions of winds, temperature changes, and currents, sea ice can be extremely dynamic. This is the reason that there are multiple types of sea ice. Sea ice should not be confused with icebergs. Icebergs are large pieces of ice shelves or glaciers that break off into the ocean. However, some locations of sea ice may have icebergs in them.

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