Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Forgotten History

Sometimes I read a bit of history that doesn't seem real because our entire view of the world has shifted so much it doesn't seem possible. 

This was the case with the Ice Block Expedition of 1959.

From Wikipedia, a summary:
The ice block expedition of 1959 was a publicity stunt carried out by the Norwegian insulation material producer Glassvatt. Responding to a challenge from the radio station Radio Luxembourg, Glassvatt decided to equip a truck to bring a three-ton block of ice from Mo i Rana by the Arctic Circle, to Libreville by the Equator. There was no form of refrigeration applied, and the expedition was intended to display the efficiency of the insulating glass wool used. The truck also brought 300 kg of medicines to the hospital of Albert Schweitzer in Lambaréné.

The expedition then was followed by a worldwide press corps, and crowds of spectators gathered in various European cities along the route. Crossing the Sahara, where the truck repeatedly got stuck in the sand, proved both a dangerous and laborious task. Once the truck had made it through the desert, however, and reached its final destination, it was revealed that the ice block had lost only about 11% of its original weight. When the expedition reached its goal it generated much media attention for the company. It was called "the world's greatest publicity stunt".

In my mind, everyone had refrigerators by 1959. This is absolutely not true, of course (and many people don't have refrigerators today, either). I remember we had one, though, and my small person experience was translated into a universal expectation. 

Nothing about this expedition seems possible. It's a long, long way to take a giant block of ice with only 11% of it melting. I never even thought about how many strategies existed back in the day to make ice melt more slowly. 

There's something about having a modern convenience that makes you forgot how ingenious people were before the convenience existed.

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