Finally, a case where environmentalists and climate change skeptics can agree that human activity is to blame for retreating glaciers. Chilean authorities have charged a man with transporting 11,453 pounds of ice stolen from a glacier in the country's Bernardo O'Higgins National Park. The chunks of ancient ice were allegedly bound for sale in the capital city, Santiago. Here, a brief guide to this chilling caper:
Why would people want ice from a glacier?
The man was allegedly part of a group planning to sell the ice to trendy bars and restaurants hoping to offer their customers cocktails chilled with designer ice cubes straight from the Chilean Patagonia region's Jorge Montt glacier. Apparently, glacier ice in drinks is considered a luxury, says Sara Miller Llana in The Christian Science Monitor, although our Santiago correspondent has never seen it marketed in bars. "Apart from being illegal, it would likely be as shunned, at least among the environmental set, as fur coats."
Is it really that taboo?
Yes. The Jorge Montt is among the world's fastest shrinking glaciers, receding half a mile every year, and some of its ice is thousands of years old.
How did the glacier thief get caught?
The glacier is in such rugged, remote terrain that it doesn't get many tourists. It's only easily accessible by boat or helicopter. So, in the small, nearby Patagonian town of Cochrane, the suspect apparently was easy to spot behind the wheel of a big refrigerated truck. Investigators say he was just one of several people involved in collecting the ice and sending it to the capital.
What happens now?
The ice's estimated value is only $6,000, but the driver might face charges more serious than ordinary theft, such as robbing part of Chile's cultural heritage, according to a local prosecutor.