Michael Christopher Low, assistant professor of history, will present “When the ‘Water Prince’ Brought an Iceberg to Iowa: Muhammad bin Faisal’s Frozen Fantasies of Antarctic Arabia,” on Wednesday, Nov. 15 at 7:00 p.m. in 2019 Morrill Hall.
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.
Hosted by University Museums, this lecture is held in conjunction with the ReACT Gallery’s current initiative, the Water Exhibit.