This week, a scientist at Sheffield University- announced that the iceberg that sank the Titanic was larger than a lot of people might have thought. He has calculated that it originally weighed 75 million tonnes and was more than 100,000 years old. By the time it bumped into the Titanic in 1912, it had melted a little bit and weighed only 1.4 million tonnes, was 400 feet long and towered 100 feet high above the surface.
You’d think they might have seen it coming wouldn’t you ?
That iceberg was just slightly larger than the ice cube in my glass of whisky in a bar in the West End of London last Tuesday night. A rock of ice so big I could have climbed it if I didn’t suffer from vertigo. The only climbing I’ve ever done is social.
“Excuse me, what is this?” I asked the barman.
“It’s the new craze – it’s a New York thing,” Chris the barman said. He told me he’d got a degree in mixology from the University of Southern California.
“It’s all a matter of geometry. A two-inch cube has more surface area than a sphere with a two-inch diameter. A two-inch cube will chill a little faster than a two-inch sphere because it has more volume, but it will melt a little faster because it has more surface area.
“Because a sphere has a homogeneous surface, it distributes its endothermic reaction equally in all directions.”
“I need another drink,” I said. ”No ice.”
I think this means that the iceberg that sank the Titanic was just a very large ice cube.
The next night at dinner in my local pizza joint in Maida Vale, I asked Angelica the young Italian waitress – who, after six months, still doesn’t speak more than a very few words of English – for a glass of iced tap water. She brought me a glass of water with no ice.
“With ice, please,” I said. She came back with another glassful of ice cubes and a teaspoon. “What happened to the glass of iced water?” I asked my friend Paul.
“It’s the new thing from New York,” he said. ”One glass for water and another glass for ice.”
“But that makes no sense! They’ve now got two glasses to wash instead of one and I’ve got to try and scoop up the ice cubes with a tea-spoon and transfer them to the other glass with the water in it. Why should I have to do that? I’m not an ice-cube scooper! I’m not a scooping kind of guy. I’m hopeless with a spoon!”
I tried, but the cubes kept slipping off the spoon.
I finally caught one and very carefully fished it out. I felt like a dad in the school egg- and-spoon race – I’d almost made it to the finishing line at the glass of water when I dropped the cube. It shot at speed across the table towards Paul who, like an ice hockey goalie, blocked it, picked it up with his fingers and dropped it into my glass of water.
“Why did you do that?” I said. “That’s disgusting! I can’t drink that now you’ve put your fingers in it. How do I know where they’ve been?”
He was drinking mineral water and reached in to put some of my cubes into his glass.
“Do you have any idea where those ice cubes comes from?” I asked him. “If they’re made from tap water, your mineral water will be mixed up with tap water so you’re just going to end up drinking tap water instead of the Badoit mineral water you’ve paid for. How do you feel about that?”
“It really doesn’t bother me,” said Paul.
“So if it doesn’t bother you, why didn’t you order tap water in the first place? Because that’s what you’re going to be drinking. You’re just throwing your money away.”
(Talking about water, my mother told me the other day she doesn’t like water. I’ve known the woman my entire life and had no idea. “What’s not to like, Mum? It’s water. It doesn’t taste of anything. Everybody likes water, everybody drinks water!”
“I’ve never liked it – leave me alone, it’s a free country. I don’t have to drink water.”)
I called the waitress over again “Can I please have a glass of water with ice in it”.
She looked blankly at me. Five minutes later, she came back and put a glass of water with ice cubes in it on the table. There was a big slice of lemon in it. I reached in and picked it out and handed it to her.
“Save the Lemon! They’re an endangered species.”
I think she might have rolled her eyes in Italian.
So, the next time you’re out for dinner and you see a huge ice cube heading in your direction, evacuate the restaurant immediately, women and children first, waiters last.
Don’t forget what happened to the Titanic. This column could save your life.