Could You Live on an Iceberg for a Year?

Alex Bellini plans to live on an iceberg despite a cold, cramped and lonely environment.
An iceberg melts
Iceberg melting © Michael Leggero/ Getty Images
By Josh Sampiero

Let’s get this straight: Alex Bellini is absolutely crazy. Oh, he’s smart, capable and accomplished — but sane? We’re not so sure. The 36-year-old has crossed two oceans on a row boat and run across the United States of America — all of it alone. His next stunt? Living on an iceberg until it melts. (Wanna know how long? Keep reading.) We caught up with him to learn more about his past — and find out just why he’s going to call a piece of frozen water home.

This is Alex Bellini, the man who wants to live on an iceberg:


Meet Alex Bellini, who has ice in his eyes © Courtesy Alex Bellini OK, how long till the iceberg melts?

Alex Bellini: Hopefully, about a year. In December or January, I’ll head up the Ilulissat Glacier in Greenland, where most Atlantic icebergs start their journey. Hopefully, I’ll be able to find one going south, where it will slowly melt, diminishing in area and volume. That’s a big part of the "why" — the purpose of the project is to document the end of an iceberg’s life.

Any particular kind of iceberg you’re looking for?

Yes. There are many shapes of icebergs, and I’m looking for a "tabular" iceberg about 200 to 300 meters long to begin with. It’s the least likely to flip at an unexpected point. Once I’m on, I’m there until that iceberg flips — or melts. There’s thousands of icebergs to choose from. Picking the right one will be important.

Watch the trailer of the project below:

© Courtesy Alex Bellini

Sounds lonely. But you’re used to that.

In 2005, before my first trip across an ocean (Bellini rowed alone 11,000 kilometers across the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean in 227 days), I felt a need to create an isolation, a solitude, by which I could enjoy loneliness. I knew that only in solitude could I find myself and explore my inner parts. My trips are about surviving myself — how can I ope with the weakness of a human being. It wasn’t a goal to go to the other side of the ocean. It was a goal to find myself.

It took awhile.

Before reaching the other shore, I tried three times. I ended up in a shipwreck the second time — after 23 days and 1,000 kilometers and on the 23rd I got pushed against Formentera and almost lost my life. My third attempt lasted 227 days and I rowed until I found dry land in front of me: Genova, Italy, to Fortaleza, Brazil.

In 2005, Bellini rowed alone 11.000 kilometers across Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean in 227 days:


A formal escort out of Italy © Courtesy Alex Bellini

In 2011, he ran 5,300 kilometers across United States in 70 days:

That’s a lot of work. How will the "Adrift" project be different?

The toughest part of Adrift will be that I’ll have to stay really still. I’ll be living in a small survival capsule. Ninety percent of my time is in that capsule, basically motionless. That’s a bigger challenge than many realize. Lack of movement negatively affects the process of thinking. The fewer movements you do, the quicker is the collapse of your decision making. In order to prevent me from dying, I need to be quickly able to make decisions. Sometimes a matter of seconds makes the difference between life and death.

Bellini will use a survival capsule to live on the iceberg:


Big question: What are you going to eat?

I will have food with me on my capsule, similar to what mountaineers eat on expedition. But fishing will be one of the few activities to do, so there’s also that.

And what happens when the iceberg melts — or flips?

I float. In the capsule. And wait for a passing ship to come my way.

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