This fun fact was one from our Secrets of Bloomingdale’s Department Store piece, but it’s so outrageous we wanted to give it it’s own spotlight. In 1984, Bloomingdale’s sold 35 ounce bags of ice chips from a 100,000 year old glacier in Greenland for $7 a bag, branded as “Glazonice.” At the time, the store marketed the ice as the oldest and purest you can find on the planet. It was also said that because of the denseness, it would not dilute your cocktail.
The ice, all 4000 pounds of it, was purchased through the company of a polar explorer, William Baker, who was also head of W Communications television group. As Baker told The New York Times, ”What’s more perfect for celebrating the birth of a child or a wedding than 12-year-old Scotch with 100,000-year-old ice?”
The Sun Journal reported in 1984 that more than 60 bags were sold in the first two weeks and that people were driving into the city from places like New Haven to pick it up. On the silver mylar bags was also the claim: ”Put your ear close to the glass and listen to the whispering of the past.”
William F. Baker currently heads the Bernard L. Schwartz Center for Media, Education, and Public Policy at Fordham University and President Emeritus of WNET, where he debuted the Charlie Rose show, Channel 13 and more. He has since stood on both the North and South Pole (believed to be the 8th person to have done so).
In an interview with Thirteen, he recalls the time he fell down a 2000 foot crevasse at the North Pole, only to be saved by his camera strap “which snagged on an outcropping.” His interest in ice began on his 1983 trip there, as recounted in Thirteen:
The real drama for Baker began when he returned from the 1983 expedition. “I had this idea to bring back two tons of arctic ice, and sell it at Bloomingdales,” he says.
Polar explorers have a tradition of toasting a successful expedition by pouring whiskey over bits of ice chiseled from icebergs of the deepest and purest blue. The color denotes age, explains Baker. Deep blue icebergs are made of water and air at least 100,000 years old. “I thought people would get a kick out of using ice that was twenty times older than all of human history,” says Baker, “and I usually end this story by telling people that I made millions. In truth, I nearly lost my shirt. Somebody tries it once a decade or so, and it always flops. Nobody ever thinks to check whether it’s been done before!”
So there we go. Glazonice likely also marked the end of an era – when moving thousands of pounds of glacial ice for profit didn’t warrant a single environmental mention in the major press.
Read more about the Secrets of Bloomingdale’s.