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Monday, June 28, 2010

It is not "Bolts alone" which fall from the sky - what is Blue Ice ?

Strange things occur at sea and that makes marine all the more very interesting.

Recently, I had shared something on a flying cow sinking a boat – a Japanese trawler, a not so believable version of Russian airforce having stolen a cow, unable to manage, then pushing it out from a very high altitude as they hovered over Japan. Recently, there was some discussion in ‘India Insurance Forum of Linked in” on this.

It was reported that the dazed crew of a Japanese trawler were plucked of the Sea of Japan clinging to the wreckage of their sunken ship. Their rescue, however, was followed by the imprisonment of the boat's crew once authorities started to question the sailors on their ship's loss. They all maintained that a cow, falling out of a clear sky, had struck the trawler amidships, shattering its hull and sinking the vessel within minutes. No one believed them, suspecting them of drunkenness or worse and so they remained in prison for several weeks, until the Russian Air Force reluctantly informed Japanese authorities that the crew of one of its cargo planes had apparently stolen a cow wandering at the edge of a Siberian airfield, forced the cow into the plane's hold and rather rashly then taken off for home. Unprepared for live cargo, the Russian crew was ill-equipped to manage a now rampaging and fed-up cow within its hold. To save the aircraft and themselves, they pushed the animal out of the cargo hold as they crossed the Sea of Japan at an altitude of 30,000 feet.
The cow story is an urban legend that may have started as long ago as 1965.  (")

This one from SKY is more nauseating. Way back in 1985 on June 27, a large piece of ice (6 ft long and 8 inches thick) fell from the sky – reportedly ice that had gathered outsie a malfunctioning airline ice craft. A nasty feeling indeed !!

This phenomenon is known as “Blue Ice” – the frozen material formed by leaks in commercial aircraft lavatory waste tanks, a mixture of human waste and liquid disinfectant that freezes at high altitude. The name comes from the blue color of the disinfectant, and is a sardonic reference to the Blue Ice line of products used for cooling ice chests and similar applications.

Airlines are not allowed to dump their waste tanks in mid-flight, and pilots have no mechanism by which to do so; however, leaks reportedly do occur. There are some documented incidents of blue ice impacts in the United States and elsewhere, These were incidents which happened near airport landing path as the mass warms sufficiently to detach from the plane during its descent.

One report in – mentions of people living near wooded areas of Montreal having noticed strange purplish stains on their homes, cars and lawn furniture. They thought this to be stemming from airplanes dumping toilet waste as they approach the Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau airport. Transport Canada denied stating that airplanes are equipped with watertight reservoirs designed to be emptied using specialised equipment. One report had it that these were actually bird droppings of birds having ingested wild berries – blue fruit of Virginia creeper, chokecherries and pin cherries.

The blue ice phenomenon does occur, though the washrooms of airplanes not made to be emptied in flight, either voluntarily or accidentally. It is possible that a malfunctioning valve could cause the contents of the reservoir to leak. This generally happens when an airplane is flying at high altitudes. The liquid escaping from the faulty valve freezes and sticks to the airplane's outer surface. Upon preparing for landing, when the airplane approaches the ground and the temperature rises, the ice formed by the escaping liquid begins to melt and detaches.

In the last several years, however, aircraft have begun using a new toilet system that uses compressed air and hardly any water, making the phenomenon even less likely to occur.  Way back in 2004, there was a post in of air toilet ice crashing into a garden. That was in Austria, of a chunk of ice from a jet liner toilet breaking free.

There is another recorded event : of American Airliners Boeing 727-227 (File no. 5025 04/16/1985) which states that “ whilst cruising at flt level 350 in clear smooth air, a loud noice was heard. Subsequent investigation disclosed that the forward lavatory was leaking deodorant fluid and water. Deodorant stains existed along the right side of fuselage and this leakage was due to a damaged o ring in drain valve.

There was another reported news in Canada ( – Feb 2008 of chunks of ice coming from the lavatory of airplane smashing through a Calgary woman’s roof.  Firefighters found two to three 15-centimetre chunks of ice on a bed inside the home, along with pieces of shingles, plywood, drywall and insulation. The falling ice broke a hole about 30 centimetres wide in the roof.

The person reportedly said "That's life. This is a one-in-a-million chance of something like this happening," he said. "I've heard of it in other places, but this isn't something that's going to happen often."

BUT the very thought of such a thing falling from the sky will make ordinary mortals look to the sky in awe and disgust, perhaps every time we are near any airport

Regards – Sampathkumar S


  1. We Indians are used to this phenomenon. You would have noticed 2 wheelers stopping well before the under bridge of railway lines, when the train passes; the train has no system to store lavatory waste. In case you are (un)fortunate you are not covered in blue ice, but fresh......

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