Wired, in a blessed union of science and pop culture, asked scientists for their expert opinions on the feasibility of Game of Thrones’ Wall, a 700-foot-tall icy fortification that defends the 300-mile-long northern border of Westeros against the Wildlings, White Walkers, giants, talking polar bears… wait, no. Sorry. Wrong franchise on that last one.
Anyway. What’s the verdict? Could such a thing really exist?
Even if it were built in the real-world equivalent to Game of Thrones‘ wintry North, where temperatures never get above freezing, an ice structure as large as the Wall would still “deform under [its] own weight,” explains engineer Mary Albert of Dartmouth College’s Ice Drilling Program Office. (She must have the best business card ever.) “And over long time scales, ice flows, so it would not hold its original shape for thousands of years” the way the Wall has, she adds.
Dartmouth glaciologist Bob Hawley adds that the deformation would take the form of the bottom of the Wall bulging out as the pressure bears the top of it down. “Try making a post out of Silly Putty and leaving it for an hour, and you will get the picture,” he adds.
Man, that mental image made the scene where [season three spoiler] the Wildlings scale the Wall a heck of a lot funnier.
If human engineers really, really, really wanted to build a Wall, they might be able to get around the deformation problem by making it a sloping ridge. But if the Wall were still to be 700 feet high, estimates University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Martin Truffer, it would have to be about 40 times that in width at the bottom.
So basically you’d be creating a super-intense hill for Wildling children to sled down. It’d still be dangerous, mind you. But these are Wildlings we’re talking about. You know they’d do it.