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Glaciers are extremely cold biomes, usually found in the northern or southern extremes on larger world maps. The first few layers of any glacier are solid ice.
There are few resources on an ice tile; no trees, plants, water, animals, stone, or ores are typically included. In addition, the ice can be several z-layers thick, which can make getting to any stone underneath even more challenging.
Due to being freezing and lacking of soil layers, above ground seeds cannot be used, meaning that all farming must be done underground.
These factors make a glacier a very difficult biome to build a successful fortress in, although many players try it as a challenge.
Also, because of a glacier's isolation (generally), it is entirely possible that you won't see a caravan from the Mountainhomes for anywhere up to 3 years. Migrants may be even more rare. On the plus side, though, no hostile nations should bother you for a while.
Starting on a Glacier
Take a lot of wood, food and drink. Consider bringing extra domestic animals (dogs are recommended) as an emergency food source, and/or to jump-start a long-term breeding program.
Dump your wood cutter and axe in favour of another miner and pick. Alternatively, find a glacier near a forested taiga and enjoy the best of both worlds.
Trading is essential. An easy source of income is rock crafts. All that rock you cut out making wells and farms you can sell to merchants who visit. Begin as soon as you can because you need to import a lot of wood if you plan on having beds or fuel for making metal objects.
Ice is everywhere, so read up on it before you make any major plans. One difference between regular ice and glacier ice that you may want to know before you head out is that, unlike ice from other biomes, glacier ice constructions and workshops do not melt when above ground in the "summer". The disadvantage, however, is that it is more difficult to use the ice as a potential water source. Note that mined out chunks of ice, when melted by being brought underground, will not produce usable water. Bug:360
Digging down to the rock layers
Due to a bug, down-stairs and up-down-stairs can't be carved out of ice if the layer immediately below the ice is stone. Bug:358 This makes it impossible to get from the surface down to the stone layers using only stairs. Instead, use ramps.
Farming and getting water
Since glaciers contain no soil layers you have to use irrigation in order to farm, and that requires water, which isn't to be found on the surface of a glacier. Also, water is needed at hospitals for cleaning and to give the wounded something to drink. There are two ways to get water on a glacier.
All regions of the world have vast underground caverns (unless the world was generated without them), and caverns almost always have large pools of water. Further, if the pool abuts the edge of your embark area, new water will fill in from the edge, giving you an infinite source of water. On the down side, it can take a while to find the caverns, since digging straight down isn't guaranteed to breach them, and there's a small chance of aquatic monster escaping from the cavern.
To safely (without having to wander around inside the cavern) tap into an underground pool, consider the following diagram:
- W = water
- ▓ = stone wall
- X = last wall to dig out
- B = floor with floodgate or drawbridge
- F = wall or optional floor with floodgate (for irrigation)
- . = floor with optional paved road
- S = up stairs or ramp
Then do the following steps:
- Dig down to the same level as the pool (not to the surface of the pool) and dig out the reservoir (rectangular region) with stairs (or ramp) leading out.
- If you're going to use the reservoir for irrigation then dig an outlet from the reservoir at the F, install a floodgate at its mouth, and hook it up to a lever.
- Dig a tunnel to the pool, leaving one tiles worth of stone between the tunnel and the water (the X in the diagram).
- Install a floodgate or a south-raising drawbridge at the end of the tunnel and hook it up to a lever.
- Have a dwarf dig out the X.
The dwarf who dug the X should be able to get back to the stairs/ramp in time to not drown. To make extra sure of not drowning, ensure at least one dwarf is idling and have him/her pull the lever to the floodgate/drawbridge as soon as the wall is breached, then lower it again to let the reservoir fill. To make extra, extra sure, embark with a dwarf with a single point in the swimming skill, and have him/her carve the fortification.
Use a drawbridge instead of a floodgate at the end of the tunnel to prevent building destroyer aquatic/amphibious monsters from swimming into the reservoir and enter the rest of your fortress. A floodgate wouldn't stop a building destroyer, and monsters can swim through fully submerged fortifications. Bug:3327 If you're going to use this reservoir for a well then closing off it off with a drawbridge is very important, since some building destroyers can swim and fly. If you're only going to use it for irrigation then you can use a floodgate and then simply wall off the reservoir once you're done with it, since building destroyers can't affect walls.
If you're going to use the reservoir for a well you should cover its floor with a paved road to prevent trees from growing, because in some circumstances trees can grow underwater. Bug:1139
Cave-in some ice
One quirk of dwarven physics is that a cave-in will transform an ice wall into liquid water. This can be used to generate water in the following fashion:
To begin, it is best to clear out a large section of the rock underneath all the ice. Then cut out a 6x6 section of ice (it is easiest to cut out two squares around the part you want to drop so that you won't have any fatalities while channeling out the section of ice). Channel out the entire piece of ice and it will fall into that cleared out section, immediately defrosting and flooding the area. Now you can farm!
Before you run out of starting booze, do the same again, but this time do it further away and open 3-4 levels of rock (channel everything away) so that you create a well. Make sure you make it deep enough or you will create an ice zone that will kill any dwarf that tries to dig it out.
Continue to cut out chunks of ice, dropping them a few stories, and reaping the benefits as you continue in the fortress. Be careful channeling as the dwarves are all idiots and like to strand themselves while channeling, and they like to drop their buddies down the hole (which pollutes the future water and creates a huge mess).
Diagram of Ice cutting:
O = Open area, no channeling, just an area for dwarves to walk
C = Channel area, first dig it out, then channel once every layer is ready.
I = Future water source, now ice.
Once you have dug deep enough to see rock, channel out the entire level (make sure you have an escape route for the miner). Also, when channeling a large room, do it layer by layer. Start at the one end and do the entire left side, then the next. If you just select the entire thing dwarves will die.
Don't drop water anywhere near other tunnels; the ice will break through, and it will be messy. You can cut off entire sections of fortress to flooding or caved-in sections by doing this, and it wastes a lot of work and ice.
On neutral glaciers appear:
On evil glaciers appear:
Some Hints and Ideas
Flowing sources of water, such as rivers or brooks, don't ever seem to be present in glacier biomes. So getting water for wounded dwarves early on may prove a challenge. Usable water may be present in the underground caverns.
Ice that is underground melts, but creates only useless puddles of water (marked as a cyan double tilde) identical to water dumped from a bucket. These puddles can only be cleaned. They cannot form usable water (blue tilde with depth attribute). Dumping block after block of mined ice blocks indoors will simply result in a huge stack of useless "water".
Aquifers are sometimes present, and magma can be used to melt ice - if that's present. Seaside glaciers can allow you to bring some water in underground, but desalinating the water will be necessary before it is drinkable by dwarves (or even before it can be designated as a water zone for filling ponds).
Some glacier biomes have such low temperatures that your dwarves may die during winter when above ground.
Ice in buckets does not freeze above ground so you can designate an area as a pool, tell dwarves to fill it, then smooth and engrave your new ice fort.
Biome · Climate · Surroundings · Map legend · Calendar