Several years ago I remember being intrigued by an article about a discovery made by an oceanographer called John H. Martin.

Martin sought originally to explain a long-standing mystery concerning barren waters in the Antarctic, subarctic, and equatorial Pacific Oceans.

With the abundant concentrations of nutritious nitrate and phosphorus in all three regions, phytoplankton should thrive. But it doesn't.

The areas of the ocean near land thrive with phytoplankton, so what was the missing ingredient? It was observed that these areas where sprayed with dust from the land blown out to sea by the wind. So this dust contained the missing ingredient! But what was it?

Martin became convinced in the late 1980s that a lack of iron keeps the phytoplankton from making use of the nutrients and that a little extra iron would trigger rapid growth of the plants. It was the dust that contained the iron!

He calculated that it would be feasible to fertilize the ocean on a massive scale, eventually drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and deep-sixing the greenhouse gas into the nether reaches of the ocean. Want to slow global warming? Just add iron!

Armed with this knowledge another oceanographer Kenneth Coale later set out to put this theory to test on a considerable scale.

By spreading just half a ton of iron across 100 square kilometres of the Pacific, the oceanographers had stimulated enough plant growth to sop up some 350,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide from the seawater. If performed on a grand scale, iron fertilization of ocean water could absorb billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the air, enough to slow the rate of greenhouse warming, according to some rough estimates.

Although designed to test basic theories about marine ecology, the Pacific experiment had demonstrated all too dramatically the effects of adding iron to the Ocean. A scheme known as the Geritol solution to global warming.

Ultimately I wrote this article to stimulate debate and I have many questions... What are the implications of playing god at such a grand scale? Is there a danger of sucking too much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere causing an ice age? Can it buy us some time? How could it effect the oceans eco system?