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A glacier biome is a biome with a freezing climate that is mostly composed of ice. They are normally only found on the larger world maps.
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. Also, the extra layers of ice make it difficult to find Magma Pipes if you embarked with one. Digging through the last layer of ice you can generally find the Magma Pipe's cap (actually, It will be a layer below this). But this will not reveal the Path through the Z-levels the Magma takes.
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 Mountainhome Caravan 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 jumpstart 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 is you plan on having an beds or 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.
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).
If you master dropping ice, you can have a very successful fortress. Legends abound of glaciers with imported golden roads lined with platinum statues leading to an iron fortress of hundreds of dwarves living quite well for 20+ years! (okay, so maybe just I did that...)
Diagram of Ice cutting:
OOOOOOOOOO OCCCCCCCCO OCIIIIIICO OCIIIIIICO OCIIIIIICO OCIIIIIICO OCIIIIIICO OCIIIIIICO OCCCCCCCCO OOOOOOOOOO
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.</nowiki>
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 channelling 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, it will be messy. You can cut off entire sections of fortress to flooding or caved-in sections by doing this. And its wastes a lot of work and ice.
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 may prove a challenge.
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. Once you've got an inside area, don't go out into the cold...
It is widely held that embarking on a glacier with no items gives dwarves a 0% chance of survivability, due to the absence of water or booze.
- When digging down through the ice, up/down and down stairs exposed to the surface of the rock (as is the case when digging straight down) have a tendency to disappear, possibly due to the heat from the stone below. This is regardless of outside exposure (will happen even if is labeled as dark, underground or light, above ground) and can be avoided by digging ramps or up stairs.
- Excavating the bottom layer of ice will leave stone floors rather than ice floors. Building and removing a construction on this layer (but not on any layer with a natural ice floor) will change the floor into a random type of soil, possibly sand. The type of soil is constant for a given biome.
- Smoothing natural ice walls is also worth double what a smooth rock (non-economic or economic) wall is worth, though engravings add exactly the same amount of value. It can also be noted that currently when ice walls are smoothed they are labeled "straight ice wall"s instead of the normal smooth description; smoothed ice floors become "level".
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