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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 July, 2005, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
42,500 bottle of water snatched
The water came from the threatened West Antarctic ice sheet
A thirsty thief is being blamed for downing a bottle of water, valued at 42,500, at a literary festival.

The two-litre clear plastic bottle containing melted ice from the Antarctic was devised to highlight global warming by artist Wayne Hill.

But the warm weather is thought to have got the better of someone who snatched it at the Ways with Words festival at Dartington Hall in south Devon.

American-born Mr Hill said the bottle was clearly a work of art.

The concept is to ... bring it immediately into somebody's presence
Wayne Hill

He said: "It looked like an ordinary bottle of water. But it was on a plinth, labelled, described and in the programme of the whole festival."

The piece, entitled Weapon of Mass Destruction, vanished half way through the festival. Mr Hill fears the bottle was taken and then drunk.

"It was there and then it was gone," he said.

"You do not expect people that come to the festival to be grand theft type of people and security at Dartington is very good, so it is a mystery."

He added: "It is a strong piece and I would like to get my hands on it. It was scheduled for further exhibitions later on in the year, and it was getting around and gaining a small reputation for itself."

Mr Hill, of Week, near Dartington, created the work earlier this year after asking a friend who was visiting the Antarctic to bring back some melted ice water.

Its value was worked out by the artist from the damage worldwide of the entire ice sheet melting - he estimates between 6 trillion and 9 trillion - and the relative amount of damage from two litres of water.

He said: "The concept is to take something as dangerous as that and to bring it immediately into somebody's presence."

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