Environment

Giant iceberg finally heads out to sea

Giant iceberg finally heads ou...
The iceberg's escape was seen by ESA's Copernicus Sentinel-1mission
The iceberg's escape was seen by ESA's Copernicus Sentinel-1mission
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The iceberg's escape was seen by ESA's Copernicus Sentinel-1mission
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The iceberg's escape was seen by ESA's Copernicus Sentinel-1mission
The berg comprise 10 percent of the Larsen C ice shelf
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The berg comprise 10 percent of the Larsen C ice shelf

After over a year since it dramatically broke loose from the Antarctic ice cap, one of the largest icebergs on record has finally set to sea. In July 2017, iceberg A68 split off from the Larsen C ice shelf, but shallow waters to the north and unexpectedly heavy ice to the east kept it pinned in its original position. Now, thanks to strong southern spring winds, the multi-trillion tonne ice cube has split free and has pivoted out into the Weddell Gyre.

Despite the small army of scientists and support staff swarming over it, the Antarctic has the justifiable reputation as the loneliest spot on Earth. It's a small wonder, therefore that the sudden movement of a floating sheet of ice covering 6,000-km² (2,300-mi²) and 190-m (625-ft) thick wasn't seen directly by human eye, but was rather captured by ESA's Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission, which is dedicated to all-weather land and sea monitoring of general conditions and emergency events.

On July 12, 2017, A68, which comprises 10 percent of the Larsen C shelf, made a dramatic split as a slowly growing crack 170-km (105-mi) long completed its journey. It was originally expected that the berg would soon float away and into the Antarctic sea. In fact, it was regarded as a major scientific opportunity that would allow researchers to study 5,818 km² (2,246 mi²) of newly-exposed seabed that had been hidden for over 120,000 years.

The berg comprise 10 percent of the Larsen C ice shelf
The berg comprise 10 percent of the Larsen C ice shelf

Unfortunately, local conditions that included badly deteriorating weather kept the ice in its original location, putting paid to any hopes of exploring expeditions. Now that A68 is drifting free, it is expected to head north into warmer waters, where it will melt and begin to break up.

Source: ESA

2 comments
Dan Lewis
NEXT TIME, give us the length and width numbers of the thing. The square footage doesn't do it for us. Don't ever leave out numbers readers might want. Don't be stingy with the data. Give us more than we can handle.
ljaques
"Dramatically"? The crack was noted in 2010 and it finally broke off in 2017, =seven= years later. That's dramatic? Oh, please. Timeline pic: https://is.gd/ZqLtmu What I find dramatic is the lava dome under the ice there, raising the center of Antarctica. THIS is dramatic: https://www.newsweek.com/antarctica-melting-below-mantle-plume-almost-hot-yellowstone-supervolcano-705086