Skip to main content

City-size iceberg drifting away from Antarctica

By Brad Lendon, CNN
updated 2:31 PM EST, Thu November 14, 2013
In mid-October 2011, NASA scientists working in Antarctica discovered a massive crack across the Pine Island Glacier.
In mid-October 2011, NASA scientists working in Antarctica discovered a massive crack across the Pine Island Glacier.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Iceberg could last in open ocean for a year, researcher says
  • Sea ice that kept berg close to Antarctica now melting, scientist says
  • Iceberg separated from glacier in July

(CNN) -- A massive iceberg that broke off an Antarctic glacier in July is now moving toward the open ocean and could pose a threat to busy shipping lanes, researchers reported.

The huge berg is estimated to be about 270 square miles (700 square kilometers) in area, about the size of nation of Singapore or double the size of the city of Atlanta.

"An iceberg that size could survive for a year or longer and it could drift a long way north in that time and end up in the vicinity of world shipping lanes in the Southern Ocean," Robert Marsh, a scientist at the University of Southampton in England, said in a press release this week.

Detecting the dangers of Greenland's giant icebergs

The crack that produced the iceberg is seen in October 2011.
The crack that produced the iceberg is seen in October 2011.

Marsh is part of a team of scientists who have been given an emergency grant to track the iceberg and predict its path so ships traveling through the area can be alerted.

Researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute, using images from the German Space Agency's TerraSAR-X satellite, reported in July that the iceberg was separating from the Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier. It had been kept close to the glacier by sea ice, another researcher, Grant Bigg from the University of Sheffield, told the BBC. But the end of the Antarctic winter has melted some of the sea ice and given the berg a route to the open ocean, he said.

"In the last couple of days, it has begun to break away and now a kilometer or two of clear water has developed between it and the glacier," Bigg told the BBC.

The calving of the massive berg has been a long process. The crack that produced it was first detected by a NASA plane in October 2011.

The researchers say this will be the first time to track the path of such a massive iceberg, something that will be more important as the effects of global warming increase.

Antarctic ice shelves 'tearing apart,' says study

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:40 AM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Some contend that larger weapons have come into Ukraine from Russia.
updated 8:57 PM EDT, Sat July 19, 2014
Children and youth are often the victims of the violence in Gaza. CNN's Ben Wedeman reports.
updated 11:07 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
A nun, an AIDS researcher, an athlete and a family traveling on summer vacation. These were some of the victims aboard MH17.
updated 2:21 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
In an ambitious plan to upgrade urban India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will build 100 "smart cities" across the country.
updated 7:27 AM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Inspirational, creepy or just weird? CNN meets the 51-year-old man who dresses like a schoolgirl.
shakespeare moon illustration
It's been 45 years since the first moon landing. And still the giant rock continues to intrigue.
updated 8:49 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Nelson Mandela
21 ICONS has captured intimate portraits of some of South Africa's most celebrated. Founder Adrian Steirn reveals the story behind the images.
updated 7:00 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
A British nanotech company has created what it says is the world's darkest material.
updated 7:12 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Yoga, meditation and watching a snake eat a frog alive: these are some of the experiences to be had at this Himalayan yoga retreat.
updated 7:39 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Just a few weeks ago, a boy tied to a bus stop in Mumbai barely received a glance from passersby. Now, he has a home, thanks to a local NGO.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT