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Rhode Island-sized iceberg moves into Antarctic ship lanes

satellite image
Scientists believe the iceberg, seen here in a satellite image, towers 300 feet above the ocean

CNN's Jeanne Meserve checks out the people who keep track of icebergs
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From Correspondent Jeanne Meserve

August 18, 1999
Web posted at: 7:29 p.m. EDT (2329 GMT)

SUITLAND, Maryland (CNN) -- An iceberg now floating off the coast of Antarctica makes the one that took down the Titanic in 1912 look like a mere ice cube.

In 1992, a giant iceberg that had been grounded off Antarctica floated free and split in two. The larger chunk, called B-10A, is about 24 miles wide and 48 miles long -- roughly the size of Rhode Island.

Using satellite imagery, scientists estimate that the iceberg towers 300 feet above the surface and could reach a depth of 1,000 feet below ocean level.

"The thing that really sets this berg apart, in addition to its size, is the fact that it has lasted for so long and is now moving with the current out into an area away from Antarctica to an area where ships may be traveling," said U.S. Navy Lt. Andy Ulak of the National Ice Center.

B-10A has now drifted into the Drake Passage, between Antarctica and South America, which is used by cruise ships, fishing and research vessels and commercial ships. While warnings about B-10A have been issued and ships' radar would pick it up, the real hazard is presented by smaller icebergs that have calved off and are harder to detect.

"They can cut through a steel ship like you would cut into a stick of butter with a knife," said Jeff Andrews, lead analyst with the National Ice Center. "It would cut that easily."

The good news for ships is that if it continues to drift into warmer waters, B-10A, which took hundreds of thousands of years to form, could melt in as little as three months.

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National Oceanic and Atomosphereic Administration
  • National Ice Center
  • iceberg poses threat to mariners in the southern hemisphere
National Snow and Ice Data Center
Discovery Online, Expeditions -- Ice Never Sleeps
Antarctic Visitor Centre
Icebergs and Glaciers
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