City-sized iceberg puts shipping lanes in danger

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

A NASA aircraft spotted this crack in 2011.

A city-sized iceberg has broken off one of Antarctica’s fastest flowing glaciers, and it’s heading straight for international shipping lanes! Scientists will be tracking the mammoth block of ice as it cruises the open seas towards the Southern Ocean. The roughly 270-square-mile iceberg is almost twice the size of Manhattan.

An iceberg forms when large chunks of frozen freshwater break apart from glaciers. Usually, more than half of an iceberg is submerged underwater. Because most of it is hidden, it can be especially dangerous for ships, and that’s just when they’re sitting still! Imagine when a city-sized one moving towards a boat…

Due to the possible mega destruction, a group of researchers will be monitoring the ice giant as it makes its way towards the open ocean.

“It often takes a while for bergs from this area to get out of Pine Island Bay, but once they do that, they can either go eastwards along the coast or they can… circle out into the main part of the Southern Ocean,” said Grant Bigg from the University of Sheffield. The large body may last up to a year or more, which gives it plenty of time to float into that part of the ocean. If the super iceberg does head towards shipping lanes, a global warning will be issued to a number of ice hazard agencies.

According to Dr. Robert Marsh from the University of Southampton, though, an alert may not be necessary. “There’s a lot of activity to and from the Antarctic Peninsula, and ships could potentially cross paths with this large iceberg, although it would be an unusual coincidence,” he said.

Images courtesy of NASA.