Skip to main content

City-size iceberg drifting away from Antarctica

By Brad Lendon, CNN
November 14, 2013 -- Updated 1931 GMT (0331 HKT)
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
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0023 GMT (0823 HKT)
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0920 GMT (1720 HKT)
Our whole solar system appears to be inside a searing gas bubble, scientists say.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0002 GMT (0802 HKT)
One journalist murdered, another still being held by ISIS -- a ransom negotiator talks to CNN about the delicate business of trying to get a hostage home alive.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
The accidental killing of a gun instructor raises an "absurd question," writes Mel Robbins.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
ISIS has made surprise gains in Iraq and Syria in recent months, but may begin to suffer setbacks on the battlefield.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
The fear of Russian invasion is receding but peace may still be tricky to find.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1228 GMT (2028 HKT)
Was a police officer justified in shooting and killing Michael Brown?
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0815 GMT (1615 HKT)
Don't like the country you live in? Meet the people who created their own "micronations."
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 2157 GMT (0557 HKT)
The signs exist that indicate U.S. airstrikes into Syria are on the way.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 0946 GMT (1746 HKT)
We asked you what you would like to know about Ebola. Experts answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
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