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
Explore CNN's interactive that explains ISIS' roots, what it controls, and where its support comes from.
September 25, 2014 -- Updated 2010 GMT (0410 HKT)
In his first-ever interview as the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani defended his country against allegations of funding terrorism.
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0920 GMT (1720 HKT)
The U.S. and several Arab nations carried out airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, intensifying the campaign against the militant group.
September 27, 2014 -- Updated 1645 GMT (0045 HKT)
A mysterious Chicago fire and possible suicide attempt causes massive disruption in the U.S.
September 27, 2014 -- Updated 1503 GMT (2303 HKT)
The North Korean leader hasn't been seen for weeks, leading to speculation that he is in poor health.
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0154 GMT (0954 HKT)
Haider al-Abadi hopes airstrikes don't lead to "of another terrorist element" instead of ISIS.
September 25, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
The United States couldn't do it on its first try. Neither could the Soviets.
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0910 GMT (1710 HKT)
Emma Watson lent her name and her glittery profile to the cause of feminism at the United Nations.
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 1529 GMT (2329 HKT)
CNN's Nima Elbagir reflects on a harrowing trip to Liberia where she covered the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1423 GMT (2223 HKT)
Contrary to public opinion, rats can actually save lives -- Apopo's rats have actually saved thousands.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT