An iceberg 80 times the size of Manhattan could destroy a fragile South Atlantic ecosystem

The A68 iceberg, seen from space in July.

(CNN)One of the world's largest icebergs is on a collision course with a South Atlantic island oasis, potentially threatening a rich ecosystem of wildlife including penguins, seals and krill.

The "A68a" iceberg, which broke off from Antarctica's Larsen C Ice Shelf in July 2017, is currently cruising through open waters just a few hundred kilometers away from the British Overseas Territory of South Georgia.
If the 4,700 square kilometer (1,815 square mile) mass -- greater than South Georgia itself -- stays on its current path and reaches the island's shores, scientists fear it could have a devastating effect on its wildlife populations for years to come.
    Professor Geraint Tarling, Senior Biological Oceanographer at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), told CNN that the iceberg could block seals and penguins from being able to access their normal feeding grounds at a time of year that is crucial for the colonies' growth.
      "If they have to make massive detours around the iceberg to make the same trip they normally would, they likely won't be able to get back in time (to feed their young)," Tarling explained.
      And because the iceberg is so huge, it could remain stuck on the island's doorstep for years, potentially leading to catastrophic marine life population failure, he added.
      Currently traveling at a speed of around 1 kilometer per hour, A68a could reach the British Overseas Territory in as little as three to four weeks if it travels in a straight line, Tarling said -- though he explained that it was likely to take a more circuitous route.
      South Georgia and the neighboring South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) are home to approximately 5 million seals of four different species. Its surrounding waters serve as an important habitat for migrating whales and diverse fish populations, according to the local government.