Interesting Facts

World's largest iceberg breaks off Antarctica

In 1986, the iceberg known as A23a broke away from the Antarctic coast. However, it quickly grounded in the Weddell Sea, effectively turning into an ice island.

The British Antarctic Survey reports that after being anchored for more than thirty years, one of the biggest icebergs in the world is now floating outside of Antarctic waters.

The iceberg, dubbed A23a, broke off from the Filchner Ice Shelf in the Antarctic in 1986. However, it stuck to the Weddell Sea’s bottom and stayed there for a long time.

Not at all anymore. With the help of powerful winds and currents, the nearly a trillion metric tonne iceberg is currently drifting swiftly past the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, according to recent satellite images.

The iceberg, which measures roughly 4,000 sq km (1,500 square miles), is roughly three times the size of New York City and more than twice the size of Greater London.

According to glaciologist Oliver Marsh of the British Antarctic Survey, it is uncommon to witness an iceberg this size moving, so researchers will be closely monitoring its course.

The massive iceberg will most likely be propelled into the Antarctic Circumpolar Current as it gathers momentum. This will direct it down what is known as “iceberg alley,” which leads to the Southern Ocean and where similar objects can be seen floating in murky waters. Why it is running for it right now is unclear.

According to Marsh, it has most likely simply thinned over time and acquired a tiny bit of extra buoyancy that has allowed it to lift off the ocean floor and be carried by ocean currents. A23a is also one of the oldest icebergs in the world.

The British Antarctic Survey’s Andrew Fleming, a specialist in remote sensing, told the BBC that the iceberg had been drifting for a year and now seemed to be moving faster.

According to Fleming, “the time had just come.” Fleming told the BBC, “I asked a couple of colleagues about this, wondering if there was any possible change in shelf water temperatures that might have provoked it.”

According to Fleming, he saw movement from the iceberg for the first time in 2020. According to the British Antarctic Survey, it is currently ungrounded and traveling to South Georgia, which is sub-Antarctic, via ocean currents.

A23a might once more become grounded at South Georgia Island. The fauna of Antarctica would then have a problem. Seabirds, penguins, and seals number in the millions, and they breed on the island and in the nearby waters. Behemoth A23a might prevent this kind of access.

Fears that A68, another massive iceberg, would crash into South Georgia in 2020 and destroy marine life there and cut off food supplies were aroused in 2020. The iceberg finally broke up into smaller pieces, preventing a much worse fate—possibly A23a’s ultimate goal.

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