One of the biggest icebergs ever is about to break off the Antarctic ice shelf

Once broken off, the ice shelf could become a hazard for ships, scientists warned

Rachael Pells
Saturday 24 June 2017 10:54
Huge Antarctic iceberg about to break off and slide into the sea

An ice shelf the size of Bali is days away from breaking off into the Antarctic ocean, scientists have warned.

At 5,000 square kilometres – equivalent to the US state of Delaware - the iceberg will be one of the biggest ever recorded by scientists observing the frozen subcontinent.

For months, researchers have been watching a crack spreading some 175 kilometres across the section of the Larsen C ice shelf at an alarming rate.

Just 13 kilometres of ice now remains attached to the main area, leaving it hanging like a thread.

It's keeping us all on tenterhooks,“ Andrew Fleming of the British Antarctic Survey told Reuters earlier this week, adding ”it feels like a niggling tooth“ of a child as it comes loose.

The Larsen C ice shelf is around 200 metres thick, with just 20 metres surfacing above the water.

Once broken off, the iceberg will provide an extra hazard for ships around the Southern Ocean, scientists said.

As icebergs break off Antarctica naturally, experts said they are not linking the event to climate change directly.

The ice is on the Antarctic Peninsula, where Larsen C is located, has increased in temperature over recent years, however.

”There is no other evidence of change on the ice shelf. This could simply be a single calving event which will then be followed by regrowth,“ Adrian Luckman, a professor at the University of Swansea in Wales, told Reuters.

His team believes the ice will break off within months or possibly days.

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