One of the biggest icebergs on record has broken away from Antarctica, scientists said on Thursday creating a hazard around the continent as it breaks up. The 1 trillion tonne iceberg, measuring 5,800 square km, calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica sometime between July 10 and 12, said scientists at the University of Swansea and the British Antarctic Survey.
The iceberg, which is roughly the size of the US state of Delaware or the Indonesian island of Bali, has been close to breaking off for a few months. Throughout the Antarctic winter, scientists monitored the progress of the rift in the ice shelf using the European Space Agency satellites. “The iceberg is one of the largest recorded and its future progress is difficult to predict,” said Adrian Luckman, professor at Swansea University and lead investigator of Project MIDAS, which has been monitoring the ice shelf for years. “It may remain in one piece but is more likely to break into fragments. Some of the ice may remain in the area for decades, while parts of the iceberg may drift north into warmer waters,” he added.
The ice will add to risks for ships now that it has broken off. The peninsula is outside major trade routes, but the main destination for cruise ships visiting from South America. In 2009, more than 150 passengers and crew were evacuated after the MTV Explorer sank after striking an iceberg off the Antarctic peninsula