Tuesday, 02 March, 2021


The world's largest iceberg adrift sets off alarms

The A68 iceberg seen from space in July The A68 iceberg seen from space in July
Kristine Garrett | 06 November, 2020, 20:27

The largest iceberg in the world known as A68a is moving today towards South Georgia, where it will be a serious threat to penguins and seals in that British overseas territory.

Professor Geraint Tarling, Senior Biological Oceanographer at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), said the iceberg could prevent seals and penguins from leading their normal feeding grounds at a time of year that is crucial for the colonies' growth.

Iceberg A-68A, which is of the same size South Georgia separated from the Larsen C ice shelf on the east of Antarctica's peninsula in July 2017.

It is now 150 km (93 miles) long and 48 km (30 miles) wide and is almost 500 km away from the island.

South Georgia hosts large numbers of whales, seals, and penguins. This would pose a major problem to both terrestrial and marine ecosystems, including seafloor organisms smothered by the encroaching iceberg.

Tarling said he is trying to get the resources together to travel and study the iceberg on the South Atlantic island, in case it does crash along the shore.

"If they need to perform a huge detour, it means they are not likely to contact their youthful in time to stop them starving to death in the meantime", he explained.

As A68a drifted with currents across the South Atlantic, the iceberg did a great job of distributing microscopic edibles for the ocean's tiniest creatures, said Tarling. "The currents should take it on what looks like a odd loop around the south end of South Georgia, before then spinning it along the edge of the continental shelf and back off to the northwest", Peter Fretwell, a remote-sensing and mapping specialist with the BAS, tells BBC News. "It carries enormous quantities of dust that fertilize the ocean plankton in the water that cascades up the food chain". "But it's very hard to say precisely what will happen".

Carbon stored by these organisms would be released into the ocean and atmosphere, adding to carbon emissions caused by human activity, the researchers said. BAS remote-sensing manager Andrew Fleming described it as "spectacular".

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