The Biggest Iceberg In The World Has Almost Completely Melted Away
An iceberg that was once the biggest in the world has almost completely melted after it broke away from Antarctica in 2017.
Known as A68, the huge iceberg covered an area of nearly 6,000 sq km (2,300 sq miles), or a quarter of the size of Wales, when it first detached itself from the Larson C Ice Shelf on the edge of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Though the iceberg initially remained fairly static, after about a year it began to drift north as it was propelled by strong currents and winds into the South Atlantic, towards the British Overseas Territory of South Georgia.
Many big icebergs often get caught in the local shallows of the small island before gradually melting away, but A68 instead fell victim to the warm water and higher air temperatures in the Atlantic, which chipped away at the giant iceberg until it eventually shattered into small fragments.
The giant, formerly solid mass is now in so many small fragments that the US National Ice Center (USNIC), which names and tracks icebergs, has deemed it no longer worth tracking.
A68 fell from the organisation’s list of concern after its last major piece, known as A68a, was measured to be three nautical miles by two nautical miles on Friday, April 16. To qualify for the list, icebergs need a long-axis of greater than 10 nautical miles (18.5km) or an area of at least 20 square nautical miles (68.5 sq km).
Adrian Luckman, from Swansea University, told BBC News it was ‘amazing’ that it managed to last as long as it did after breaking away from Antarctica.
He commented: ‘If you think about the thickness ratio – it’s like four pieces of A4 paper stacked up on top of one another. So this thing is incredibly flexible and fragile as it moved around the ocean. It lasted for years like that. But it eventually broke into four-to-five pieces and then those broke up as well.’
Though icebergs don’t typically get a lot of individual attention – save perhaps for the one that sank the Titanic – A68 became something of a social media star thanks to space data tools that allowed users to track its progress through the ocean.
Laura Gerrish, a mapping specialist with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), said the iceberg ‘caught the attention of a lot of different people’, adding: ‘We saw every little twist and turn. We were able to follow its progress with daily satellite images, at a level of detail we’ve not really been able to do before.’
The iceberg may be gone, but thanks to the power of the internet it will live on forever in the hearts and timelines of those who commented on its progress.
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