‘Monster’ iceberg flaking hundreds of offshoots

An island-sized iceberg is breaking up as it drifts nearer to Australia, producing hundreds of smaller slabs spread over an enormous region of ocean, experts said Monday.


The 140-square-kilometre (54-square-mile) chunk of ice, known as B17B, was seen some 1,700 kilometers (1,054 miles) south-southwest of Australia’s western coast on December 9, prompting a maritime alert for vessels in the region.

However as it has tracked further north and east the iceberg has shrunk to some 115 square kilometers — still alarming at about twice the size of Manhattan.

“There are currently many more smaller icebergs calving off B17B, measuring up to some kilometres in length, and spread over more than a thousand kilometers of ocean,” said Australian Antarctic Division glaciologist Neal Young.

Young, who has tracked B17B by satellite images from NASA and the European Space Agency, said the iceberg was some 400 square kilometers in area and 40 meters high when it first broke off from Antarctica.
“If you didn’t know regarding the early picture you would still say it’s a monster,” Young told AFP.

Young said he expected B17B to completely dissolve but was incapable to predict when this would happen. “Might be two weeks, may be a number of weeks. The key thing at the moment is its getting thinner,” he said.
“It’s got its feet in what it thinks is warm water — about six to eight degrees Celsius (45 F) — we think that’s freezing cold but for an iceberg that’s quite warm.

The iceberg, which calved from the eastern end of the Ross Ice Shelf almost 10 years ago, is likely to carry on tracking in a more easterly direction.

Australian authorities last week issued a shipping alert over the probable danger from icebergs.

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