Iceberg floats toward South Georgia, puts wildlife at risk

Katie Ramirez
November 6, 2020

The British government's research organization said in a statement Wednesday that the exact path of the iceberg, which broke off from Antarctica in 2017, is not known.

Dubbed as one of the world's largest iceberg, the A68a broke off from Antarctica's Larsen C Ice Shelf in July 2017 and is now cruising through open waters just a few hundred kilometers away from the British Overseas Territory of South Georgia.

At the rate its traveling, it could take just 20 to 30 days for the giant ice cube to run aground near the island.

"We put the odds of collision at 50/50,"he said".

Many thousands of King penguins - a species with a bright splash of yellow on their heads - live on the island, alongside Macaroni, Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins.

Professor Geraint Tarling, an ecologist at British Antarctic Survey, said: "Ecosystems can and will bounce back of course, but there's a danger here that if this iceberg gets stuck, it could be there for 10 years". The concern is that it will disrupt wildlife, the local fishing industry, and shipping routes if it grounds too close to South Georgia. As per the experts, the iceberg is of the same size as South Georgia where it is expected to hit.

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The incoming iceberg would also crush organisms and their seafloor ecosystem, which would need decades or centuries to recover.

As some media organizations exaggerated the size of A-68a and called it "world's biggest iceberg" to increase the threat level at highest, Dr. Sue Cook, a glaciologist at the Australian Antarctic Program Partnership told The Guardian that even though it is following on a familiar track like others, the ultimate fate was hard to predict. "This plankton also draws in carbon from the atmosphere, partially offsetting human CO2 emissions".

Up to a kilometre thick, icebergs are the solid-ice extension of land-bound glaciers.

This was followed by the breakup of the nearby Wilkins Ice Shelf in 2008 and 2009, and A68a in 2017.

Hydrofracturing - when water seeps into cracks at the surface, splitting the ice farther down - was nearly certainly the main culprit in each case.

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