Titanic iceberg sets sail from Antarctica

In the biggest icebreaking event in a century, an iceberg roughly the size of Connecticut has split off (red arrows) from Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf and may soon drift into the Ross Sea, scientists at the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced March 22.

Antarctic Meteorology Research Center, University of Wisconsin

Satellite photos show that the iceberg is 295 kilometers long and 37 km wide. That may be a record, says meteorologist Matthew Lazzara, who is tracking the iceberg via satellite from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “It’s at least got to be a record in length,” he says.

It may take several months for the giant iceberg to float out to sea. “This one hasn’t moved too far from its parking space yet,” Lazzara says. When it does, polar scientists are concerned that the iceberg may block shipping lanes to NSF’s McMurdo Station, located only 200 miles from the iceberg’s birthplace.

The breaking off of this iceberg is probably part of the normal process of ice-shelf growth and loss and not a consequence of global warming, Lazzara says.

Tina Hesman Saey is the senior staff writer and reports on molecular biology. She has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s degree in science journalism from Boston University.

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