Categories: EarthEnvironment

Amazing Pictures of the Underside of an Iceberg

In December 2014, designer and musician Alex Cornell traveled to Antarctica. While he saw many unique views of the Antarctic landscape, one extremely rare view stands out. He saw an iceberg that had recently flipped over, exposing the usually unseen – but gorgeous — underside.

“Icebergs are typically white, like you see in pictures,” Cornell told Universe Today. “But this one had recently flipped over and had this arresting alien-green color to it. It looked a lot more like a parked spacecraft than a floating iceberg.”

He said the experience was “magical.”

This stunning glacial portrait was photographed in Cierva Cove, Antarctica. An incredibly rare sight–this photo reveals the beautiful colors and pure surface of the underside of an iceberg. Credit and copyright: Alex Cornell.

He traveled with family members and brought his camera rig, hoping to shoot the glaciers, ice and penguins.

“We saw thousands of icebergs of course, but only one revealed its gorgeous underside — the 90% ‘below the surface’ you hear so much about,” he said.

Scientists say that icebergs will flip over when the “topside” melts enough to change the shape of the iceberg, creating a shift in equilibrium.

Why is the underside so different in color?

Ice is full of tiny air bubbles that scatter all color wavelengths the same amount, usually giving the ice a white appearance. But, according to scientists at Ohio State University, if the ice is compressed – as it would be for the underwater portion of the iceberg — the bubbles are squeezed out and the blue light is scattered much more than other colors – making the ice appear blue. Also, algae often grow on the underside of icebergs, producing green stripes that are only revealed when the ice rolls over and exposes the previously underwater sections.

A zoomed out version of a flipped iceberg in Cierva Cove, Antarctica. Credit and copyright: Alex Cornell.

“I shot these pictures from a Zodiac (boat) which allowed me to get pretty close,” Cornell said via email. “There’s always a danger of the iceberg flipping back over, so we couldn’t get *too* close.”

“From an artistic perspective, they are beautiful photos, but their beauty is the result of what was captured. I was just lucky to be there to snap it. You could have pointed an iPhone at this thing and come away with something spectacular. What luck to get to share something so magical!”

Thanks to Alex for sharing his unique images with Universe Today. See more of his wonderful imagery from his Antarctica trip on his website.

A Sun halo seen among the the landscape and ice flows of Antarctica. Credit and copyright: Alex Cornell.
Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004. She is the author of a new book on the Apollo program, "Eight Years to the Moon," which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible. Her first book, "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond.

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