That Rectangular Iceberg Took a Long, Hazardous Journey | Universe Today

That Rectangular Iceberg Took a Long, Hazardous Journey

That stunning rectangular iceberg that was photographed in mid-October by NASA scientist Jeremy Harbeck had a much more harrowing journey than we thought. Scientists looked back through satellite images to retrace the ‘berg’s journey. They found that it calved from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in November 2017.

In Universe Today’s original article on the rectangular iceberg, we reported that it had recently calved from the huge iceberg A-68, which itself came from the Larsen C Ice Shelf. This made sense because nobody thought that those square edges could’ve survived for so long without being disfigured.

But as it turns out, the square-cornered icebergs didn’t come from A-68, but directly from the Larsen C Ice Shelf. That means it had a much longer, much more hazardous journey than thought. Scientists went back over satellite data from the USGS’s Landsat 8 and the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 and traced the ‘berg’s origins.

What they found was that after the enormous A-68 iceberg calved from the Larsen C Ice Shelf, the rectangular iceberg broke off from the newly-exposed edge of Larsen. The image below, from Steph Lhermitte of the Delft University of Technology, shows what happened.

After it broke off from the Larsen Shelf, it began moving northward, through the new channel of water between A-68 and the Larsen. It’s amazing it survived that part of its journey with its rectangular shape intact. The are is full of other, smaller bergs, not to mention A-68 and the Larsen Shelf.

The iceberg continued north and travelled through a narrow passage between A-68’s northern tip and a rocky outcrop near the ice shelf known as Bawden Ice Rise. NASA/UMBC glaciologist Chris Shuman likens this zone to a nutcracker. The rectangular iceberg has a lot of cousins in the area. A-68 has repeatedly smashed against the Bawden Ice Rise, and caused pieces of ice to splinter into a collection of clean-cut geometric shapes. An area of geometric ice rubble is visible in the Landsat 8 image (below) from October 14, 2018, two days before the IceBridge flight that Harbeck first captured the images from.

This Landsat-8 image from October 18th shows a field of geometric ice rubble including the rectangular iceberg, now a trapezoid. Image: Landsat-8

The famous rectangular iceberg did not keep its remarkable shape through its journey. Repeated collisions broke it into smaller pieces, and in the image above it is a trapezoid. The trapezoidal berg is about 900 meters wide and 1500 meters long, and it’s just another iceberg now, drifting north into warmer waters to die.

Sources:

Evan Gough

Recent Posts

Extremely Hot Exoplanets Can Have Extreme Weather, Like Clouds of Aluminum Oxide and Titanium Rain

Thanks to the success of the Kepler mission, we know that there are multitudes of…

8 hours ago

What Are Some Clues to the Climates of Exoplanets?

Researchers from the Carl Sagan Institute have created a new model for assessing the habitability…

1 day ago

The Solar System Might Not Exist if There Wasn’t a Huge Galactic Collision with the Milky Way Billions of Years Ago

The Milky Way has a number of satellite galaxies; nearly 60 of them, depedending on…

1 day ago

A Massive Rotating Disc Discovered in the Early Universe

If we want to understand how the Universe evolves, we have to understand how its…

1 day ago

This Dwarf Galaxy is all by Itself

In these days of social distancing, it appears this beautiful little galaxy is leading by…

1 day ago

How Will we Receive Signals From Interstellar Probes, Like Starshot?

A new study takes a look at the challenges of sending and receiving data over…

2 days ago