Image of iceberg captured by NASA looks like a flawless rectangle

Michele Stevens
October 26, 2018

"That shape is not hugely surprising", said Walker.

Kelly Brunt, an ice scientist with NASA and the University of Maryland, said such icebergs are fairly common. By contrast, iceberg A68's surface area measured some 2,240 square miles at the time of calving. The berg appears toward the end of the clip on the left.

New photos released by IceBridge scientists also reveal that the iceberg isn't actually a flawless rectangle, but a very angular quadrilateral.

The image was captured during a flight for Operation IceBridge, the largest airborne survey of Earth's polar ice.

"Usually, you get a certain point in which you pass its [the iceberg's] ability to hold itself up", said Walker.

The main berg, dubbed the A68 Iceberg, collided with the Bawden Ice Rise near the edge of the Larsen C Ice Shelf in May this year, causing numerous fractures. The sharpness of the edges indicates the iceberg had not yet been worn down by ocean waves. This large slab of ice with nearly vertical sides and a flat top, and they are often formed after breaking off from ice shelves.

"There's no one going around with a chain saw and chopping it off. Nature does sometimes go on square angles", he said. Based on its smooth edges, the agency believes that it has not been long since the iceberg separated from Larsen C in Antarctica.

"After a while, a tape measure will bend from its own weight", Catherine Walker, a NASA scientist who researches Antarctic glaciers, said in an interview.

NASA did not say how large the iceberg was.

While it is hard to estimate the size of the iceberg from the photograph, experts said it was likely over a mile (1.6 kilometers) in length.

Ice Bridge is spending several weeks measuring changes in Antarctic sea and land ice while flying under orbits of ICESat-2 to compare measurements.

And, as with all icebergs, the part visible on the surface comprises just a small fraction of the object's mass - in this case about 10%.

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