The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has warned that two massive icebergs could pose a threat to maritime shipping and the environment.
One of these icebergs, which calved from the Brunt Ice Shelf in late January is now floating approximately 150km away from its origin. It broke free when a large crack in the ice extended across the entire ice shelf. BAS said the iceberg is the size of Greater London. This iceberg is expected to follow the Antarctic Coastal Current around the Weddell Sea as with previous icebergs.
Another massive iceberg on the run is part of an iceberg that began life after calving from the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf in mid-May 2021. As it traveled north, the iceberg broke into three pieces, the largest of which is called A76A. At 135km long and 25km wide, it is the largest floating iceberg on the planet – twice the size of Greater London – and is heading toward South Georgia.
As the iceberg reaches shallower waters, BAS says there is potential for disruption to the local wildlife around South Georgia and the nearby Shag Rocks. If the iceberg grounds on the shallow seabed in the region it could destroy fauna across the seafloor and disrupt the ocean currents and foraging routes of the local wildlife.
As well as the ecological impact, icebergs in the South Georgia region can present a great risk to local vessels.
“Our major concern at the moment is the possible risk for vessels operating in the region as the iceberg begins to break up and calve smaller chunks of ice,” Dr Mark Belchier from the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands said, adding that there is still uncertainty around the iceberg’s movements and direction.