Watch: First look at London-sized iceberg which broke off Antarctica

Tue, Mar 14

The British Antarctic Survey has released footage of the giant A81 iceberg that broke from the Brunt Ice Shelf in late January.

The iceberg is the size of greater London, measuring in at 1550 sq kilometres, and broke off into the Weddell Sea.

The footage shows just how giant the iceberg is, with satellite video showing it break off the sheet in January.

It is currently on the move and is 150km away from where it originally broke off.

Scientists said A81 broke free when a large crack in the ice, known as Chasm-1, extended across the entire ice shelf.

The event was captured from the air by researchers from the BAS Halley Station, which used to be on the ice that broke off. The station was moved in 2016 and is now 23km inland.

"Since glaciologists first observed Chasm-1 widening in 2012, BAS science and operations teams have been anticipating the calving event," glaciologist Oliver Marsh said.

"High precision GPS instruments, as well as satellite data, have been used to monitor widening of the chasm and in 2016 BAS took the precaution of moving the Halley Research Station inland to protect it."

While the iceberg breaking off is a sight to behold, there will be significant impacts on the area's ecosystem.

Professor Geraint Tarlinbg has been tracking another giant iceberg, A76A, which is about 3200sq kilometres. He said this kind of thing can have both positive and negative impacts on sea life.

"On the positive side, as the iceberg melts, it will release a lot of nutrients that could benefit the growth of microscopic plants such as phytoplankton at the base of the oceanic food webs.

"The negative side is that this same melting, at such a large scale, dumps lots of freshwater into the ocean, which decreases salinity levels and makes the waters unsuitable for many phytoplankton and the zooplankton that feed on them."


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