Antarctica Just Narrowly Avoided a Massive Iceberg Collision

The icy continent could use some relief with rising temperatures and major climate shifts expected for Antarctica in future years. It's almost over with an iceberg twice the size of Chicago.
A-74 is the iceberg. It was originally attached to Antarctica. However, it broke free into open water in February as a result a major crack which ripped through Brunt's ice shelf in a matter of months.

A-74 remained in its original position for six months due to the prevailing oceanic currents. However, A-74 moved southwards and spun around in August because of strong easterly winds.

It slid along the Brunt ice shelf, where it was born. This caused what the European Space Agency (ESA), described as a "minor effect".

Brunt could have been broken if it was a large one.

Mark Drinkwater, geophysicist at the ESA, says that the nose-shaped part of the ice shelf is still connected to the Brunt Isl Shelf. However, it is only barely.

"If the berg had collided with this piece more violently, it could have accelerated fracture of the remaining Ice Bridge, causing it break apart. Sentinel satellite imagery will be used to continue routinely monitoring the situation."

Satellite imagery is essential for understanding what's happening in Antarctica at the largest scales. The integrated radar instruments can map remote areas day or night, during summer and winter, in all weather conditions.

A-74 measures 1,270 km (490 miles) in area and is one of the largest free-floating glaciers in the world. The largest iceberg is A-76, which calved earlier in the year and covers 4,320 kilometers.

According to the ESA, A-74 could have made a real hit on Brent's ice shelf and created a new iceberg of approximately 1,700 km (656 miles) in area.

This is due to other cracks that have placed the Brunt ice shelf's western edge in an unstable position Chasm 1 that extends from the south to the Halloween crack that runs north to the north.

Researchers are still monitoring the shifting ice. In 2017, the Halley VI research station was relocated 20 km (12.4 mi) to be safer from the ice shelf melting that scientists predicted would occur.

"Halley is composed of eight interconnected pods built on skis that allow the pods be easily moved in the event of unstable ice, or new chasms on the ice shelf," explained the ESA in a statement.

A68a, another free-floating, iceberg, was dangerously close to South Georgia Island, a southern Atlantic Ocean island that is home to millions penguins, sea-lions, albatrosses and petrels.

Scientists need to have all the information possible about how the Antarctic ecosystems might fracture as the climate crisis continues around the world. The icebergs will continue to come for now.