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Iceberg six times the size of Manhattan has broken off from Antarctica

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An iceberg about six times the size of Manhattan, known as B31, separated from Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier on November 13, 2013, and is now being monitored by scientists. NASA geologist Kelly Brunt said the iceberg covers about 255 square miles (660 square km) and is up to a third of a mile (500 meters) thick.

Although the iceberg’s present location is not in an area heavily navigated by ships, Brunt indicates, “It’s one that’s large enough that it warrants monitoring.”

“There’s not a lot of shipping traffic down there. We’re not particularly concerned about shipping lanes. We know where all the big ones are. … It’s like a large sheet cake floating through the Southern Ocean,” Brunt added.

B31 is of particular interest to scientists not only because of its size but also because it originated from an unexpected location.

The glacial crack creating B31 was first discovered in 2011. Pine Island Glacier has been closely studied over the past two decades because it has been thinning and draining rapidly – perhaps an important contributor to sea level rise, according to scientists.

“We are doing some research on local ocean currents to try to explain the motion properly. It has been surprising how there have been periods of almost no motion, interspersed with rapid flow,” said iceberg researcher Grant Bigg of the University of Sheffield in England.

“There were a couple of occasions early on when there might have been partial grounding or collisions with the sea floor, as B31 bounced from one side of the bay to the other,” Bigg said.

Hopefully there will be no collisions with a ship before B31 is swept up in the swift currents of the Southern Ocean.

Pine Island Glacier shows a crack
Pine Island Glacier shows a crack fotosearch

Pine Island Glacier shows a crack

The first crack in the glacier began showing as far back as 2011. It has been monitored by NASA geologist's ever since, especially Kelly Brunt, a scientist with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and Morgan State University in Maryland.

Outline of fissures in the glacier
Outline of fissures in the glacier fotosearch

Outline of fissures in the glacier

The iceberg that broke off Pine Island Glacier covers about 255 square miles (660 square kilometers) and is up to a third of a mile (500 meters) deep. This is roughly six times the size of Manhattan, NY.

Water under the glacier
Water under the glacier fotosearch

Water under the glacier

This is a rendering of the portion of the Southern Ocean (formerly known as the Antarctic Ocean) which was under the portion of Pine Island Glacier before the huge iceberg broke completely away from it and began drifting on its own.

An ordinary iceberg
An ordinary iceberg fotosearch

An ordinary iceberg

As if this iceberg is not large enough on its own accord, it pales in comparison to the one scientists are hoping will soon be swept up in the swift currents of the Southern Ocean. Until then, scientists are doing research on local ocean currents to try to explain the motion of the iceberg up to this point.

Ship in the Southern Ocean
Ship in the Southern Ocean fotosearch

Ship in the Southern Ocean

As of now, there is no concern B31 will affect the shipping lanes as there is not a lot of shipping traffic in the area where it is. Hopefully, there will not be a collision of this huge iceberg with a ship before it is swept up in the swift currents of the Southern Ocean.

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