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Experts warn the world's biggest iceberg is on the move after 30 years stuck to the ocean floor

Britt Jones

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Experts warn the world's biggest iceberg is on the move after 30 years stuck to the ocean floor

Featured Image Credit: Eloi_Omella/Getty Images/@HautesLat/X

Big things have been happening in the iceberg world as according to experts, the largest one of them all is on the move.

This comes after thirty years of it being stuck to one spot, and now it’s finally free to roam.

The 1,500 square mile area known as A23a, was recently released by the ocean floor as is now being carried northwards ‘at speed’.

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The iceberg is shaped like a tooth and is twice the size of Greater London, making it an exceptionally large iceberg to be out looking for trouble in the Antarctic Peninsula.

But it's not likely to bump into any ships or wildlife as rougher waters should break it down soon, meaning it’ll be nothing more than bobbing bits of ice in the future.

The history of A23a has been unusual from the start.

A23a is the world's biggest iceberg. Credit: NASA Worldview
A23a is the world's biggest iceberg. Credit: NASA Worldview
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When it initially broke off from the Filchner Ice Shelf in August 1986, instead of travlling a great distance as would have been usual for an iceberg, it instead only carried itself a couple of hundred miles until it became rooted to the spot.

However, because of the uneven surface of the ocean floor, it became grounded and didn’t move for over three decades.

Though now it’s free with its huge size, it must be constantly monitored on its way as it can cause some serious damage if it were to encounter a ship.

But it’s not a sudden event.

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In 2020, Dr Andrew Fleming, a remote sensing expert from the British Antarctic Survey alerted the BBC to the first signs of movement from A23a.

He said: “it was grounded since 1986 but eventually it was going to decrease in size sufficiently to lose grip and start moving.

“[We were] wondering if there was any possible change in shelf water temperatures that might have provoked it, but the consensus is the time had just come.”

Icebergs tend to break down over time. Credit: Pixabay
Icebergs tend to break down over time. Credit: Pixabay
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Iceberg A23a is now expected to reach the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which is a 13,000-mile loop of ocean water that flows around Antarctica.

There have been discussions about whether it could ground itself again in South Georgia, and if that happens, experts believe it could disrupt the feeding routines of foraging wildlife.

However, if it was to melt, it could help to feed organisms at the bottom of the ocean food chains due to the minerals released.

Dr Catherine Walker at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts explained: “In many ways these icebergs are life-giving; they are the origin point for a lot of biological activity.”

Topics: News, Climate Change, Science, World News

Britt Jones
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