Monster iceberg moving toward island where two million penguins live

A view of the A-68A iceberg near South George island, photo: UK Ministry of Defence/ Reuters
A view of the A-68A iceberg near South George island, photo: UK Ministry of Defence/ Reuters

The huge iceberg A-68A, bigger than Singapore, is moving toward South Georgia, a remote Atlantic island where penguins and seals live. Scientists say a collision, which could happen within days, will cause a catastrophe for animals living there.

The iceberg broke from the Antarctic’s Larsen C ice shelf in July 2017 and has been traveling the open ocean for two years. At 4,200 square kilometers (1,620 sq miles), the berg is bigger than Singapore or Luxembourg.

“There’s nothing that’s really been that large before in scientific history that we’ve seen coming up to South Georgia,” Geraint Tarling, a biological oceanographer with the British Antarctic Survey, said. “Normally, we’d expect these icebergs to break apart in the open ocean.”

Scientists say the iceberg could grind over the island’s shelf, crushing underwater life. If it lodges at the island’s flank, it could remain a fixture for up to 10 years before the ice melts or breaks away, Tarling said.

That could block some of the island’s 2 million penguins from reaching the waters to feed their young. Melting freshwater also could make the waters inhospitable for phytoplankton and other creatures in the food chain.

“It is really, really close, less than 50 kilometers away,” making a collision almost inevitable, Tarling told Reuters.

A-68A has the scientific community debating if its breaking was a consequence of climate change and whether more such monster bergs are to come.

Antarctica is one of the fastest-warming places on Earth. South Pole temperatures have risen at three times the global average rate over the last three decades, data show.

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