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Giant Iceberg on Collision Course With Island

Antarctica's South Georgia isle is hoping for a course correction soon
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 5, 2020 1:03 PM CST

(Newser) – An Antarctic island could soon meet an enormous and unwelcome visitor. An iceberg about the size of Delaware looks to be heading for British Overseas Territory of South Georgia. The iceberg known as A-68A separated from the Larsen C ice shelf in July 2017. It's lost a couple of chunks since then, but is still "absolutely huge" and "the largest iceberg around in the Southern Ocean," glaciologist Sue Cook tells the Guardian. The BBC describes it as the biggest iceberg in the world at 93 miles long, 30 miles wide, and about 650 feet thick. Satellites are monitoring the 'berg, which is about 310 miles from the island at present, but it's difficult to predict where it will end up. The concern is that it will disrupt wildlife, the local fishing industry, and shipping routes if it grounds too close to South Georgia.

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The iceberg wouldn't just crush whatever wildlife is beneath it. "A close-in iceberg has massive implications for where land-based predators might be able to forage," Geraint Tarling of the British Antarctic Survey tells the BBC. As penguins and seals rear their young, "the actual distance they have to travel to find food really matters," he explains. "If they have to do a big detour, it means they're not going to get back to their young in time to prevent them starving to death." The BBC notes "countless dead penguin chicks and seal pups were found on local beaches" after another massive iceberg grounded in 2004. Tarling says A-68A could stick around for a decade "and that would make a very big difference, not just to the ecosystem of South Georgia but its economy as well." Experts hope it will instead spin around the island and break up in warmer waters. (Read more Antarctica stories.)

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