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B-15A iceberg's close encounter monitored by Envisat

A collision was predicted to have already occurred by now by some authorities, but B-15A's drift appears to have slowed markedly in recent days, explains Mark Drinkwater of ESA's Ice/Oceans Unit: "The iceberg may have run aground just before colliding. This supports the hypothesis that the seabed around the Drygalski ice tongue is shallow, and surrounded by deposits of glacial material that may have helped preserve it from past collisions, despite its apparent fragility.

"What may be needed to release it from its present stalled location is for the surface currents to turn it into the wind, combined with help from a mixture of wind, tides and bottom melting to float it off its perch."

To follow events for yourself, visit ESA's Earthwatching site, where the latest images from Envisat's Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) instrument are being posted online daily.

Opposing ice objects

The largest floating object on Earth, the bottle-shaped B-15A iceberg is around 120 kilometres long with an area exceeding 2500 square kilometres, making it about as large as the entire country of Luxembourg.

B15-A is the largest remaining segment of the even larger B-15 iceberg that calved from the Ross Ice Shelf in March 2000. Equivalent in size to Jamaica, B-15 had an initial area of 11 655 square kilometres but subsequently broke up into smaller pieces.

Since then B-15A has found its way to McMurdo Sound, where its presence has blocked ocean currents and led to a build-up of sea ice. This has led to turn to resupply difficulties for the United States and New Zealand scientific stations in the vicinity and the starvation of numerous local penguins unable to forage the local sea.

ESA's Envisat has been tracking the progress of B-15A for more than two years. An animated flyover based on past Envisat imagery begins by depicting the region as it was in January 2004, as seen by the optical Medium Resolution Ima
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Contact: Mariangela D'Acunto
mariangela.d'acunto@esa.int
39-069-418-0856
European Space Agency
19-Jan-2005


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