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

and sides, breaking off pieces to float as icebergs.

First discovered by British explorer Robert Falcon Scott in 1902, the Drygalski ice tongue is around 20 km wide. Its floating glacial ice is between 50 and 200 metres thick. The tongue's history has been traced back at least as far as 4000 years. One source has been radiocarbon dating of guano from penguin rookeries in the vicinity the ice tongue has a body of open water on its north side that its presence blocks from freezing, sustaining the penguin population.

"The Drygalski ice tongue has been remarkably resilient over at least the last century," Drinkwater concludes. "In spite of its apparent vulnerability, shallower bathymetry of the area enhanced by deposition of glacial sediments may play an important role in diverting the larger icebergs with more significant draught around this floating promontory.

"This may rule out its potential catastrophic removal from collision with a large drifting berg in the short term. That leaves the elements of temperature variations, wave and tidal flexure, or bending, to weaken and periodically whittle pieces off the end of the ice promontory."

Providing a wider Antarctic view

The 400-kilometre swath, 150-metre resolution images shown here of B-15A and the Drygalski ice tongue are from ASAR working in Wide Swath Mode (WSM). Envisat also monitors Antarctica in Global Monitoring Mode (GMM), with the same swath but a resolution of one kilometre, enabling rapid mosaicking of the whole of Antarctica to monitor changes in sea ice extent, ice shelves and iceberg movement.

Often prevailing currents transport icebergs far from their initial calving areas way across Antarctica, as with B-15D, another descendant of B-15, which has travelled a quarter way counterclockwise (westerly) around the continent at an average velocity of 10 km a day.

ASAR GMM images are routinely provided to a variety of users including
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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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