An iceberg measuring 492 feet thick and 490 square miles in diameter broke off the Brunt Ice Shelf on Friday, according to a press release from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). The section, larger than New York City, cut off near BAS’s Halley research station, which was closed for the season earlier this month.
The research station is unlikely to be affected by the break. Researchers say the first indication of calving came last November when a fissure known as the North Rift became active, breaking towards a sinkhole known as the Stancomb-Wills Glacier Tongue nearly 23 miles away.
“The iceberg formed when the crack widened several hundred meters within hours on the morning of February 26, freeing it from the rest of the floating ice,” BAS noted in a press release.
BAS operations director Simon Garrod called the break a “dynamic situation”. Three cracks have been detected over the course of a decade, including Halloween Crack and Chasm 1.
“Our job now is to keep a close eye on the situation and assess any potential impact of the current calving on the remaining pack ice,” Garrod said in a press release.
Professor Dame Jane Francis, director of the British Antarctic Survey, said the team had been preparing for such an event for years, monitoring the movements and deformations of the Brunt Ice Shelf even when BAS was not at his Halley research station. Researchers only stay at the station in the summer, as the winter months are dark and freezing, making them difficult to observe.
Anyone can guess what the pack ice will do next. “Over the next few weeks or months, the iceberg could recede; or it could run aground and stay near the Brunt Ice Sheet,” Francis added.