World's Biggest Iceberg Begins Moving after Blocking Food Supplies for Antarctic Stations, Penguins
WELLINGTON, New Zealand The world's biggest iceberg has begun moving again, nearly three months after it ran aground, threatening penguin breeding colonies and blocking ships supplying food and fuel to Antarctic research stations, officials said Monday.
The giant iceberg, known as B15A, is now moving slowly out of McMurdo Sound, where it had blocked sea access, said Lou Sanson, chief executive of the government scientific agency Antarctica New Zealand.
The U.S. McMurdo Station and New Zealand's Scott Base are located on the sound, and Italy's Terra Nova base is nearby.
The 160-kilometer (100-mile) -long iceberg, which contains enough water to supply the River Nile for 80 years, had blocked wind and water currents in the sound, causing a buildup of ice which impeded ships needed to supply food and fuel to the three research stations.
Two icebreakers managed to smash a 50-kilometer (30-mile) track through the ice to McMurdo Pier, enabling ships to deliver supplies.
The McMurdo station has a staff of about 1,000 during the summer and about 100 remain for the harsh polar winter. Scott Base has about 100 staff during the summer and only about 12 in the winter.
The ice blockage also threatened penguin breeding colonies, with tens of thousands of Adele penguin chicks facing starvation as parent birds were forced to trudge up to 180 kilometers (110 miles) to open sea to gather food.
Scientists are still trying to confirm how many of the chicks starved over the summer.
Before B15A come to a halt in January, scientists had feared it would slam into a 70-kilometer (40-mile) -long glacier near the McMurdo station.
Sanson said the iceberg is now nearing the glacier, known as the Drygalski Ice Tongue, at a speed of about one kilometer (5/8 mile) a day, but a direct hit seemed unlikely.
"It still hasn't cleared (out of the area), but it's moving in the right direction," he said.
But he added: "We know very little about what makes this thing tick. Every time someone has made a prediction about it, they've been proved wrong."
Source: Associated Press