The giant iceberg A68 broke off from the Antarctic ice shelf in 2017,media CNET reported. Now a large part of the iceberg, the A68a, is drifting unsettlingly towards South Georgia, a wildlife paradise in the southern Atlantic Ocean. The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) warned in a statement on Wednesday that icebergs could disrupt local wildlife if they run aground near the island. Penguins and seals that forage in the oceans are likely to be most affected.
“Of course, ecosystems can and will bounce back, but there’s a danger that if the iceberg get stuck, it could be there for 10 years,” BAS ecologist Geraint Tarling said. “An iceberg has a huge impact on where predators on land might forage.” Researchers worry that penguins and seals may have to detour the giant iceberg in search of food while raising their cubs.
If icebergs stay on the high seas, they may bring benefits. “It carries a lot of dust, which benefits marine plankton and affects the food chain,” Tarling said.
The satellite has been tracking the A68 since it broke away, and current data show it is located 250 miles (400 kilometers) from South Georgia and is on its way to the island. The path of the iceberg is still likely to change, with it passing through the island. BAS has asked the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 spacecraft for more data.
ANDREW Fleming, BAS remote sensing manager, described the size of the A68a as “spectacular”. “The idea that it’s still a big guy is actually compelling, especially considering the huge cracks you see in the radar images that run through it,” Fleming said.
If the iceberg ends up in warmer waters, it may eventually break and melt. If not, it could mean a difficult time for some animal residents in South Georgia.