Iceberg the Size of Delaware Starts to Break Apart

July 14, 2017

Earlier this month, an iceberg nearly the size of Delaware broke off the ice shelf in Antarctica. Scientists had been monitoring this iceberg for some time now as the cracks in the ice shelf were showing that an enormous iceberg was about to be formed. If it wanders out far enough into the ocean it could become a problem, as it would disrupt shipping lanes. However, just a few days into its iceberg life it has already lost a sizable chunk.

The iceberg, named A68, is quite massive in size. At nearly 2,400 square miles it is larger than Rhode Island and nearly the size of Delaware. If you were to weigh it, it would be over 1.1 trillion tons of ice and contain enough water to fill Lake Erie twice (and still have some water left over).

Icebergs of this size take years to melt, so scientists will be tracking A68 for the next several years to make sure it doesn’t venture too close to shipping lanes in the Atlantic Ocean, where most Antarctic icebergs eventually wind up due to ocean currents.

However, it's not surprising that A68 has started to break up already since the waters surrounding this particular Antarctic ice shelf are not very deep. An iceberg of this size will likely drag along the floor of the ocean as it heads out to sea, and won’t take much for an abnormality, such as a ridge on the ocean floor, to break off sections of the iceberg.

As big as A68 is, it is still only half the size of the largest iceberg ever recorded. In 2000, an iceberg named B-15 broke off its ice shelf in Antarctica. B-15 had a surface area of 4,200 square miles, larger than the entire island of both Hawaii and Jamaica combined. Five years later it broke apart along the shores of Cape Adare, Antarctica and in 2006 an 11-mile piece was spotted off the New Zealand coast.