Giant Iceberg Could Collide with South Georgia Island, Harming Wildlife

A68A in open water last summer     Satellite Image: European Space Agency

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Contributing Writer

An iceberg is on a collision course could hit South Georgia — an island owned by the UK in the Atlantic Ocean. This iceberg, A-68A, is the largest iceberg in the Southern Ocean – it is the size of the state of Delaware, The Hill reported. It broke off from Antarctica in July 2017, and while the route the iceberg will take is still unclear, should the iceberg hit South Georgia, it could have dire consequences for the wildlife surrounding the island.  The large iceberg is also roughly the size of South Georgia itself, so a collision could also affect the island’s shipping and fishing industries.

Why This Matters: If this iceberg crashes into South Georgia, it could get stuck there for a decade. This could have major consequences on South Georgia’s biome — land-based predators like penguins and seals could have trouble finding food especially during pup and chick-rearing periods. Circumventing the giant iceberg might mean that these animals will take longer to find food, which could leave their young to starve to death. The iceberg also could affect ocean ecosystems as it floats towards South Georgia because it scrapes along the seafloor.

On a Collision Course

 A-68 broke away from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf, and it was bigger than the country of Luxembourg when it fractured initially in July 2017. The iceberg lost some chunks throughout its journey north — after its first split, the iceberg was renamed, with the largest section called A-68A, and the smaller section called A-68B. Another piece split off from A-68A in April 2020 (called A-68C), and is now about 150 km long and 48 km wide.

While researchers worry that the iceberg would collide with South Georgia, A-68A extends very deeply below the ocean’s surface. Because of this, there is a chance that A-68A could skid to a stop in the middle of the ocean, sparing South Georgia. The iceberg crash might also have some positive effects: its dust could feed ocean plankton, which removes carbon from the atmosphere and could have a small influence in mitigating the climate crisis.

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