Giant Iceberg Gets Closer to Smashing Into South Atlantic Island
A chinstrap penguin stands in front of a small iceberg on King George Island. (Photographer: Isadora Romero/Bloomberg)

Giant Iceberg Gets Closer to Smashing Into South Atlantic Island

An iceberg that split from the Antarctica ice shelf three years ago is on a collision course with South Georgia, an island in the Atlantic Ocean that’s a breeding ground for penguins and seals. 

The iceberg, known as A-68A, is currently the biggest in the world and could end up blocking a part of the coast, according to the European Space Agency. Scientists have tracked the iceberg’s position with satellites since it split from Antarctica in July 2017, and the ESA’s latest update put it just 350 kilometers (217 miles) away from the island. 

If the berg anchors against the South Georgia coast, it could remain there for up to 10 years, crushing foraging routes and life on the seafloor that feed penguins and seals. After another iceberg, known as A38, grounded there in 2004, many penguin chicks and seal pups died along the shoreline. 

Giant Iceberg Gets Closer to Smashing Into South Atlantic Island

ESA scientists, who have mapped historic iceberg tracks based on satellite data, are hopeful that currents will take A-68A iceberg around South Georgia and off to the northwest, where it could eventually break up. 

The Antarctica ice sheet is one of the most rapidly warming parts of the planet. That’s causing the melting of snow and ice covers, with many glaciers retreating and chunks of ice breaking off the ice cap. 

The rate of ice mass loss matches the worst-case scenario for sea-level rise outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, according to a study published in Nature Climate Change in August. Greenland and Antarctica combined have lost 6.4 million tons of ice between 1992 and 2017, pushing global sea levels up by 17.8 millimeters (0.7 inches). 

South Georgia, a U.K. Overseas Territory located 800 miles southeast of the Falkland Islands, is home to about 5 million seals, 65 million breeding birds and about 1.3 million pairs of protected Chinstrap penguins. The island hosts one of the largest penguin colonies in the world. 

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