On October 16, 2018, as NASA’s Operation Icebridge was flying over the northern Antarctic Peninsula doing a routine aerial survey of polar ice, senior support scientist Jeremy Harbeck spotted a very sharp-angled, tabular iceberg – that’s a type of iceberg that’s broad and flat – floating among sea ice just off of the Larsen C ice shelf.
Tabular icebergs typically break off of ice shelves, which are tabular bodies of thick ice. When there is a clean calve, or break-off, of the iceberg, the angles can be close to 90 degrees. Harbeck said in a statement:
I thought it was pretty interesting; I often see icebergs with relatively straight edges, but I’ve not really seen one before with two corners at such right angles like this one had.
The rectangular iceberg appeared to be freshly calved from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf, which in July 2017 released the massive A68 iceberg, a chunk of ice about the size of the state of Delaware.
In a different photo (below), on the same day, Harbeck captured both the edge of that iceberg, and a slightly-less-rectangular iceberg. That image also captures A68 in the distance.
I was actually more interested in capturing the A68 iceberg that we were about to fly over, but I thought this rectangular iceberg was visually interesting and fairly photogenic, so on a lark, I just took a couple photos.
From yesterday's #IceBridge flight: A tabular iceberg can be seen on the right, floating among sea ice just off of the Larsen C ice shelf. The iceberg's sharp angles and flat surface indicate that it probably recently calved from the ice shelf. pic.twitter.com/XhgTrf642Z
— NASA ICE (@NASA_ICE) October 17, 2018
Bottom line: Two photos from NASA’s Operation IceBridge of rectangular icebergs in Antarctica.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.