Iceberg A68 off South Georgia breaks apart | Polarjournal
This graph shows the path of iceberg A68 from October 31, 2020 to January 04, 2021. (Graphic BAS)

The giant iceberg A68 drifted threateningly close to the island for the wildlife of South Georgia. By the end of 2020, it seemed that the iceberg would be unstoppable. Fears arose that the ice mass could cause serious problems for life on South Georgia. Now the latest satellite images show that the giant has broken up into unproblematic fragments and is floating past south of the island.

Satellite photo taken January 08, 2021 shows iceberg A68a and its breakaway pieces A68d and A68e drifting south past South Georgia. (Photo: Sentinel-1)

The all-clear can be given for the time being: The horror scenario of a giant iceberg running aground does not seem to be happening. About 30 kilometers off the coast of South Georgia, the giant A-68 got caught in a strong southerly current that passes the island from the north on the west side. Due to the enormous pressure and tension on the iceberg, it first broke apart into two parts and then they further disintegrated. The largest piece, A-68a, still covered about 2,500 square kilometers just before the turn of the year. After that, more pieces broke off. The new smaller icebergs were named A-68d, A-68e and A-68f.

Iceberg A68a split into four pieces just off South Georgia. (Photo: Sentinel-1)

The two largest icebergs A-68a and A-68e are currently drifting in a southeasterly direction. However, scientists led by Prof. Geraint Tarling of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) assume that the two icebergs will be carried northwards again by the countercurrent on the eastern side of the island. Thus, A-68a and A-68e could run aground off the east coast of South Georgia. Numerous other cracks crisscross the large icebergs and are expected to continue breaking apart.

Where is the path of A68 going

For the time being, the conjured horror scenario on South Georgia does not seem to be happening. Until now, the South Sandwich Islands, further east from South Georgia, have received little attention. However, it is possible that the pieces might end up near those islands. However, it is possible that the pieces might end up near those islands. This chain of eleven islands is located on a direct route, depending on wind direction and current, only about 700 kilometres from South Georgia. Almost all islands of the archipelago are of volcanic origin. On some of them there are still active volcanoes today. The group is politically part of the British Overseas Territory of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands. The South Sandwich Islands are uninhabited, but are home to about half of the world’s 1.3 million breeding pairs of chinstrap penguins. Their name derives from their thin black band around the throat that looks like the chinstrap of a helmet.

On Saunders Island, one of the South Sandwich Islands, chinstrap penguins and an Adelie penguin struggle through loose coastal ice to reach their breeding grounds. (Photo: Michael Wenger)

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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