How to name an iceberg | Polarjournal
Icebergs have fascinated people since time immemorial. There are no limits to the art of nature. They constantly change their appearance. (Image: Heiner Kubny)

Over the last three years, media repeatedly reported about A-68. In the beginning, there was uncertainty, was it a motorway? There was a report of 175 km in July 2017, a gigantic traffic jam at the beginning of the holiday? Hard to believe. On closer examination, an iceberg was hiding behind this letter-number combination. Doing some research, there were B-15, A-38, D-16 and many more. Some had a letter after the number like B-15a. We will tell you what’s in the name.

Between July 10 and 12, 2017, the iceberg broke away from the Larsen Ice Shelf. Iceberg A-68 is one of the largest icebergs of its kind observed within the last three decades. The iceberg had a length of 175 kilometers and a width of 50 kilometers in the summer of 2017. (Photo: NASA Landsat)

Iceberg A-68 (5,800 km²) Back in 2014, researchers noticed a crack in the large expanse of ice on the Larsen Ice Shelf that had been growing for years. Images from ESA satellites taken on July 12, 2017, showed the detachment of a large iceberg from the Larsen C ice shelf. The iceberg was named A-68 and its dimensions were gigantic. The iceberg was 175 kilometres long and 50 kilometres wide. The colossus rose 40 to 60 meters out of the water and between 160 and 250 meters underwater. A-68 is the third largest iceberg ever measured since satellite monitoring first became possible in 1960.

Real hectic came up shortly before Christmas 2020, when the iceberg A-68 appeared in front of South Georgia and it was feared that it would be stuck in front of the island. The situation was defused when the iceberg broke up and drifted south past South Georgia. (Photo: NASA, Earth Observatory)

Iceberg 1956 – The largest iceberg in Antarctica was recorded in 1956 with an estimated length of 333 kilometres and a width of 100 kilometres. The estimated dimensions of the iceberg in 1956 was taken before the era of satellite photography and is considered inaccurate.

Iceberg B-15. The photo was taken on 17 March 2002 shortly after the calving of iceberg B-15, which is still considered the largest iceberg since it was monitored by satellites. Parts of B-15 lasted a very long time. In 2018, there were four pieces left that were large enough to be tracked by the National Ice Center. (Foto: NASA)

Iceberg B-15 (11,000 km²) was the largest iceberg photographically recorded in terms of area. It was 295 kilometres long and 37 kilometres wide and had a surface area of 11,000 square kilometres. The colossus rose 40 to 60 meters out of the water and reached about 160 and 250 meters underwater. The B-15 is the largest iceberg documented with satellite imagery since satellite monitoring first became possible in 1960. In March 2000, the iceberg broke off from Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf and disintegrated into smaller icebergs, the largest of which was named B-15A. In 2003, the B-15A drifted northward from Ross Island, eventually breaking up into several smaller icebergs in October 2005. Iceberg B-15 is now considered the second largest iceberg ever broken off in Antarctica. Since the monitoring by satellites even as the largest.

The end of the iceberg B-15, the other end is 300 kilometers to the east. The picture was taken in January 2001 during the voyage with the icebreaker “Kapitan Khlebnikov” to McMurdo Station. (Image: Heiner Kubny)

Monitoring of icebergs and protective measures

Arctic-North Atlantic

In the North Atlantic, the International Ice Patrol (IIP) monitors the emergence and movements of icebergs. The company was founded in 1914 after the disaster of the RMS “Titanic” on April 15, 1912. The IIP, operated by the United States Coast Guard, is required, on a cost-sharing basis, to issue appropriate North Atlantic iceberg reports to countries that have signed a pact.

Photos of satellites can be downloaded just a few hours after the overflight. In the picture you can see the Arctic. Each square is a high-resolution image. Various satellites fly over the polar regions several times a day. (Print Screen – Polar View)

Antarctica In the Southern Ocean, monitoring is carried out by the US National Ice Center, based in Suitland in the US state of Maryland. This organization also assigns names to icebergs larger than 10 nautical miles. The name is composed of a letter for the area of origin and a consecutive number in chronological order. The letters indicate the quadrant in which the iceberg was first discovered

Antarctica is divided into four sectors and the iceberg calving in them is given its letter. The numbering is done according to the order of calving. (Graphic Heiner Kubny)

Antarctica is divided into sectors A-D

  • A – 0° to 90° west longitude (Lake Bellingshausen, Weddell Sea)
  • B – 90° to 180° west longitude (Amundsen Sea, eastern Ross Sea)
  • C – 90° to 180° east longitude (western Ross Sea, Wilkes Land)
  • D – 0° to 90° east longitude (Amery Ice Shelf, eastern Weddell Sea)

That the iceberg that broke off in July 2017 was named A-68 indicates that it came from Sector A and is already the 68th giant iceberg counted in this area since 1976.

As early as July 14, the A-68 lost some of its volume due to ice breakup. Then on July 17, the NIC announced that the original iceberg would be designated A-68A and the book piece would be re-designated A-68B. Admittedly, the new, smaller section measures only 6.5 by 3 nautical miles and thus remains well below 18.5 kilometres in both axes. But it just about meets the second requirement for its own name. On April 23, 2020, another part of the iceberg broke off and got the designation A-68C. It had an area of 175 km².

Further terminations that meet the criterion receive consecutive letters of the alphabet. Currently (January 30, 2021), you have arrived at the letter M. The name A-68 will be retained.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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