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Huge Antarctic Iceberg Splits Apart

November 08, 2003|From Associated Press

A powerful Antarctic storm has helped split apart an iceberg the size of Jamaica, a New Zealand scientist said Tuesday.

The huge iceberg, named B15 and measuring 4,400 square miles, broke into two pieces over the last month, according to data from satellites above the frozen southern continent.

A jagged fracture spread across the iceberg, causing the split, which "was expected eventually," said Mike Williams of New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research.

B15 had been grounded off the Ross Sea ice shelf coast of Antarctica for more than three years, pounded by storms and waves and tugged by coastal ocean currents.

The two pieces, designated B15A and B15J by the U.S. National Ice Center in Maryland, are now slowly edging their way along the Ross Sea, he said.

"They are still grounded on the Ross Sea floor by their weight," he said, adding there must have been "some inherent weakness" in the iceberg where it split.

Eight other minor bergs have "calved" from B15 and drifted out of the Ross Sea region. The area is surrounded by the massive Ross Ice Shelf, a field of floating ice the size of France.

U.S. iceberg researchers planted a global positioning system on B15A last week to track the movement of the giant ice block, the Antarctic Sun newspaper reported.

The Ross Sea is on the Antarctic coast 2,395 miles south of New Zealand.

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