World’s biggest iceberg breaks in two as chunk the size of Seville snaps off

Rob Waugh
·2-min read
A large piece has broken off iceberg A68 (ESA)
A large piece has broken off iceberg A68. (ESA)

A vast iceberg that calved off an ice shelf three years ago has split into two parts, satellite pictures have shown.

When A-68 calved from the Larsen C ice shelf, it was up to a trillion tonnes, and measured 2,300 square miles, a quarter of the size of Wales.

It has now lost some of its record-breaking bulk, as a large chunk has broken off.

The new chunk of ice is around 11 miles long and approximately 54 square miles, around the same size as Seville, the European Space Agency reports.

The new piece of ice will most likely be named A-68D by the US National Ice Centre in the coming days.

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Two other chunks of ice that previously broke off were named A-68B and A-68C.

Satellites have tracked the vast iceberg since 2018, where it broke off Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf.

The European Space Agency said: “Having lost many other pieces of ice over the past weeks, A-68A has now lost its title as the world’s largest iceberg.

“First place now passes onto the A-23A iceberg, which is currently stuck in the Weddell Sea, with a size of almost 4,000 sq km.”

The iceberg has drifted close to South Georgia (ESA)
The iceberg has drifted close to South Georgia (ESA)

In recent weeks, the iceberg has drifted close to the remote island of South Georgia, where scientists feared the iceberg could ground in the shallow waters offshore and threaten wildlife.

It is still unclear where the main A-68A iceberg will now travel.

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Carried by currents, it could continue its journey around the island of South Georgia as many other previous icebergs have done in the past, moving in a south-east direction, before turning north.

The huge crack had been spreading across the Antarctic Larsen C ice shelf for many years, but began accelerating in 2016.

The ice shelf is about 1,100ft thick and floats on the edge of West Antarctica.

The calving of the huge iceberg reduced the size of the ice shelf by 12%.

Scientists from Project Midas – a British Antarctic Survey project involving researchers from several British universities – have said they fear the entire ice shelf could become unstable.

The researchers wrote: “As this rift continues to extend, it will eventually cause a large section of the ice shelf to break away as an iceberg.

“Computer modelling suggests that the remaining ice could become unstable, and that Larsen C may follow the example of its neighbour Larsen B, which disintegrated in 2002 following a similar rift-induced calving event.”

Watch: World's largest iceberg filmed from air as it bears down on South Georgia