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Iceberg size of London breaks off Antarctica's Brunt Ice Shelf

Cover Media 2 days ago Cover Media, Cover Media
The Brunt Ice Shelf. © Sebastian Gleich/British Antarctic Survey/Cover Images The Brunt Ice Shelf.

A huge iceberg the size of Greater London has broken off from the Antarctic.

The berg is close to Britain's Halley Research Station, which sits on the Brunt Ice Shelf. Sensors on the shelf confirmed the split late on Sunday.

Staff at the station are not in danger as they are 20 kilometres from the crack, known as Chasm One, and will maintain their base and its instruments until they are picked up next month. However, they had been reducing their operations ahead of the iceberg's calving. Professor Dame Jane Francis, director of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), noted that her team had been awaiting the event.

"Our glaciologists and operations teams have been anticipating this event. Measurements of the ice shelf are carried out multiple times a day using an automated network of high-precision GPS instruments that surround the station," she explained.

The BAS team are being wary to see that there are no unexpected instabilities in the remaining ice shelf platform the station sits on.

The British base is a series of modules on skis that allow it to be moved away from the edge of the ice shelf - so work can continue once scientists are sure the shelf is stable.

When Chasm One began opening up after a period of inactivity, Halley was shifted 23 kilometres "upstream" in 2017. Had that relocation not taken place, Halley would now be imperilled on the iceberg.

Although climate change is worrying scientists and has been blamed for other collapses in other parts of the Antarctic, in this case, the split is natural behaviour for an ice shelf.

Professor Dominic Hodgson, BAS glaciologist, added: "This calving event has been expected and is part of the natural behaviour of the Brunt Ice Shelf. It is not linked to climate change. Our science and operational teams continue to monitor the ice shelf in real-time to ensure it is safe, and to maintain the delivery of the science we undertake at Halley."

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