It used to be the most imposing iceberg in history, but now it’s nearing its inescapable end. Antarctica’s largest iceberg, B-15, is heading toward what seems to be the end of its journey, as one of its bigger pieces may be about to meet its doom, Live Science reports.
When it first broke away from Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf in early 2000, iceberg B-15 was the absolute largest on record and was almost the size of the entire state of Connecticut.
The iceberg separated from the Ross Ice Shelf — a superlative in its own, as this is the largest floating ice shelf in Antarctica — in late March. At the time, it measured 3,200 square nautical miles. That’s considerably larger than the massive iceberg which made headlines last July, when, as reported by the Inquisitr, it detached from the Larsen C Ice Shelf.
Since then, the original iceberg has seen some wear and tear, breaking off into several large chunks of ice. According to the Huffington Post, the most impressive of these ice formations was B15T (pictured above), but its dominion ended in 2014 when it eventually broke apart.
While the massive slab of ice has gradually splintered into smaller pieces, many of which have long melted away, four stately chunks of the original B-15 still remain, and one of them is in trouble.
“In its 18th year drifting with the currents and being battered by the wind and sea, a piece of this original berg could be nearing the end of its voyage,” NASA officials reveal in a statement.
The grim disclosure comes from a recent photo of B-15 taken from space by the astronauts on board the International Space Station. Captured on May 22, the snapshot shows that one of last big pieces of the stately B-15 — known as B-15Z, one of the biggest remnants of B-15T — is tearing up.
The image depicts a massive fracture running down the middle of B-15Z, as well as smaller pieces of ice breaking off from its sides. To make matters worse, the berg has wandered too far north and is headed toward the dangerous warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
At the time the May photo was taken, B-15Z was about slowly approaching the South Georgia Islands, where it’s very likely that it will be lost forever.
“Icebergs that make it this far have been known to rapidly melt and end their life cycles here,” state NASA officials.
This is because “they tend to pond with water, which then works its way through the iceberg like a set of knives,” points out NASA glaciologist Kelly Brunt.
After traveling for more than 6,600 miles (10,000 kilometers) since it first broke off from the Ross Ice Shelf, the 18-year-old relic of the once mighty B-15 is likely about to meet its end near the Equator.
The chunk of ice now measures 50 square miles, which means it’s still big enough to for the National Ice Center to be able to monitor it. But it might soon melt into oblivion along with all the other bits and pieces that broke off from the original B-15 never to be heard of again.
While three more chunks of ice from the original B-15 still remain, it’s not certain for how long.
“Soon enough, the remainders of the largest iceberg we’ve ever seen will disappear,” notes the Huffington Post.
Live Science also shares a poignant message that, although sarcastic in tone, addresses a major underlying concern regarding the loss of Antarctic ice.
“B-15 will be missed. But its fans may take solace in knowing that, thanks to climate change, another ‘largest iceberg ever’ will probably break away soon enough.”