World’s Biggest Iceberg, A68a, On Collision Course With South Georgia In South Atlantic Ocean

The western edge of the famed iceberg A-68 (TOP R), calved from the Larsen C ice shelf, is seen from NASA's Operation IceBridge research aircraft, near the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula region
Mario Tama / Getty Images

The world’s largest iceberg, named A68a, is approaching South Georgia and could ground offshore. The collision would adversely affect the animals that inhabit the Atlantic island.

The BBC reported that the penguins and seals on the isle could suffer as their usual foraging routes would be blocked by A68a and would prevent the animals from feeding their young. Any animals living on the seabed would also be crushed by the iceberg.

The giant block of ice weighs billions of metric tons and is estimated to be the same size as the British Overseas Territory, measuring roughly 2,609 square miles with a depth of 218 yards.

Professor Geraint Tarling from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) explained the adverse effects the iceberg could have if it grounds near the island.

“Ecosystems can and will bounce back of course, but there’s a danger here that if this iceberg gets stuck, it could be there for 10 years. And that would make a very big difference, not just to the ecosystem of South Georgia but it’s economy as well.”

The giant iceberg broke from Antarctica in 2017 and has been drifting through “iceberg alley” in the Atlantic ever since. It is now just a few hundred miles from the British Overseas Territory.

In 2004, the A38 iceberg anchored near the island and many penguin chicks and seal pups were found dead on local beaches.

African Rock Hopper Penguins stand on rocks at Boulders Beach on June 6, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa.
  Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

Professor Tarling and other BAS researchers are attempting to study the giant A68a iceberg, so they can understand the implications it may have on the local wildlife and fishing industry if it anchors.

However, there would be some natural benefits if the iceberg does run aground, such as large volumes of dust that can fertilize ocean plankton, which could positively impact the entire food chain.

Satellite imagery shows the mass of ice is on a direct course toward the archipelago, but there is a possibility it will avoid impact depending on the regional currents. BAS remote-sensing and mapping specialist Dr. Peter Fretwell believes mapping the exact course is difficult.

“The currents should take it on what looks like a strange loop around the south end of South Georgia, before then spinning it along the edge of the continental shelf and back off to the northwest. But it’s very difficult to say precisely what will happen,” he said.

Although satellite imagery can help predict natural events on Earth, the future of the technology may be under threat. As the Inquisitr reported earlier this year, satellites in space could break if pieces of debris orbiting the Earth come into contact with them.