Mysterious 'perfectly rectangular' iceberg breaks off Antarctica

Rob Waugh
Contributor
It’s a natural phenomenon, scientists say (NASA)

It looks so perfect that it seems Photoshopped – but a strange perfectly rectangular iceberg near Antarctica is a natural phenomenon, NASA scientists say.

The mysterious slab-like iceberg, up to a mile wide, was spotted near the Larsen C ice shelf, and the sharp angles hint that it broke off very recently.

It’s described as a ‘tabular iceberg’ – with steep sides and a flat top, typically formed by ‘snapping off’ from an ice shelf, experts say.

Many of the largest icebergs on record have formed this way.


‘Tabular’ icebergs have steep sides and a flat top (Archive photo)

NASA said, ‘A tabular iceberg can be seen on the right, floating among sea ice just off of the Larsen C ice shelf.

‘The iceberg’s sharp angles and flat surface indicate that it probably recently calved from the ice shelf.’

Icebergs can form in different geometric shapes (NASA)

NASA scientists captured the image on an IceBridge flight, an airborne survey of polar ice.

NASA scientist Kelly Brunt told LiveScience, ‘’What makes this one a bit unusual is that it looks almost like a square.

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Last year, the iceberg A-68 broke off Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf after years of cracks spreading across the ice.

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 the European Space Agency wrote in September, ‘Sea ice to the east and shallow waters to the north kept this giant berg, named A68, hemmed in.

‘So for more than a year it wafted to and fro, but never left its parent ice shelf’s side. Strong winds blowing from Larsen C have finally given it the push it was waiting for.
In early September 2018, these winds pushed the southern end of the berg out into the Weddell Gyre.

‘This clockwise drift of ocean waters and sea ice flowing north past the Larsen shelf, which can be seen in the animation as a flow from right to left, has rotated A68 out into the Weddell Sea.
‘Here it is freer to float away and be carried further north into warmer waters.’