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Satellite snaps huge, penguin-killing iceberg

Size of Long Island

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An iceberg the size of Long Island is smashing into the continent of Antarctica. Caught by both the Terra and Aqua satellites heading straight for the Drygalski Tongue (the floating extension of the Drygalski Glacier), the iceberg looked set for a head-on collision. But at the last minute, just two and a half miles from the glacial tongue, it stopped, most likely grounded on a sandbank.

Iceberg B15a crashes into Antarctica. Source: NASA

At just over 80 miles long, the iceberg is playing havoc with the normal ocean currents that clear pack ice away from the antarctic shore in its summer months. The sea ice has remained intact well into January, adding tens of extra miles of marching for penguins, who need to get to the sea to find food for their chicks.

However, as the iceberg appeared to ground itself, there was a sudden break-up of the sea ice in the area (see picture). This does not mean the chicks are saved, however. Researchers had been worried the penguins would have to eat all the food they had gathered in order to survive the march home. This is less unlikely now that the ice has broken up, but the chicks are still imperilled.

The unusually persistent pack-ice also made it harder for icebreakers to reach the science base at McMurdo. ®

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