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Huge Iceberg Falling Apart as It Drifts Away From Antarctica

Ice Shots

It's one of the grand wonders of the world, and it's eroding before our eyes.

A23a, billed as the largest iceberg in existence right now, is falling apart as it slowly drifts away from Antarctica towards relatively warmers waters, the BBC reports.

Photographers on a ship run by travel company EYOS captured spectacular photos of the iceberg on Sunday, revealing that large waves have sculpted dramatic caverns, arches, and flying buttresses into the edges of the frozen leviathan, which measures at a hefty 1,500 squares miles in area and at points as tall as a skyscraper, the BBC reports.

"It's mind-bogglingly big," EYOS videographer Richard Sidey told the BBC. "I actually don't think we can fathom just how big it is; we can only know how big it is from science. It's certainly too big to photograph. It stretches as far as you can see in both directions."

Getting Warmer

A23a had broken off Antarctica's Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf back in 1986 and then immediately became stuck in the sea floor. The first hint of movement away from its icy prison was picked up back in 2020, but it really started moving quickly late last year, with strong ocean currents and fierce winds pushing it along.

Is the iceberg moving due to climate change? After all, the Earth's southernmost continent is undergoing dramatic changes due to global warming — leading to record falls in sea ice cover and scores of dead Emperor Penguin chicks.

Scientists have said A23a's breakaway is part of the natural glacier cycle at Antartica, where calving icebergs play a role in seeding the ocean with vital nutrients.

But they still see the calving of gigantic icebergs like A23a as a terrible harbinger of things to come due to global warming.

"The Antarctic used to be seen as this sleeping giant, nothing was happening," said University of Exeter's professor of sustainability Gail Whiteman to CNBC back in December. "It was just big and really cold — that’s my non-scientific way of saying it. And now it’s clear based on the sea ice that it is actually destabilizing."

More on icebergs: The Word’s Largest Iceberg is on the Move