Icebergs head from Antarctica for New Zealand

Nov 24, 2009 By RAY LILLEY , Associated Press Writer
In this Nov. 16, 2009 photo released by the Australian Antarctic Division, an iceberg is seen at Sandy Bay on Macquarie Island's east coast, in the Southern Ocean 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) southeast of Tasmania, Australia. It is very rare to see icebergs from Macquarie Island and is uncommon to find icebergs in this general region. (AP Photo/Australian Antarctic Division, Eve Merfield)

(AP) -- Ships in the south Pacific Ocean have been alerted that hundreds of icebergs believed to have split off Antarctic ice shelves are drifting north toward New Zealand, officials said Tuesday.

The nearest one, measuring about 30 yards (meters) tall, was 160 miles (260 kilometers) southeast of New Zealand's Stewart Island and was part of a "flotilla" of icebergs that can be seen on satellite images, Australian glaciologist Neal Young said.

The alert comes three years after cold weather and favorable ocean currents saw dozens of icebergs float close to New Zealand's southern shores for the first time in 75 years.

New Zealand maritime officials have issued navigation warnings for the area south of the country.

"It's an alert to shipping to be aware these potential hazards are around and to be on the lookout for them," Maritime New Zealand spokeswoman Sophie Hazelhurst said.

No major shipping lanes or substantial fishing grounds are in the area, but most ships there have little hull protection if they collide with an iceberg - which typically has 90 percent of its mass under water.

On Monday, Rodney Russ, expedition leader on the tourist ship Spirit of Enderby, spotted a 500-foot-long (150-meter-long) about 60 miles (100 kilometers) northeast of Macquarie Island and heading north - about 500 miles (800 kilometers) south of New Zealand. Australian scientists reported another mass of 20 icebergs drifting north past Macquarie Island two weeks ago.

Young said showed the group of icebergs, spread over a sea area of 600 miles by 440 miles (1,000 kilometers by 700 kilometers), moving on ocean currents away from Antarctica. One of the images alone had 130 icebergs and another had 100, he said.

Large numbers of icebergs last floated close to New Zealand in 2006, when some were visible from the in the first such sighting since 1931.

It is rare for whole icebergs to drift so far north before melting, but a cold snap around southern New Zealand and favorable ocean currents have again combined to push the towering visitors to the region intact.

Icebergs are formed as the ice shelf develops. Snow falls on the ice sheet and forms more ice, which flows to the edges of the floating ice shelves. Eventually, pieces around the edge break off.

Young said that having the icebergs end up near New Zealand is not necessarily linked to global warming, but said that the rate of icebergs breaking off the Antarctic ice shelf in recent years may have increased due to dramatically rising temperatures on the continent over the past 60 years.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Remnants of Tropical Depression Peipah still raining on Philippines

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Iceberg crashes into Drygalski Ice Tongue

Apr 08, 2006

An iceberg, C-16, rammed into the Drygalski Ice Tongue, a large sheet of glacial ice in Antarctica, breaking off a huge block and forming a new iceberg.

Speed matters for ice-shelf breaking

Nov 27, 2008

It won't help the Titanic, but a newly derived, simple law may help scientists improve their climate models and glaciologists predict where icebergs will calve off from their parent ice sheets, according to a team of Penn ...

Ice Bridge Supporting Wilkins Ice Shelf Collapses

Apr 08, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- An ice bridge connecting the Wilkins Ice Shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula to Charcot Island has disintegrated. The event continues a series of breakups that began in March 2008 on the ice ...

Icebergs break away from Antarctic iceshelf

Apr 28, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Satellite images show that icebergs have begun to calve from the northern front of the Wilkins Ice Shelf - indicating that the huge shelf has become unstable. This follows the collapse three ...

Recommended for you

Warm US West, cold East: A 4,000-year pattern

1 hour ago

Last winter's curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A University of Utah-led study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, ...

New study outlines 'water world' theory of life's origins

3 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Life took root more than four billion years ago on our nascent Earth, a wetter and harsher place than now, bathed in sizzling ultraviolet rays. What started out as simple cells ultimately transformed ...

Agriculture's growing effects on rain

Apr 15, 2014

(Phys.org) —Increased agricultural activity is a rain taker, not a rain maker, according to researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and their collaborators at the University of California Los ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

GrayMouser
not rated yet Nov 26, 2009
the first such sighting since 1931

The 1930s were warmer than 1998 (much less now) and it is approaching summer down under.

More news stories

Warm US West, cold East: A 4,000-year pattern

Last winter's curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A University of Utah-led study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, ...

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

ESO image: A study in scarlet

This new image from ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals a cloud of hydrogen called Gum 41. In the middle of this little-known nebula, brilliant hot young stars are giving off energetic radiation that ...

First direct observations of excitons in motion achieved

A quasiparticle called an exciton—responsible for the transfer of energy within devices such as solar cells, LEDs, and semiconductor circuits—has been understood theoretically for decades. But exciton movement within ...

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.