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|PICTURE AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE: These large, flat icebergs are called "Tabular Icebergs", and they
come from the famous ice shelves that break up. This one is fairly small for a tabular iceberg. I took
these pictures of them from a spot, which I think was maybe 110 feet, or a bit more, above the water (see
first picture below). Notice that you can see the top of that berg above, so it wasn't as tall. So I give it
anywhere from 75 ft to 100 ft above the water. The length of that image is a little less than eight and a
half times the height. So if 75 feet is the height, then it is about 630 feet long. Or, about 840 ft long if
the height is 100 ft. That is small -- these things can be miles long, and at least one was the size of
Connecticut. We didn't see the Connecticut one, which broke from an ice shelf in a different part of
Antarctica in an earlier year. We would have thought it was the mainland if we had seen it.
For someone else's exciting very close approach to an aging, highly weathered tabular iceberg, GO HERE.
NOAA's National Ice Center tracks the largest of the Antarctic icebergs. HERE IS a list with links to
satellite pictures. As I made this page, the largest one on the list was 53 by 30 nautical miles at a spot
just off the Antarctic coast directly south of India.
Iceberg facts from the National Snow and Ice Data Center HERE.
Ice Shelf facts and pictures also from the National Snow and Ice Data Center HERE. And there is a
longer article on them HERE with information about recent ice shelf breakup events.
Regarding where (and how high) I took these pictures from: Here is
our ship, the Amsterdam, a few days after cruising the Antarctic.
It is docked in Ushuaia, Argentina with the southern end of the
Andes mountain range all around. There is my spot (sometimes the
corresponding spot on the other side of the ship) marked with the
red arrow - on Deck 9. The lower row of windows near the water,
Deck 1, is the lowest one open to passengers, but there is enough
space below it and above the water for about three more decks. At
ten feet per deck (give or take), and 8 public decks below me, that
is 80 feet. Plus 30 more feet for the hidden 3 gives 110 feet.
Anyway,that is what I figured. Do you like arithmetic? Don't
worry. I won't have much more.
I took some pictures from lower down as well, especially from that deck with the boats (when I was trying
to get out of the wind) and from the open bow area ahead of the boats (when the wind wasn't a factor).
I took the 2 pictures just below from the boat deck. Notice the wind and waves in the right hand one.
You might also notice the icebergs towering above in these cases due to the low position of the camera.
|There is one of those
overturned bergs to the
left (Gallery 6). More
in an upcoming wind
gallery about that small
ship, the Corinthian II,
in front of the tabular
berg to the right.
Here is one of the larger tabular icebergs that I saw. There
is the whole thing in the upper picture, and the right end of it
in the lower picture. It was pretty far away.
As with the one at the top of the page, I took the picture from
the high deck, and I can see at least some of the top of the
berg. However, the top is not level, so I can't be sure
whether it is higher or lower than the deck I was on. I think
it was a little lower, and about the best I can do is make the
same estimate as at the top of this page of 75 ft to 100 ft
tall. This one is about 15.5 times longer than it is high. So at
75 ft high, it would be 1160 ft long, and at 100 ft high, it
would be 1550 ft long. That is between 0.2 and 0.3 miles.
It was not the longest one we saw. The crew reported one
aout 2 miles long, but I missed it, or if I saw it, I thought it
was an island.
Notice, in that picture just above,and in some of the others, that the waves often cut a groove in the
icebergs just above the waterline. Since the ice is being worn away, then the blue glacier ice underneath
is frequently exposed.
Many people will realize that all I needed was the distance to the icebergs and I could then do a better
job of figuring the size by using the distance and the field of view of my camera. But distances are very
confusing in a situation like this. Things tend to be farther that they look. Actually there was a radar
display that I could check, and I did from time to time. But there were so many icebergs on it that I
couldn't tell which was which. Sorry.
Here is an example of that display, which combines
radar with other sources of information (stored images
and data, GPS, etc.). The concentric red circles,
which are surrounded by green spots, give the ship's
position as it approaches Paulet Island. That is
Dundee Island at the top, and the green spots are
icebergs. Each unit on the scale to the left is a
nautical mile. The red line stretching toward Paulet
Island is the intended path, but we seem to have
changed course, probably due to that bunch of bergs.
That is most likely a good thing.
One minute after taking the above display picture, I took the one below on the left. Two minutes
after the display picture, I took the one below on the right . You tell me: Which spot is which berg?
(They told us that radar is not a reliable guide to icebergs.)
|The 2 low tabular bergs in the foreground are
probably the 2 closely spaced green spots just
ahead and to the left of the ship in the
display, but then what?
|These are probably too far away for the radar
to pick up. This picture is also in Gallery 6.
Just to point out how different types of iceberg get mixed together, here below are a couple of scenes
repeated from Gallery 6. On the left is one of those relatively smooth bergs that has probably rolled
over (the one that looks like a bell). On the right is the iceberg with blue stripes, maybe refrozen ice.
There are some others with blue stripes in the distance (maybe from the same glacier?)
In each case there is a big tabular iceberg in the distance.
In the pictures below, you see some partially eroded tabular icebergs. They tend to erode faster
above water than underwater leaving those protrusions around the base. The erosion has upset the
balance of the berg allowing it to lean thus exposing some of the part that was formerly underwater.
There is an explanation and a photo HERE from an expedition that studied eroding bergs. It is almost
all the way down the page after you take the link. They call that protrusion an "ice bench".
That same expedition followed several icebergs as they broke off of ice shelves and slowly drifted
north until they finally broke apart and melted. HERE is a summary of their research including a map
of the drift paths of 6 iceergs. The path is generally from either the Larsen Ice Shelf (1 of them) or
the Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf (5 of them) to the north past the Antarctic Sound (where we were) and on
north. None of these entered the precise area where we were, but the general direction of drift would
easily bring some bergs from ice shelves into this area.