NASA releases photo of weird rectangular iceberg

Operation IceBridge, NASA’s longest-running aerial survey of polar ice, carried a flight over the northern Antarctic Peninsula on Oct. 16, 2018. During the flight, IceBridge senior support scientist Jeremy Harbeck spotted two rectangular icebergs floating among sea ice just off of the Larsen C ice shelf.

Photo credit: NASA/Jeremy Harbeck, click for larger image.

Photo credit: NASA/Jeremy Harbeck, click for larger image.

“I thought it was pretty interesting; I often see icebergs with relatively straight edges, but I’ve not really seen one before with two corners at such right angles like this one had,” Harbeck said.

The rectangular iceberg appeared to be freshly calved from Larsen C, which in July 2017 released the massive A68 iceberg, a chunk of ice about the size of the state of Delaware.

“I was actually more interested in capturing the A68 iceberg that we were about to fly over, but I thought this rectangular iceberg was visually interesting and fairly photogenic, so on a lark, I just took a couple photos,” Harbeck said.

The flight originated from Punta Arenas, Chile, as part of a five-week-long IceBridge deployment, which began Oct. 10 and is scheduled to conclude Nov. 18.


106 thoughts on “NASA releases photo of weird rectangular iceberg

      • Hexagonal crystals form in ice-I (the most common form of ice) because the H2O molecules are hydrogen-bonded together into roughly cyclohexane chair conformations, an oxygen atom occupying the position of each carbon atom in cyclohexane, C6H12: see . Carbon atoms form 4 bonds each, at roughly tetrahedral angles (109.47 degrees). Since oxygen atoms form only 2 covalent bonds each, two of the 4 directions are to covalently bonded hydrogen atoms in an H2O molecule, and the other two directions are in longer “hydrogen bonds” to H atoms in other H2O molecules. Looked at along the C3 axis of symmetry, one sees hexagonal cross-sections, so the 120 degrees is not directly related to the H-O-H bond angle. In ice crystals, the 104.45 degree bond angle in a gas phase (isolated) molecule is opened up to around 106.6 degrees, not quite equal to the tetrahedral angle, so the hydrogen bonded atoms are not all on the same straight line as covalently bonded atoms (see ).

  1. Two right angles do not make a rectangle. Perhaps someone turned up the power on those ice-measuring lasers.

  2. This photo looks like its suffered from a bit of photo shopping to me.
    Took a look at the enlarged view of the nearside edge of this iceberg and the way this berg meets up with the other ice on the water surface just does not ring true to me. Maybe someone who used to seeing Arctic sea ice could tell me otherwise.

      • Maybe?
        ln the top photo there is a smaller ice berg in the bottom lefthand corner of the photo. Now that smaller ice berg fits in with the scene and looks true to life. Now if you compare that small berg ice to the large main one. Then the main ice berg just does not look right, its looking just far too neat and tidy to what would be expected in a real setting.

    • I’ve never seen anything like it.

      The thing I wonder about is that we can see only 1/10 of it. I wonder what it looks like below the water. Could it be a rectangular prism?

    • I’ve also never seen a piece of ice that big be that flat. It puts me in mind of a planned WW2 aircraft carrier made of ice. link

  3. There is nothing that this global warming will not stop at.
    Now it is rectangularising icebergs!!!

  4. If you look very closely you can see the Dutch tug that’s going to pull the slab to Arabia to supplement the fresh water supply. Or did I imagine that?

  5. If I was going to cut one off for towing to Saudi Arabia the lead end would have an equal point. Looks to me like they will waste too much energy dragging it to a desert.

    • I agree , it’s probably the Saudis that chopped it off and intend to throw if into a well in their back garden.

  6. The BBC, unable to wangle global-warming directly into the story, had to settle for describing it as “This particular ‘berg came from the crumbling Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula.”
    Like the Larsen C ice shelf hasn’t been crumbling at the edge since the very first day it formed.

  7. Wait long enough and weird things happen.

    There is no natural law that stops approximate rectangles from occurring so eventually they will.

  8. Well if a rectangular calved iceberg isn’t conclusive proof of CAGW and the power of the Magic Molecule, I don’t know what is! Maybe not just an ice shelf the size of Delaware breaking off, but Delaware itself breaking off and drifting out into the Atlantic?

  9. Perfect. All we need now is a biiiiig glass for the world’s biggest gin and tonic. Now where can we find a super-sized lemon?

    • Japanese tourists used to pay top dollar for 40,000 year-old ice, with ancient air released in each bubble burst, in their adult evening beverages in Alaska. But that might have been in a simpler time.

    • 5,800 square kilometers is the equivalent of a 76km square, or 50mile square.

      I thought that article was not bad for daily tabloid.

      • Were you thinking that figure referred to the tabular iceberg ? If so you should read more carefully before throwing insults.

        • Greg,
          Daily Mail also says: “She estimated its size to be about a mile wide.”
          And 1 mile x 1 mile is 5,800 square kilometers?
          I think the Daily Mail has a job wide open for you too 🙂

          • My conversion table says there are 2.58998811 square Kilometres to 1 square mile, which sounds about right to me.

          • As I’ve posted below the mile wide tabular berg is not the same as A-68 ice island which is ~5,800 sq km, but is believed to be a small fragment of it.

    • Yes they do, here’s what they said, apparently you didn’t understand it.
      “In early July 2017, a huge crack in Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf caused a massive iceberg to break free
      The huge chunk of ice, dubbed iceberg A-68 by scientists, measures 5,800 square kilometers
      NASA believe the new ‘monolith’ recently broke off the same shelf

      Here’s a video of A-68 breaking off you’ll notice some smaller rectangular fragments breaking off.

  10. The flight originated from Punta Arenas, Chile, as part of a five-week-long IceBridge deployment, which began Oct. 10 and is scheduled to conclude Nov. 18.​

    So the chilleans are deploying an ice bridge. How many more rectangular blocks are they going to need?

  11. Hello esteemed “experts”, this is not an iceberg, it is an ice island. Google it! The difference between the two is relatively minor but becomes important when commenting on its shape.

    Most ice island have geometric shapes with straight edges. By definition, they are flat-topped. This one is cute but not unexpected.

    • Not doubting the veracity of what you’re saying. I’m just commenting on what I can see on my screen. It’s the same as posing polar bears balancing on ice cubes.

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