An iceberg measuring 492 feet thick and 490 square miles wide broke off the Brunt Ice Shelf on Friday, according to a press release from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). The section, which is taller than New York City, was divided near BAS’s Halley Research Station, which was closed for the season earlier this month.
The research station is likely not affected by the break. Researchers say the first sign of labor came last November when a rift known as the North Rift activated and opened into an abyss known as the Stancomb-Wills Glacier Tongue nearly 23 miles away.
“The iceberg formed when the crack widened several hundred meters in a few hours on the morning of February 26, freeing it from the rest of the floating ice shelf,” BAS said in a press release.
BAS COO Simon Garrod called the breakdown “a dynamic situation.” Three cracks have been detected over the course of a decade, including Halloween Crack and Chasm 1.
“Our job now is to closely monitor the situation and assess any potential impacts of the current delivery on the remaining ice shelf,” Garrod said in a press release.
Professor Dame Jane Francis, director of the British Antarctic Survey, said the team had been preparing for such an event for years, monitoring the movements and deformations of the Brunt Ice Shelf even when BAS is not at its Halley Research Station. Researchers stay at the station only in summer, as the winter months are dark and cold, making it difficult to observe.
Anyone can guess what the ice shelf will do next. “In the next few weeks or months, the iceberg could drift away or run aground and stay close to the Brunt Ice Shelf,” Francis added.