Last week, NASA spotted a strange block of ice drifting on the Southern Ocean: it is in the shape of a parallelepiped, with perfectly defined angles. It is actually a ‘tabular iceberg’, a heap of frozen water more than a kilometre and a half wide.
It is a well-known fact that the ‘square’ fish sticks found in the frozen foods aisle come from the icy waters of Antarctica... Well, it's in the same mold - a rectangular parallelepiped without the slightest defect - that an iceberg seems to have been formed!
Spotted last week on images from the IceBridge mission, this ‘unidentified floating object’ has an unusual geometry. Just like fish sticks, the visible part of the iceberg is also in the form of a parallelepiped. All things considered, of course.
Its size is still undetermined
This block of frozen water drifting on the surface of the ocean seems huge, even if its exact size has not yet been evaluated - probably a little over a kilometre and a half wide. According to NASA, it belongs to a specific family: tabular icebergs, gigantic ice masses that can reach an area of several thousand square kilometres.
Exploding in an environment made of a chaotic cluster of ice cubes with very irregular angles, this type of iceberg is indeed the fruit of nature. It is the result of a very specific formation process of ice barriers, as Kelly Brunt of the University of Maryland, USA explained on the LiveScience website: ‘It is almost like a fingernail that has grown too much, and breaks off at the end.’
The result is a perfectly straight piece of ice with vertical walls and a surface that is almost horizontal. In a message posted on social networks, NASA reveals the origin of this strange ice block: ‘The sharp angles of the iceberg and its flat surface indicate that it has probably recently detached from the ice barrier Larsen C’, an icy expanse consisting of three distinct portions distributed on the eastern coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.
But, ice hockey fans, beware: despite its resemblance to a floating skating rink, this vast tabular expanse would not be the best for that purpose... ‘Even if the mass of the iceberg is considerable, I would not advise to walk on it. It would probably not turn over, but it is relatively [thin] enough to be unstable and collapse at any time,’ warns Kelly Brunt.
It is therefore better - if you want to avoid an ice-cold misadventure - just to observe this visible part (probably about 10% of the iceberg) at a good distance; quite an easy thing to do thanks to the IceBridge mission images. Stay away from this frozen parallelepiped, which warning we also extend for... fish sticks, which are sometimes deviously stuffed with fish bones! An accident can happen so quickly...