Between July 10 and 12, 2017, the Larsen C Antarctic ice shelf, which is now the largest iceberg in the world, the A68a, detached itself from the Antarctic ice shelf. Three years later, he is headed for the British Overseas Territory of South Georgia, home to millions of seals and penguins – and that could mean hunger and death for these species, especially the young.
If feeding routes to the sea are blocked, the animals will starve; in addition, the gigantic block of ice can run aground and end anchored on the island’s coast; colonies of marine animals on the ocean floor will be crushed.
“Ecosystems always recover, but if the iceberg gets stuck, it can stay there for a decade,” said glaciologist Geraint Tarling of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).
It is not the first colossus that heads towards South Georgia – the island, due to the sea currents that push the ice blocks towards it, is known as the cemetery of the largest icebergs in Antarctica, which end up stranding in the shallow part of continental shelf that surrounds it.
Now just a few hundred kilometers southwest of there, the A68a is hundreds of billions of tonnes, spread over 4,200 km2 and 200m thick – because it has little submerged area, it can float up to the shores of South Georgia.
“Penguins and seals, during the breeding period, have to walk to the coast to fetch fish and krill to feed them. If they have to make a big detour, they will not be able to return to their young in time to prevent them from dying. from hunger, “explained Tarling.
The island has already gone through a similar situation, when the equally colossal iceberg A38 followed the same route; thousands of penguin chicks and seals have been found starving to death in colonies and beaches in the region.