The Mertz Glacier | A glacier or a floating country?

Going on with the Glacier/Island/Storm conversation, we just found out some news that are indeed part of the conversation [even if the new Mertz Glacier doesn’t even know it is going to be mentioned here]. As reported by the Australian Antarctic Division:

A massive iceberg has just calved from the Mertz Glacier Tongue in East Antarctica. This calving event was detected by a joint French-Australian team working on a project called “CRACICE” (Cooperative Research into Antarctic Calving and Iceberg Evolution). The iceberg has an area of about 2550 square kilometers, an overall length of 78 kilometers, width of 33 to 39 km, and represents about half the length of the glacier tongue.

Making a brief research, we just found out that the scientific comunity has warned a year ago about the possibility of this event, and they commented at that time, in May 2009 that they [scientists] were unsure if the break up is a natural event or part of global warming. Also, what seems starnge and difficult to imagine, is that a glacier can became almost a new floating country due it’s size:


B9B approaches the Mertz Glacier tongue 7 January 2010


B9B makes contact 7 February 2010

The iceberg newly calved from the Mertz Glacier Tongue. The final separation did not simply occur along all the line of the two pre-existing rifts but sheared across some sections to produce a clean line. The iceberg is now turning about a point at its north-west corner which confirms our belief that is has been resting against a relatively shallow point of the sea-floor.


The Mertz Glacier tongue breaks off 20 February 2010

As reported on the press release, description of the calving event:

The Mertz Glacier flows into the ocean with a flux of 10 to 12 Gigatons of ice per year. The floating part of the glacier, which originally extended over 160km from the grounding line to the front, is now only 80km long. The glacier tongue which protruded 100+ km from the coastline is now about 20-25 km long. The new iceberg is 78 km long overall and 33 to 39 km wide with an average thickness of 400 m. The collision of bigger similarly large iceberg, designated B-9B, with the glacier tongue in early February apparently precipitated the calving event.

After remaining in roughly the same location for about 18 years, B-9B recently ungrounded and rotated to collide with the Mertz Glacier Tongue. The Mertz Glacier Tongue originates in a 60km long fjord and had extended a further 100km into the Southern Ocean. It advanced into the ocean at slightly more than 1 km per year. The new iceberg thus represents about 70 years of glacier advance.

Now, it makes us speculate about a new floating country that is able to re-shape of the local geography of the world. “Large icebergs always attract a lot of attention due to their scale,” observed Dr Michael Meredith from the British Antarctic Survey, and the Daily Mail reports that “any changes to currents would affect weather patterns around the world. Britain would become far colder without the mild sea water brought from the south west by the North Atlantic drift.” Can we refer to the new glacier as a temporary event that could somehow transform in to a new country?

Mason White quotes at his post Islands of Speculation/ Speculation on Islands: Spray Ice:

Islands fabricated from ice are becoming more prevalent as offshore oil speculation in the Arctic gains more interest. Ice has been a strategic building material in the Arctic for the construction of roads, airstrips, housing, and, in the last few decades, as temporary drilling platforms to explore for oil.

Maybe nature just wants to be part of these human actions [urban experiments] and we don’t need to spray ice into cold air or any artificial means and ice islands are just coming to us in a natural way as a new platforms of experimentation, to create new “cities on ice”.

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Recommended reading:
InfraNet Lab | Islands of Speculation/Speculation on Islands: Spray Ice
BLDGBLOG | The Architecture of Polar Ice Floes


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