Saturday, December 12, 2009

Iceberg a 'once-in-a-lifetime' sighting

A giant iceberg - 19km long - drifting towards Western Australia has been hailed as a once-in-a-lifetime rarity for both its size and the length of its journey.

The iceberg, known as B17B, is currently 1,700km from Australia's west coast on a lengthy and laborious journey from Antarctica.

It is one of the biggest icebergs ever seen in that part of the world and has amazed scientists for having maintained its impressive size without breaking apart.

"It's very rare, uncommon, but not unusual," Australian Antarctic Division glaciologist Dr Neal Young told AAP on Wednesday.

"Icebergs do come from time to time and they can be very big, but it can be a long time before we spot one - so it's really a once-in-a-lifetime sighting."

Originally three-times its current size, the iceberg broke off Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf in 2000 along with a slew of others.

The iceberg has since travelled thousands of kilometres and a third of the way around Antarctica thanks to ocean currents and winds.

It stayed completely still in one spot for about five years.

As it makes its way slowly north towards Australia, the iceberg is likely to split into smaller pieces as it gets closer - if it comes this way at all, Dr Young said.

Dr Young originally spotted the iceberg using satellite images from NASA and the European Space Agency.

The iceberg is 19km by 8km, equating to an area of 140 square kilometres - roughly double the size of Sydney Harbour.

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