Square Iceberg Spotted by NASA Perplexes Millions

The seemingly perfect iceberg went viral after being showcased online by NASA, but researchers say it could be more normal than expected.
Shelby Rogers

There might not be a lot of right angles that naturally exist in nature, but that doesn't mean they can't exist. This iceberg photographed by NASA recently is proof enough of that. 

While precise right angles and rectangles aren't easy to spot in nature, this iceberg captured the attention of millions for its precision. The pictures were taken by researchers as part of the NASA Ice and Cryosphere Research program. 

The iceberg can be found in the Weddell Sea off the Larsen C ice shelf in the Antartic. According to NASA's estimates, it probably broke off from the Larsen C not too long ago, hence the perfect lines and little erosion.

While this pristine-looking iceberg might seem rare to the general public, NASA researchers aren't too surprised. They even noted that sheet-like icebergs are pretty common. 

NASA ice scientist and the University of Maryland professor Kelly Brunt explained why the iceberg looks the way it does.

"So, here's the deal," Brunt told Live Science. "We get two types of icebergs: We get the type that everyone can envision in their head that sank the Titanic, and they look like prisms or triangles at the surface and you know they have a crazy subsurface. And then you have what are called 'tabular icebergs.'"


Tabular icebergs have a flat top and crack off from the end of an ice sheet with a clean, flush edge. However, Brunt recommended not walking on tabular icebergs. She said it's still a small enough iceberg to crack or break further at any moment. 

More about NASA's ice initiative

NASA's Cryosphere Research initiative might be one of the coolest -- yet underrated -- elements to the organization. It exists to track and monitor changes in inhospitable and inaccessible areas of the globe due to ice and cold. 

Most Popular

"Increases in ice loss from the glaciers of Antarctica, Greenland, and the rest of the Arctic are contributing to sea level rise, while similarly dramatic changes are occurring in the sea ice cover of the Arctic and Southern Oceans," the group explained in a statement. "Characterizing these changes and understanding the processes controlling them is required to improve our understanding of the Earth system and forecast the impacts of continued change."

The NASA ice researchers have a variety of spacecraft available to them for monitoring purposes, including ICESat and GRACE.