World's Largest Iceberg Just Shifted off of Antarctica

It's about 80 times the size of Manhattan, approximately 1,668 square miles.
Fabienne Lang
The world's largest icebergESA

A huge iceberg calved off of the Ronne Ice Shelf and into the Weddell Sea, in Antarctica. The iceberg, called A-76, has just taken over as the world's largest iceberg, measuring approximately 1,668 square miles (4,320 square kilometers). 

This makes A-76 bigger than the Spanish island of Majorca, which measures around 1,405 square miles (3,640 square kilometers), it's just not quite as warm or as swarming with tourists. All in all, the iceberg is 105.6 miles (170 km) in length and 15.5 miles (25 km) wide.

The European Space Agency (ESA) reported the shift on May 19, detailing how the images of the enormous iceberg were captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission. 

The iceberg in question was discovered by the British Antarctic Survey, and was confirmed by the US National Ice Center.

Some of the world's largest icebergs

This shift gives A-76 precedence over the world's previously largest iceberg, A23A, which only gained its Guinness World Record title on January 8. A23A measured approximately 1,540 square miles (4,000 square kilometers) and is also located in Antarctica's Weddell Sea. 

Another recent iceberg larger than the size of Manhattan broke off from an ice shelf in Antarctica in January, measuring 490 square miles (1,270 square kilometers) but that one seems tiny in comparison to A-76 and A23A.

Neither A-76 nor A23A measure up to the largest reliably recorded iceberg to ever grace our seas. Back in 1956, that title went to a glacier that spanned a whopping 12,000 square miles (31,000 square kilometers) as it bobbed in the Southern Ocean.

It has to be noted, however, that back in 1956 there was no satellite photography to ascertain the exact width, size, or shape of such massive icebergs, and these estimates came from the crew of the USS Glacier ship, as the Guinness World Records explains.

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So even though today's A-76 might sound impressive, and it does, it isn't the largest block of ice to calve off of an ice shelf.

Other notable large icebergs were B-15 recorded in 2000 to be 4,250 square miles (11,007 square kilometers), A-38 that was 2,664 square miles (6,900 square kilometers) and found in 1998, and B-15A in 2002 that was 2,471 square miles (6,400 square kilometers), among others. 

Icebergs are named after the Antarctic quadrant they're originally found in, followed by a sequential number, and if the iceberg breaks, another sequential letter, explains ESA

A-75 is a tabular iceberg, which has the characteristic steep side slopes and flat top plateau, with a length to height ratio bigger than 5:1.

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