Just when the excitement was beginning to die down about NASA’s discovery of what appeared to be a perfectly square or squared-off or rectangular or parallelogram (none quite fit) iceberg, the space agency released a second set of pictures showing a second box or sheet-cake-shaped berg not far from the first. The new photos also show one of the world’s largest iceberg in the background, indicating they may all have been calved by the same ice shelf. Or was it aliens?
“I was actually more interested in capturing the A68 iceberg that we were about to fly over, but I thought this rectangular iceberg was visually interesting and fairly photogenic, so on a lark, I just took a couple photos.”
This time, NASA tried to avoid any conspiracy theories by allowing the photographer of the icebergs, senior support scientist Jeremy Harbeck of Operation IceBridge, to comment on what the crew saw as they flew over the northern Antarctic Peninsula on October 16 while surveying the Larsen A, B and C ice shelves for changes in glaciers that would show the impact of climate change. While these tabular icebergs (they could actually be cubes since only 10 percent of their mass is above water) are rare (two together is extremely rare), they’re not unheard of, says Harbeck.
“I thought it was pretty interesting; I often see icebergs with relatively straight edges, but I’ve not really seen one before with two corners at such right angles like this one had.”
Nor had anyone else, judging by the amount of attention the pictures of the first tabular icebergs received on the Internet. As Harbeck pointed out, the berg he was really interested was A68 in the background. That one broke off of the Larsen C Ice Shelf in July 2017, reducing its size by 12 percent. Its surface area has been compared to one Delaware or two Luxembourgs, depending on which side of the Atlantic one lives, and weighed one trillion ton. It’s still close to that size, but that will change as it moves away, melts down and raises coastal waters around the world as it follows its predicted meandering path to South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands in the southern Atlantic Ocean.
Of course, big is not as interesting as perfectly rectangular, so the small (possibly a mile across) but boxy bergs get the attention. Since Antarctic scientists rarely get this kind of publicity, Harbeck is undoubtedly looking for more unusual ice as this phase of Operation IceBridge continues through November 18.
For those who still refuse to believe NASA, why would aliens spend time cutting ice into geometric shapes? Boredom? Trying out new laser weapons? Video game player busted?