This Is What a Capsized Iceberg Looks Like

by Owen James Burke


Photographer Alex Cornell visited Antarctica in December by way of Drake’s Passage aboard a National Geographic research vessel, probably intending to photograph gargantuan snow-capped mountains, sea lions and penguins, but he probably didn’t expect to capture an upside-down iceberg. (Photo: Alex Cornell)

This specimen is relatively small, while larger icebergs — of 6, 7 or 8 miles long — can cause a tsunami simply by turning upside-down, easily capsizing a nearby vessel. According to research published in 2011 by Prof Justin Burton et al. of the University of Chicago, a large enough iceberg has the potential to release as much energy as an atomic bomb.


(Photo: Alex Cornell)

How does an iceberg turn upside-down? A young iceberg — that is, an iceberg freshly broken from a glacier — is the most likely to flip because they can be craggy, unshapely masses when they first reach the sea. Once in the water, apart from being subject to constant battery from wind and waves, they of course begin to melt, forming what are called melt ponds. Once a melt pond warms up enough, it forms fissures in the center and the iceberg can become top-heavy, at which point the iceberg may turn over.

Read more at Focus — OJB

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