Arctic/Antarctic

RAF Releases Footage Of World's Biggest Iceberg

The A68a iceberg is currently moving through the Southern Antarctic Front and towards the island of South Georgia.

The Royal Air Force has released footage of the world's biggest iceberg.

An A400M Atlas reconnaissance aircraft from British Forces South Atlantic Islands (BFSAI) was able to capture the cracks and fissures within the main body of the iceberg, known as A68a.

One of the largest recorded icebergs, A68a is roughly the size of Somerset and has a surface area of approximately 4,200 sq km.

It is currently travelling through the Southern Antarctic Front and heading towards the south Atlantic island of South Georgia.

The iceberg is both wider and longer than the British Overseas Territory.

It has already entered the Marine Protected Area which surrounds South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, sparking concerns regarding the threat it could pose to wildlife.

Weighing hundreds of billions of tonnes, A68a is the largest section of an iceberg which calved from the Larsen C Ice Shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula in July 2017.

The size of the iceberg meant it was impossible to capture it in its entirety in one single shot. 

Squadron Leader Michael Wilkinson, Officer Commanding 1312 Flt, said: "905 EAW proudly dispatched our Airbus A400M to collate data in support of the ongoing efforts to understand the behaviour and potential effects of A68a.

"Guided by the satellite tracking, the A400M can get under the weather and closer to the iceberg, enabling more detailed observations.

"I know I speak on behalf of all of the crew involved when I say this is certainly a unique and unforgettable task to be involved in," he added. 

Unlike other icebergs, A68a is considered unusually thin, with its submerged depth presumed to be no more than 200 metres, meaning it has the potential to drift near South Georgia’s coast prior to any grounding.

A400M crew members and an officer from the Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) were also able to identify ice debris in the surrounding waters.

Large amounts of A68a iceberg is disintegrating into growlers – very small chunks of floating ice that rise only about one metre out of the water – and brash ice, small, floating fragments of ice. 

This poses a threat to the Royal Navy’s own HMS Forth and the GSGSSI's vessels, which regularly conduct fishery patrols and surveillance in the surrounding waters.

A68a is one of the largest recorded icebergs ever and is travelling towards the island of South Georgia (Picture: MOD).

The data collected by A400M reconnaissance has been shared with both GSGSSI and the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) who are following the progress of A68a.

The aircraft also helped provide imagery of the A68a and surrounding waters for observers and scientists to study. 

The photographs, video footage and visual observations will assist in predicting the iceberg’s future behaviour and ascertaining the scale of its threat to the local area.

The iceberg would have usually attracted the attention of the numerous cruise ships in the Southern Ocean during the summer. 

However, cruise ship traffic has been negligible this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.