A 1,668 square mile mass of ice designated A-76 has broken off of the Ronne Ice Shelf in Antarctica. Larger than Long Island (1,401 square miles) and similar in shape, the gigantic slab's trajectory is unknown at this time. Other large icebergs that have detached from the South Pole have not left mother Antarctica. One, dubbed B15, that calved 20 years ago is still in the continent's vicinity and another has not moved for 33 years. The expectation for A-76 is that if it does voyage northward, waves, warmer waters and its own meltwater will cause it to break apart.
Scientists were not surprised that the A-76 wanted to leave home and break out on its own. Tensions within the Ronne Ice Shelf family have been visible with crevasses and fractures, but what specific chain of events or argument that set off A-76 to turn its back on the larger mass and skip town is unknown. The ability to know when "calving" will occur is still a mystery.
Christopher Readinger, the lead analyst for the USNIC's Antarctic team, said the break was "not unexpected … but it did come out of the blue, sort of."
That's because icebergs breaking off of larger ice masses — or "calving," as experts call it — is generally unpredictable, and crevasses aren't always an indicator that something's about to happen, Readinger told HuffPost on Thursday.
"We could watch them for years and they won't do anything and elsewhere there will be this perfectly solid ice shelf that will suddenly collapse unexpectedly," he said.
A-76 has been quiet about its plans for the future but in the past had mentioned dreams of moving out west and starting a surf shop and just chillin' with friends.