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There are some strange things in nature. Tabular icebergs are one of them, and NASA's Operation Icebridge program recently posted an image that proves it.

There are some strange things in nature. Tabular icebergs are one of them, and NASA’s Operation Icebridge program recently posted an image that proves it. Image: NASA


The Inertia

There are some strange things in nature. Tabular icebergs are one of them, and NASA’s Operation Icebridge program recently posted an image that proves it. “From yesterday’s flight,” NASA wrote. “A tabular iceberg can be seen on the right, floating among sea ice just off of the Larsen C ice shelf. The iceberg’s sharp angles and flat surface indicate that it probably recently calved from the ice shelf.”

Larsen C gained some notoriety back in early 2016 when a giant crack appeared in it. Measuring in at just over 70 miles long and 300 feet wide, the rift extended downwards about half a mile. The Larsen Ice Shelf used to be comprised of three main shelves, Larsen A, Larsen B, and you guessed it, Larsen C. Larsen A, the smallest of the three, collapsed in 1995. Shortly after, in 2002, Larsen B began to fall apart, and researchers began to panic a little. And now Larsen C is going the way of the dodo, as well. Some two years after the crack was spotted, an iceberg of enormous proportions was created when Larsen C broke apart. The iceberg was somewhere in the neighborhood of a trillion tons, by far the largest ever recorded.

But how does an iceberg break off perfectly angled, you’re still wondering? Kelly Brunt, an ice scientist with NASA and at the University of Maryland, spoke with Live Science and said it’s a fairly common phenomenon that’s not unlike a fingernail growing too long and cracking off at the end. This can make the sheets of ice “rectangular and geometric.”

“So, here’s the deal,” she said. “We get two types of icebergs: We get the type that everyone can envision in their head that sank the Titanic, and they look like prisms or triangles at the surface and you know they have a crazy subsurface. And then you have what are called ‘tabular icebergs that are wide and flat, and long, like sheet cake.'” These are the long fingernails that grow and split off the ice shelves.

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“What makes this one a bit unusual is that it looks almost like a square,” Brunt said. The scientist thinks this thing is huge, a mile across and that the photo only shows about 10 percent of its mass. The rest is submerged beneath the deep, dark blue.