Our amazing planet.

Massive Greenland Iceberg Heads for Open Waters

Large iceberg drifts away from Petermann Glacier ice shelf in Greenland.
Greenland's Petermann Glacier ice shelf has given birth to a large iceberg, a July 21 satellite image shows. (Image credit: NASA.)

A massive iceberg that recently broke away from one of Greenland's largest glaciers is making its way downstream and toward the open ocean, a new satellite photo reveals.

The drifting island of ice split from the Petermann Glacier's ice shelf — the front end of a glacier, which hangs off the land and floats on the ocean.

The newly birthed berg is estimated to be about 46 square miles (120 square kilometers), and finally broke away from the floating tongue of ice on Monday, July 16, signaling that an ever-growing crack in the ice shelf first spied by satellites in 2001 had finally severed completely.

Satellite images taken on Saturday, July 21, show the large iceberg, with a curved edge where it broke from the ice shelf, is slowly moving down the fjord, a flotilla of far smaller bergs crowding in its wake.  

Scientists had been watching the inchoate iceberg for years, and predicted it would break away this summer.

In August 2010, a far larger iceberg — one about twice the size of the brand new berg — broke from the same Greenland ice shelf. A year later, in July 2011, a Manhattan-size remnant of the colossal iceberg was still roaming the northern seas, and was spotted near the coast of Newfoundland.

Follow OurAmazingPlanet for the latest in Earth science and exploration news on Twitter @OAPlanet. We're also on Facebook & Google+

Live Science Staff
For the science geek in everyone, Live Science offers a fascinating window into the natural and technological world, delivering comprehensive and compelling news and analysis on everything from dinosaur discoveries, archaeological finds and amazing animals to health, innovation and wearable technology. We aim to empower and inspire our readers with the tools needed to understand the world and appreciate its everyday awe.