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Iceberg Collision Forces Redraw of Antarctic Maps

Another crack already appears in this close-up of Drygalski ice tongue taken April 15, 2005 image. (Image credit: ESA)

An iceberg that collided with Antarctica has broken a piece of the continent off, forcing maps of the bottom of the world to be redrawn, European scientists said today.

The iceberg, named B-15A, is whopping 71 miles (115 kilometers) long. Scientists predicted an imminent collision back in January. Instead, the iceberg ran aground and stalled out. Then it broke free last month.

Now it has finally collided with the continent's Drygalski ice tongue and smacked a city sized chunk of it into the ocean.

The frigid carnage is visible in a new satellite image from the European Space Agency (ESA). The picture was taken April 15 and released today.

The Drygalski ice tongue sticks out into the McMurdo Sound on the Ross Sea and figures into maps of the region. The tongue is about 44 miles (70 kilometers) long. Or at least it was.

The broken-off piece is about 3 miles (5 kilometers) long.

B-15A is the largest chunk left of a bigger iceberg, known as B-15, that broke off the Ross Ice Shelf in March 2000. That initial frozen hunk was about the size of Jamaica. After B-15 broke apart, the chunk named B-15A drifted into McMurdo Sound, where it blocked ocean currents and caused other sea ice to build up, threatening wildlife.

More collisions between the iceberg and Drygalski are possible, the scientists said.

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Robert Roy Britt
Rob was a writer and editor at Space.com starting in 1999. He served as managing editor of Live Science at its launch in 2004. He is now Chief Content Officer overseeing media properties for the sites’ parent company, Purch. Prior to joining the company, Rob was an editor at The Star-Ledger in New Jersey, and in 1998 he was founder and editor of the science news website ExploreZone. He has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University in California.