Larsen C: NASA Has Found Another Weird Rectangle Iceberg

Icebergs don't often make international headlines, but an oddly perfect-looking and seemingly anomalous rectangular structure in the Antarctic did just that this week. But the iceberg wasn't that special after all, according to the photographer of the first image who has shared a second showing a similar object floating nearby.

The arm of NASA which documents ice tweeted an image of what is known as a "tabular iceberg" near the Larsen C ice shelf, off the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, on 17 October.

The curious photo was during taken a survey of region on October 16. Scientists were collecting evidence on whether the height of glaciers draining into Larsen A, B, and C has changed.

From yesterday's #IceBridge flight: 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.

— NASA Ice (@NASA_ICE) October 17, 2018

NASA Ice—the arm of the agency which documents the Earth's ice, snow and permafrost—snapped the image as part of Operation Ice Bridge. The team were assessing a separate huge A68 iceberg measuring the size of the state of Delaware that had broken off from Larcen C in July 2017.

NASA explained the rectangular iceberg had most likely recently broken off from the edge of the Larsen C ice shelf, in what is known as calving, causing it to have a strikingly flat surface and what appeared to be right-angled corners.

The tweet caused quite a stir and was retweeted over 11,000 times.

Referencing senior support scientist Jeremy Harbeck who snapped the image from an aircraft, NASA responded: "Wow, it's been amazing to see what a splash our photo of a tabular Antarctic iceberg, by #IceBridge's Jeremy Harbeck, has made."

NASA has since released a photo of a neighboring iceberg, whose edges are slightly wonkier.

NASA scientists Jeremy Harbeck said rectangular icebergs aren't as unusual as some might believe. NASA/Jeremy Harbeck

Harbeck later commented: "I thought it was pretty interesting; I often see icebergs with relatively straight edges, but I've not really seen one before with two corners at such right angles like this one had.

"I was actually more interested in capturing the A68 iceberg that we were about to fly over, but I thought this rectangular iceberg was visually interesting and fairly photogenic, so on a lark, I just took a couple photos," Harbeck said.

According to NASA, Operation IceBridge is the agency's longest-running aerial survey of polar ice.

The survey was part of a five-week-long IceBridge mission which launched from Punta Arenas, Chile, on October 10 and is expected to finish on November 18.