ESAs Envisat satellite was witness to the dramatic last days of what was once the worlds largest iceberg, as a violent Antarctic storm cracked a 160-km-long floe in two.
Another Envisat instrument known as MERIS acquired this optical image showing B-15A in the Ross Sea on 16 October 2003. The bottle-shaped iceberg can be seen centre. Below it is the Ross Ice Sheet from which the B-15 berg originated in March 2003. Left of B-15A is McMurdo Sound, location of US and New Zealand Antarctic bases.
Credits: ESA 2003
This ASAR image from 6 November 2003 clearly shows the split iceberg. The larger piece of B-15A retains the original name, while the other piece is called B-15J. Left of B-15A can be seen land - including the famous McMurdo Dry Valleys, and behind them the Transantarctic Mountains. Top of the picture is the floating Drygalski Ice Tongue, an example of ice draining from the David Glacier into the sea at a minimum rate of 150 metres a year.
Credits: ESA 2003
A series of Envisat Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) instrument images acquired between mid-September and October record how the bottle-shaped iceberg B-15A was split by the onslaught of powerful storms, waves and ocean currents as its own weight kept it fixed on the floor of Antarcticas Ross Sea.
ASAR is especially useful for polar operations because its radar signal can pierce thick clouds and works through both day and night. Radar imagery charts surface roughness, so can easily differentiate between different ice types. Old ice – as on the surface of B-15A – is rougher than newly formed ice.
Frédéric Le Gall | ESA
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