Scientists are currently monitoring an iceberg, one of the largest now in existence, that has broken off from an Antarctic glacier and is heading into the open ocean, reports state. NASA glaciologist Kelly Brunt said the iceberg covers about 255 square miles and is up to a third of a mile thick. Known as B31, the iceberg separated from Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier last November.

"It's one that's large enough that it warrants monitoring," Brunt said in a statement, noting that US government organisations including the National Ice Centre keep an eye on dozens of icebergs at any given time. Fortunately, the iceberg's present location is not in an area heavily navigated by ships and other vessels. "There's not a lot of shipping traffic down there," she added. "We're not particularly concerned about shipping lanes. We know where all the big ones are."

Image courtesy of Maritime Executive

With more and more superyachts travelling to unusual destinations such as Antarctica, The Crew Report contacted Ben Lyons, chief executive officer of EYOS Expeditions, to find out if captains and crew intending on cruising in the area should be taking note of this information. "At the moment, this particular iceberg shouldn't be too much of a concern for yachts planning on visiting the Antarctica,” reassures Lyons. “It currently lies well outside normal cruising grounds for yachts and, of course, the season is still more than six months away. Also, the iceberg is so large that it will be readily apparent on radar."

The greatest danger, Lyons reveals, is with pieces that break off the iceberg - particularly smaller bits that are harder to detect in an ocean swell. "As always, vigilance, local knowledge (including ice pilots and expedition leaders experienced in typical Antarctic conditions) and pre-planning are necessary when undertaking an expedition to Antarctica," Lyons adds. "Conditions can change quickly in the polar regions, and with little infrastructure and support available, yachts need to be completely prepared for all types of conditions."

"Conditions can change quickly in the polar regions, and with little infrastructure and support available, yachts need to be completely prepared for all types of conditions."

The glacial crack that created the iceberg was first detected in 2011, according to Brunt, a scientist with NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre and Morgan State University in Maryland. Pine Island Glacier has been closely studied over the past two decades because it has been thinning and draining rapidly and may be an important contributor to sea level rise, reports say.

Scientists say the iceberg has floated across Pine Island Bay, a basin of the Amundsen Sea, and will likely be swept up soon in the swift currents of the Southern Ocean. "We are doing some research on local ocean currents to try to explain the motion properly. It has been surprising how there have been periods of almost no motion, interspersed with rapid flow," iceberg researcher Grant Bigg of the University of Sheffield in England said in a statement from NASA Earth Observatory.

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