Location of 100 icebergs near New Zealand known

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Wednesday, November 8, 2006

About 100 icebergs that are floating about 260 kilometers south of Stewart Island, New Zealand, were, according to the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research oceanographer Mike Williams, from A-43, a superberg that in May 2000 broke off from the Ronne Ice Shelf. The group of icebergs have traveled a total distance of 13,500 km.

The A-43 measured 167 km long and 32 km wide. But when it moved into Scotia Sea, southern Atlantic, in January 2005, it broke apart further then measuring 51 km long and 21 km wide, and had also gained a new name, A-43A. NIWA believes that the A-43A then travelled 13,500 km around Antarctica, landing near Auckland Islands and Stewart Island ending its journey. "Based on A-43A's last recorded position, and assuming it travelled the shortest possible route around Antarctica, we calculate an average speed of 0.9km/h or about 21.5 kilometres a day," Dr Williams said, "Somewhere along the way, A-43A has broken into smaller pieces."

The A-43A spent five years drifting east in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current.

The A-43A is now heading towards the Chatham Islands, passing Mid-Canterbury on the way.

Dr Williams said: "Despite its size, the monster berg is probably riddled with holes and catastrophic failure could see it "just fall to pieces" relatively quickly, Dr Williams said. The flotilla would probably drift about 300km up the east coast of the South Island before veering back out to sea." In the next ten days the icebergs could be visible from the Otago coast, "There is an outside chance they might be spotted from the mainland provided they broke up into smaller icebergs."