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Matthew Lazzara
"It has now floated free from the Ross Ice Shelf"
 real 28k

David Vaughan, British Antarctic Survey
"It's certainly the largest in the last 10 or 15 years"
 real 28k

Thursday, 23 March, 2000, 13:32 GMT
World's biggest iceberg on the loose
Arrows show where the iceberg has broken free
By BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse

What could be the largest iceberg ever seen has just broken free from the Antarctic's Ross Ice Shelf.

This is a very big iceberg, close to a record if not a new record

Matthew Lazzara, Antarctic Meteorological Research Center
An image, taken from an altitude of 700km (435 miles) by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's NOAA-12 polar-orbiting satellite, has alerted scientists and mariners to the iceberg's birth.

It could be the largest ever seen at 295km (183 miles) long and 37km (23 miles) wide, with a surface area of 11,000 sq km (4,250 square miles) - similar in size to The Gambia, Qatar or The Bahamas.

Watching closely

Matthew Lazzara, a scientist at University of Wisconsin-Madison's Antarctic Meteorological Research Center, said: "This is a very big iceberg, close to a record if not a new record. It's not often that you see them of this magnitude."

Scientists will be keeping a close watch on the iceberg because, being big, it may have a long lifetime even if it drifts northwards to warmer waters.

A more likely fate is, however, that it will remain trapped in the currents around Antarctica and stay relatively close to the coast.

Although conditions over the iceberg are fairly cloud-free, scientists have little information about it at present. There is a possibility of a USAF aircraft flying out to the berg to gather more information.

British researchers say the process is entirely natural and is not due to global warming.

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See also:

07 Dec 99 | Sci/Tech
Antarctica's icy origins
16 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
Arctic sea ice gets thinner
02 Nov 99 | Sci/Tech
Armageddon in Antarctica
08 Apr 99 | Sci/Tech
Antarctic ice crumbling rapidly
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