The world’s largest iceberg is closing in on a South Atlantic island and has the potential to cause major damage to wildlife if it becomes grounded near the island.
The “A68a” iceberg — which NASA estimates to be roughly the size of Delaware — broke off from the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica in 2017. Currently, it is making its way through the Southern Antarctic Front towards the island of South Georgia, according to the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.
The islands, roughly the size of Rhode Island, are a U.K. overseas territory about 800 miles southeast of the Falkland Islands. While there are scientific research bases located on the islands, it is an inhospitable environment and there are no permanent residents.
Government officials have been tracking the 4,200-square-km iceberg closely with the help of the British Royal Air Force, who conducted a reconnaissance mission over the iceberg capturing photos and videos of the large mass.
“The sheer size of the A68a iceberg means it is impossible to capture its entirety in one single shot,” British officials said in a statement.
As of now, the iceberg is just 150 kilometers from the territory, according to BBC News. If it does collide with South Georgia Island scientists warn that it could threaten the wildlife ecosystem and animals’ access to food. A large number of whales, seals, and penguins feed off the coast of South Georgia.
“Ecosystems can and will bounce back of course, but there’s a danger here that if this iceberg gets stuck, it could be there for 10 years. An iceberg has massive implications for where land-based predators might be able to forage,” said Professor Geraint Tarling, an ecologist at the British Antarctic Survey.
Based on water currents and weather conditions the iceberg is poised to strike the territory this month, according to the Royal Navy.