A-68a, the largest iceberg of the world, may be a few days away from crashing into South Georgia island's Antarctic wildlife refuge, and scientists are already preparing for the aftereffects.

British Antarctic Survey or BAS, which has followed the iceberg for months, specifies that a pair of refrigerator-sized robots is soon shipping out for South Georgia to examine the underwater impacts of the looming collision.

According to a BAS statement, the said twin submarines, each with a measurement of roughly five feet long and remotely operated, will spend nearly four hours pulling together data on seawater temperature, "salinity and clarity" from the iceberg's opposite sides.

For a long time now, scientists have known that a direct hit from more than 5,000 square-kilometer berg could barricade marine feeding routes for millions of seals and penguins, possibly resulting in mass starvation of animals on the island.

However, there are more unclear environmental effects that can be investigated only from the sea. For instance, scientists are figuring out what happens when a trillion-ton iceberg begins to emit enormous amounts of fresh water into a flourishing saltwater ecosystem.

Science Times – The UK to Send Robotic Submersibles to Watch the Largest Iceberg of the World Crash into South Georgia Island
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)
Location of A68-A iceberg on 2020-12-08, as seen by Sentinel-1 radar satellite.

Rapid Change in the Environment

According to BAS ecologist Geraint Tarling, animals and plants will face a rapid change in their environment.

"Animals and plants are ... going to be faced with an instantaneous change in their environment," Geraint Tarling, an ecologist with BAS, said in a video included in the statement.

Specifically, the ecologist added, native plants might be able to grow as well, and that would mean there is "not as much food available for zooplankton and krill," which are then the penguins and seals' food. And thus, the entire ecosystem might cease from flourishing.

Gizmodo report said the robots would help Tarling and his team follow such changes as they are taking place, with the hope that they'd be allowed to predict long-term changes to the ecosystem of the island.

Iceberg, Moving Clockwise

The said report also specified that A68a "broke free from Antarctica's Larsen C Ice Shelf in 2017." More so, it has reportedly been drifting aimlessly from then on.

The last figures showed, the iceberg presently measures 3,900 square kilometers in area and 140 kilometers long.

The iceberg's huge scale is painfully obvious in satellite images, as it can now be viewed adjacent to the island.

This world's largest iceberg is not very thick, with a measurement of roughly 650 feet or 200 meters in depth, matching some of the shallower areas along the shelf of the island.

And, for the last couple of days, the iceberg's shape was similar to a pointing fever and had been moving clockwise. Meanwhile, the object's norther, wider end looks like it has "drifted over the shelf and into the shallow waters."

Fears of Being Grounded

As NASA's Earth Observatory reported, scientist Klaus Strubing, from the International Ice Charting Group said he "fears the iceberg may be grounded."

As of late last week, parts of A68a are in waters gauging just about 250 feet or 76-meters deep. And or NASA Earth Observatory, only time will tell if this iceberg is going to remove itself onto the shelf, or if the complex ocean currents of the region is going to carry it back "out to the sea and around the island."

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