In Brief

Penguin colony at risk as Somerset-sized iceberg bears down on British overseas territory

Several species face starvation if the icy giant blocks access to feeding grounds

An iceberg as large as Somerset is on a collision course with a British overseas territory that is home to thousands of penguins and seals.

The A68a iceberg, thought to be the largest in the world, “is now on a direct path to South Georgia”, an island of around the same size in the South Atlantic, The Telegraph reports. And “there’s a strong possibility the berg could now ground and anchor itself offshore of the wildlife haven”, posing a “grave threat” to local species, adds the BBC.

“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 ten years,” Professor Geraint Tarling of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) told the broadcaster.

That could prove disastrous for the island’s penguins and seals, because a “close-in iceberg has massive implications for where land-based predators might be able to forage”, he explained. During pup- and chick-rearing, the distance that the animals have to travel to find food, in the form of fish and krill, is of paramount importance.

“If they have to do a big detour, it means they’re not going to get back to their young in time to prevent them starving to death in the interim,” Tarling added. 

After South Georgia was hit by another iceberg back in 2004, “countless dead penguin chicks and seal pups were found on local beaches”, the BBC reports.

Other species are affected by such collisions too.

Dr. Andrew Fleming, also from the BAS, told The Independent that “it’s not just the impact on the animals that live on the island, but any iceberg grounding is scouring the seafloor”.

“You can see these massive scourings of the seafloor where the keel of the iceberg drags through, and of course, that’s not good news for any animals and the so-called benthos [the flora and fauna of the sea floor].”

Experts tracking the A68a are hoping that sea currents may push the frozen giant away from the island and into warmer waters further north where it would be likely to break up. 

Recommended

Oscars predictions 2021: who will win the top awards?
Nomadland stars Frances McDormand
In Depth

Oscars predictions 2021: who will win the top awards?

How the world reported the conviction of Derek Chauvin
A march through Minneapolis after the guilty verdict
Global lens

How the world reported the conviction of Derek Chauvin

‘Cheerio, cheerio, cheerio’
Today's newspaper front pages
Today’s newspapers

‘Cheerio, cheerio, cheerio’

Harry’s new job title means ‘penis’ in Japan
Prince Harry
Tall Tales

Harry’s new job title means ‘penis’ in Japan

Popular articles

What is Donald Trump doing now?
Donald Trump
In Depth

What is Donald Trump doing now?

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 21 April 2021
10 Downing Street
Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 21 April 2021

London mayoral race 2021: who will win?
Night Tube Sadiq Khan
In Depth

London mayoral race 2021: who will win?