What made the deepest impression in my mind and soul in Antarctica, the very edge of the world, are not the wonderful animals and birds i saw but the starkness and the raw beauty of the landscape…and the breathtaking spectacle of some truly magnificent Ice-Bergs!! These mighty creations of Mother Nature…crafted and sculpted by the raw power of the elements of Antarctica touched me and mesmerised me beyond words…i came back even more humble than before about the immense Beauty, Scale and Power of Mother Nature.
Just gaze at these Gods of Antarctica and simply admire them…of course, you can never get a true idea of the ‘atmosphere’ in which they exist and their real scale..but this is the best i can do to ‘convey’ what i went through and felt…(please double click on the images..)
The first big Ice-Berg we saw..as we we approaching the White Continent itself..off the Weddell Sea.They come in all kinds of sizes and beautiful shapes.
This is one Colossus…a ‘tabular’ Ice-Berg, probably 150 metres across !
This Beauty loomed out of the mist one late evening…she was….GIGANTIC !! Probably 30-40 metres tall!! Typically only 1/8th of the height of the Ice-berg is visible…you can simply imagine how big this one was beneath the surface of the ocean !!
Another view of The Beauty….i was dumb-struck by her sheer presence…and kept watching her from the deck until i almost froze myself..from the cold Antarctic winds !!
As these Giant Ice-Bergs melt in the Antarctic summer…they trigger a whole chain of bio-chemical events in the surrounding waters…the amount of fresh water which is discharged itself creates a mini-ecosystem around them as they keep moving because of the ocean currents. You can see a deep blue colour all around the Ice-Berg, which is nothing but freshwater mixing with the saline waters of the ocean.
You can see the intricate ‘sculpting’ on her walls…beautiful patterns as she melts away and gives sustenance to the Oceans creatures…like plankton and Krill..which are the basic elements of the marine food chain..and in turn sustain the bountiful wildlife of the Antarctic..the Penguins, Seals and the Whales…just to name a few!
The Ice-Bergs of Antarctica are ‘calved’ or break off from the huge ice shelves surrounding the Continent. Some well known ice shelves are the Larsen ice shelf, which we almost touched, and the largest of them all, the Ross ice shelf, which covers about 5,00,000 sq kms!
Just to give an idea of their size..a recent Ice-Berg about to calve was measured at 880 sq kms in size! The biggest so far has been B 15, which calved from the Ross ice shelf in 2000 and was 275 kms in length and 37 kms across..which is about 11,000 sq kms in size!! B 15 was estimated to contain so much water that every human on Earth could get about 50 tons of fresh drinking water from it!!
The Ice-Bergs of Antarctica give you an idea of the character of the Continent itself.
Antarctica is an ice-dominated Continent..almost 99% of it’s 14.2 million sq kms (twice the size of Australia or equal to USA and Canada combined!) is covered by ice-sheets. The average thickness of the ice is 2 kms and thickest is 5 kms ! This also makes Antarctica the Highest continent..apart from being the Coldest, Windiest and the Driest place on Earth! And perhaps the Most Intelligent Continent as well?! As the only scientists inhabit this beautiful landscape throughout the year!!
Antarctica holds 90% of the World’s ice and 70% of our Earth’s freshwater is locked up in this ice…perhaps now you can place these colossal Ice-Bergs in perspective!!