November 15, 2011 - Iceberg B15J in the Southern Ocean

Iceberg B15J in the Southern Ocean

In 2000 the Ross Ice Shelf calved one of the world’s largest icebergs, which was estimated to measure about 295 km (183 mi) long and 37 km (23 mi) wide, with a surface area of 11,000 square kilometers (4,150 square miles). Over a decade later, and after breaking into several pieces, the iceberg still lingers in the Southern Ocean.

On November 14, 2011 the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite captured this true-color image of Iceberg B-15J, the largest remnant of the original iceberg, as it sits in the Southern Ocean. On November 6, the National Ice Center reported the longitude/latitude location of B-15J as approximately -55.3 South and -159.4 West.

Although the iceberg is in a very remote area, it has been viewed not only by satellites, but by researchers and adventurers. The iceberg appears large in this satellite image, but a description of a close encounter draws a more graphic picture. In 2008, Alfred Memelink, an artist, joined a voyage on a New Zealand research vessel. In his diary of February 14, he wrote of his encounter with B-15J: “We trawl right in front of this iceberg. Man it is huge. It looks even bigger than the cliffs of Dover, bigger than Ben-Hur. The stark white cliffs rise 30 to 35 meters above the sea level and they reckon that there would be another 70 to 100 meters below.”

In fact, the volume of the iceberg that sits above water and can be observed is only roughly 1/8 of the total volume, leaving about 7/8 of the ice under the sea, according to the US Coast Guard. The exact amount of the iceberg rising out of the sea depends on density of the ice, and varies from iceberg to iceberg.

Image Facts
Satellite: Aqua
Date Acquired: 11/14/2011
Resolutions: 250m ( B)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC