In late February, 2013 the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer aboard NASA’s Terra satellite flow over the remote waters of the South Atlantic Ocean and captured this true-color image of a lonely Iceberg C16 drifting in the currents.
Although currently adrift and alone, Iceberg C16 has a different history. It was calved in September of 2000 when another large iceberg, B15, collided with the most northerly portion of the Ross Ice Shelf and caused a large chunk to break away. Rather than drift freely, C16 was trapped with four other icebergs – B15K, B15A, B15J and C25– near the Ross Ice Shelf and Ross Island for at least five years. For part of that time, C16 was grounded in the shallow shoal area between Lewis Bay and Beaufort Island, making it a solid target for the more mobile congregation of icebergs as they repeatedly bounced against it.
Located close to McMurdo Station, the National Science Foundation’s research station in Antarctica, this group of icebergs became easy targets for detailed study. All five were fitted with several instruments: global positioning system (GPS) receivers, magnetic compasses and automatic weather stations (AWS). In addition, a seismometer, used to identify Iceberg Harmonic Tremor (IHT) and study calving, drift, break-up and collisions, was placed on C16, as was a camera. Much data was collected, and several studies completed while the instruments were serviceable. Even today, over a dozen years after calving, the iceberg still exists, and is still being studied, especially through space-borne instruments.