The Amazing Look Of An Upside-down Iceberg In Antarctica
Antarctica is definitely known for its icebergs, even more so in recent years. And to travel there just for the sake of it is not on many people’s wish list – even though it should. One such person who really wanted to see the “bottom of the world” was filmmaker Alex Cornell, who went there in December 2014. To be fair, Antarctica was during its summer season, so, it was okay.
“Everything is reflective and everything’s white,” recalls Cornell. “People had said that the first time you go, you’re kind of so overwhelmed that you take a lot of pictures of your feet and you don’t really know what’s going on … I definitely felt that.”.
And like he said, Antarctica is white, and almost blindingly so, but while exploring Cierva Cove, a glacial bay, one of the scientists became extremely excited about something. It was an iceberg that had flipped over.
“Everything I was seeing was pretty exciting,” Cornell admits. “This particular iceberg at the time kind of blended in with all the crazy stuff we were seeing.”
But as they were approaching the 30 feet high iceberg, he understood what all the excitement was about. When floating in water, icebergs only show about 10 percent of their mass, with the rest being below the waves. And their top part is also covered in snow and heavily weathered by the elements.
But since this one was upside-down, it showed its glossy, aqua-green ‘underbelly’ with water flowing through it, “almost like an ant colony,” he says. According to the scientists there, the iceberg had only recently flipped over, when most likely, it broke off from an even larger one, and because of the uneven weight distribution, it now showed the part that was normally underwater.
Given its amazing colour, the ice was extremely old. As more and more snow gets layered on top, the ice below gets increasingly compacted and forces out all air pockets that got trapped there. The ice then absorbs small amounts of red light, leading the ice to have that particular blueish tint.
In decades past, glaciers extending from Antarctica would go on for many miles offshore while still being attached to the mainland. But in recent years, that no longer happens. Today, icebergs break off almost immediately after they no longer touch the ground.
Justin Burton, an assistant professor at Emory University, explains this new phenomenon: “Like squirting toothpaste out of a tube. A little bit of toothpaste comes out the tube, then it breaks off, and a little bit more comes out the tube, then it breaks off. So you get these really thin pieces of ice that flip over right when they’ve broken off.”
All the photographs here are courtesy of Alex Cornell.