The ATSR Project



Antarctic: B-15 Iceberg - One of the largest icebergs ever seen.

ATSR-2 has been used to track a large iceberg which broke away or calved from the Ross Ice Shelf in the Antarctic. The iceberg, at nearly 300km in length and 40km in width, was one of the largest ever seen at the time of its formation in March 2000. Since then, it has broken into two main icebergs and other smaller ones have formed including B-17, probably caused by B-15 crashing into the ice-shelf. This sequence of images shows how the various pieces have developed over the last few months.

Calving of icebergs from the Antarctic ice-shelf is common. As the snow accumulates it turns into ice and a shelf of ice is pushed out into the surrounding ocean. Eventually, pieces break off the ice-shelf and an iceberg is born. The formation of icebergs in the Antarctic in this manner is completely different from that in the Arctic which leads to icebergs at either end of the world being different shapes. Antarctic icebergs tend to be relatively low and flat but can be very large whilst arctic icebergs are much smaller. Over 90% of the ice locked in icebergs is to be found in Antarctica.

It is unlikely that this particular event is connected to global warming as the advance of the icesheet is a continual process. Even with the calving of this monster, the edge of the ice-shelf has simply returned to where it was about 50 years ago. There is much interest in what will happen to B-15 and associated icebergs. Most scientists expect it to drift north-west then west staying close to the Antarctic coast. Another scenario is that it will drift north and then east passing through the Drake Passage between Antarctica and South America and into the South Atlantic Ocean

Ross Movie : Ross Iceberg Movie - To view the movie, you'll need to download QuickTime

April 2, 2001, Night
B-15 Iceberg Developments

March 31, 2001, Night
Interesting cloud formations in the top left corner

December 14, 2000, Day
Rifts in the Ross Ice Shelf

December 17, 2000, Day
Rifts in the Ross Ice Shelf

December 21, 2000, Day
Rifts in the Ross Ice Shelf

December 07, 2000, Day
A new iceberg, B-15F, has broken off B-15B?

October 24, 2000, Day
B-15A continues to move along the coast, drifitng away from B-15B

October 12, 2000, Night

September 29, 2000, Day
B-15A and B-15B both clearly visible and continuing to drift apart. New Iceberg Forms - B20

September 17, 2000, Night
B-15 drifting north, away from B-15A

September 1, 2000, Night
B-15A and B-15B now parallel

August 12, 2000, Night
All of the icebergs have moved further away and B-15B continues to rotate B-15A

July 14, 2000, Night
B-17 now rotated more than 90 to the ice-shelf

July 12, 2000, Night
B-15B moves away from the ice-shelf and in doing so, twists B-15A so, once again, it is parallel to the ice

June 15, 2000, Night
B-15B has moved west to the original break-off point of B-15A

June 12, 2000, Night
B-15A now almost 45 to the ice-shelf.

May 28, 2000, Day
B-15A and B-15B both clearly visible. B-17 now almost at 90 to the ice-shelf

May 23, 2000, Night
News:B15 iceberg broken in two! Also, another crack has appeared in the ice-shelf- a future iceberg?

April 26, 2000, Night
B-15 gradually moving away
from the ice-shelf and sliding
further west

April 13, 2000, Night
New iceberg to the east-B-17

March 27, 2000. Daytime
B-15 and the much smaller B-16
to the west

March 20, 2000, Night.
Three days after the first report of the calving

September 16, 1999, Night.
Before the calving of the iceberg.

Timeline/Diary of main events

20-March-2000: first image of the B-15 Iceberg, three days after the initial report of the calving

13-April-2000: new iceberg to the East - B-17

09-May-2000: Press Release from RAL: B-15 Iceberg.

23-May-2000: B-15 iceberg broken in two - B-15A and B-15B

17-Sept-2000: Cloud Streets

29-Sept-2000: new iceberg forms - B-20, with the B-15A and B-15B continuing to drift apart

24-Oct-2000: B-20 renamed C-16, since it broke away from the Ross Ice Shelf in the 'C' sector of the Atlantic

07-Dec-2000: It appears that perhaps a new iceberg, B-15F, has broken from the B-15B iceberg.

21-Dec-2000: ATSR clearly identifies significant rift in the Ross Ice Shelf


Many thanks to ESA's NRT system for the help that has been provided in tracking the Ross Iceberg



Page last modified : Thursday, 06-Dec-07