Monday, November 09, 2009

A massive iceberg is heading for New Zealand...

The massive iceberg spotted southwest of New Zealand could be moving closer.

The iceberg was seen by Australian scientists working on Macquarie Island, who estimated it to be 500m wide and 50m high.

NIWA oceanographer Mike Williams said it was unusual to see icebergs in that part of the Southern Ocean.

"The only precedent for icebergs being seen that far north is the one that came through in November 2006," he said.

The 2006 iceberg, which broke off the Ronne Ice Shelf, came within 90km of the Otago coast. Sightseeing flights were arranged to view the iceberg.

Williams said, depending on ocean currents, the new iceberg could be pushed south to the Campbell plateau, southeast of New Zealand.

"But if it's far enough north, it'll come into the current that feeds up into the Auckland Islands and New Zealand."

Moving at 2km/h to 3km/h, the iceberg could take two weeks to come within sight.

Mike Williams said it wasn't clear whether climate change was to blame. There is every possibility that this is the case.

The previous iceberg in 2006 emanating from the antarctic, spent a number of weeks floating up the east coast of New Zealand before melting in the Pacific Ocean. It was the subject of tourist flights and helicopter rides to the iceberg. I don't know exactly how many people stepped onto the iceberg, but it would have been a risky business. I suppose there were a few Scotch whiskies on the rocks at that time. This particular iceberg is expected to move closer to the South Island than the previous one.

Should be some exciting times ahead. I would imagine the tourist operators to be out in force again this southern summer. More helicopter rides to the floating ice in coming weeks? It may attract a few foreign visitors as icebergs are a rare occurrence so far north of antarctic waters. A visit to iconic Queenstown and a trip to the iceberg could be part of a popular tourist package. Readers are invited to come on over to New Zealand in coming weeks.

Down by the HuttRiver