(Is the equipment working properly?) Our small motor dinghy was carrying seven passengers – a polar guide, two Greenpeace activists, two journalists, a camera operator and a scientist specialising in marine acoustics. Everyone must keep their distance from wildlife – five metres from a penguin, 10 metres from a seal, 50 metres from a whale, unless they come to you. But what its residents lack in variety, they make up for in numbers. After guiding us through a penguin colony and up a slope behind the small research facility, Zafiro pointed across the bay at a newly emerged nunatak – a bare mountain peak sticking out above the ice. I heard the humpback before I saw it. “A low point has passed but the condition is still fragile. Not since the early 1960s has Amery calved a bigger iceberg. After 18 years of drifting at sea, moving with the currents and battered by wind and water, the world's largest iceberg is reaching its end. Dozens of gentoo penguins swished in and out of the water. Avian census-taking starts with satellites. Icebergs are chunks of glacial ice that break off glaciers and fall into the ocean. A picture showing ice cubes in a measuring cup filled with water before and after the ice melted has been shared several thousand times with the claim that if ice cubes can melt without raising the water level, melting icebergs will also fail to affect world sea levels. Our group may well have been the first in history to camp on the island. Nearshore currents and winds will carry D28 westwards. That means melting ice could potentially open a Pandora's box of diseases. When snow falls, he explained, pockets of air get trapped and then compressed inside glaciers over years, centuries, even millennia. For the first two days, we sailed south in serene conditions, gazing in wonder at the seascape and wildlife. What was more surprising was the number of other vessels bobbing in the bay. In the 10 days since we had left, summer had taken a visible toll. Solastalgia is hard to escape in the Antarctic. D28 is dwarfed by the mighty A68 berg, which broke away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in 2017. “It sounds like dripping, like the inside of a gorge.”. Before the break, a rift across the Larsen C ice shelf had extended more than 100 miles in length, and just a few miles of remaining ice connected the nascent iceberg to the shelf. After that, not so much. We returned to the ship on a high. © 2020 Guardian News & Media Limited or its affiliated companies. The clip I filmed on my phone was partly obscured by other bodies. Tourists pay as much as $10,000 (£8,500) or even $20,000 to experience what brochures describe as “the Earth’s last great wilderness frontier”. “You enjoy it knowing that next time it will be changed beyond recognition. After the storm finally abated, the Sunrise sailed back to King George Island, from where I would have to take a plane home. On the slopes around the bay, there was more bare rock than snow, while the stony beach was so free of ice that it could almost have been Brighton, were it not for the penguins. This year, scientists were relieved to find that disruption of southern wind systems has paused and may even be returning towards its natural state. (Krill are better at this because they graze more on phytoplankton – tiny, plantlike organisms that absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.) Since 2008, CLS, Official Supplier of ice data for the Vendée Globe, has been using technologies and satellites designed and deployed by CNES (French National Center for Space Studies) and ESA (European Space Agency) to detect icebergs threatening the skippers' route. On that day, on that island, the Antarctic was hotter than Cape Town. If there is something absurd about tour companies expending so much energy on crafting the illusion of solitude, it does at least help avoid overcrowding. All we could do was look on, speechless, as the whale drew nearer, 15 metres now, snorting water once again from its blowhole, then slipping just far enough below the surface to be out of sight. D28 is calculated to be about 210m thick and contains some 315 billion tonnes of ice. There will be other clues for the geologists of the future. Elephant seals near a gentoo penguin colony on Livingston Island, South Shetlands. Melt and percolation through the weak firn layer bring most of the freeboard volume to the melting point. The experience felt almost holy. Even in tiny quantities, this soot darkens the white landscape, reducing its capacity to reflect sunlight and making it melt faster. In the damp darkness, the penguins hunkered down, although they never fell completely silent. When glaciers melt, because that water is stored on land, the runoff significantly increases the amount of water in the ocean, contributing to global sea level rise. It was only 200 years ago, years after the invention of the steam engine and electric lighting, that humans first caught sight of Antarctica. This makes colony spotting easy, but for more precise calculations, the team of four scientists use drones and artificial intelligence to count nests. Luxury cruise operators have tried to outdo one another with heated deck “igloos”, underwater lounges and extendable viewing platforms. The rate of advance peaked in the 1980s, after which it slowed down until about 1990. (Today, coincidentally, Antarctica is the only continent that does not have a single case of coronavirus). Their task was simple but enormous: counting penguins. This is a segment of Amery that has affectionately become known as "Loose Tooth" because of its resemblance in satellite images to the dentition of a small child. It's possible the loss of such a big berg will change the stress geometry across the front of the ice shelf. We were too excited to capture the encounter with any great skill. For our hyper-dominant species, part of the attraction of Antarctica is the chance to feel small in the presence of the sublime, to return to a time when nature seemed like an awe-inspiring and nurturing mother rather than the frail and overburdened grandparent it increasingly resembles today. Since then, however, international efforts to reduce CFCs and other ozone-depleting chemicals have eased that threat. The Scripps researcher stressed that there was no link between this event and climate change. Over the next two days, the weather took a turn for the worse. Thick cloud cover briefly fell away to reveal this first image of icebergs breaking away from the Sulzberger Ice Shelf due to sea swell from the Tohoku Tsunami, which had originated 8,000 miles away about 18 hours earlier. Tourists look at glaciers at Chiriguano Bay in the South Shetlands. Warm water has recently been recorded near the Thwaites Glacier grounding line—the location where the glacial ice rests on the seafloor. Gravity means ice wants to be flat. The scientists on the Greenpeace ships are helping to track whale populations by collecting vast amounts of acoustic data, such as the communal chatter of a pod of orcas and the thunderous clicks of the sperm whale, the loudest natural sound made by any creature on Earth. After the session, the couple decided to grab dinner, but Lennon wanted to see Sean before the youngster went to bed. To ensure that tourists feel like they are journeying through a nearly deserted wilderness, tour operators coordinate schedules and instruct captains to use radar to avoid visual sightings of other vessels. As the Antarctic melt gets louder, there will be fewer chinstraps and krill, more gentoos and salps, less oxygen, more acid, and, of course, less land ice and more sea water. There, at the tip of Alaska, roughshod hunting shacks dot the spit of land that marks the dividing line between the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. .css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link{color:#3F3F42;}.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited{color:#696969;}.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited{font-weight:bolder;border-bottom:1px solid #BABABA;-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:focus,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:focus{border-bottom-color:currentcolor;border-bottom-width:2px;color:#B80000;}@supports (text-underline-offset:0.25em){.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited{border-bottom:none;-webkit-text-decoration:underline #BABABA;text-decoration:underline #BABABA;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-skip-ink:none;text-decoration-skip-ink:none;text-underline-offset:0.25em;}.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:focus,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:focus{-webkit-text-decoration-color:currentcolor;text-decoration-color:currentcolor;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:2px;text-decoration-thickness:2px;color:#B80000;}}Losing bergs to the ocean is how these ice streams maintain equilibrium, balancing the input of snow upstream. Before leaving the Arctic, I drive to Point Barrow alone. In February, a mainland record of 18.3C was registered at the Argentinian base on the tip of the peninsula. Then a look of bemusement. In the second snapshot, you can also make out large meltwater ponds pooling on the surface. Penguin guano is the only excrement that can be seen from space. If nests are threatened by predators, parents shriek protectively. “Such a big decline over a short time suggests something is broken in the Southern Ocean ecosystem,” said Strycker. The temperature in the Arctic Circle is rising quickly, about three times faster than in the rest of the world. Mouths agape, beaming rapturously, the five of us looked at each other to confirm we had not imagined what we had seen. The closer we came to the airport, the more cruise ships and scientific vessels we saw. “At least future geologists will find this black layer helpful to identify the year 2020 in their ice cores,” he joked darkly. But this skill becomes less essential as the chinstrap population diminishes, and the boisterous hubbub of the colony grows quieter. "It is the molar compared to a baby tooth," Prof Helen Fricker from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography told BBC News. Last modified on Tue 19 May 2020 12.21 BST. “It’s like Antarctica is in recovery. Both ice areas had shared the same rift system. Keeping the iceberg from becoming grounded. This and the nearby Pine Island glacier are now losing ice five times faster than in the 90s. Our small boat would surely be upturned in a collision with a creature that size. Boots need to be sterilised before setting foot on land to avoid spreading seeds, fungi or viruses. Rather than water dripping down through air, we were listening to air escaping up through water. Biosecurity is no small matter in the Antarctic. Hillsides that had been covered in snow were now bare, black rock. The actor Gustaf Skarsgård, who had joined the trip in order to promote conservation to his social media followers, summed it up with a personal comparison. Scientists believe this dependence on a single food source is one reason why chinstraps populations are plummeting. Days later, a continental high of 20.75C was measured at a monitoring station on Seymour Island. After a few moments, my transcendental musings were interrupted by the sound of KC and the Sunshine Band echoing out from a huge cruise liner anchored 100 or so metres away. Before-and-after pictures show how climate change is destroying the Earth ... which came from sediment deposited by Muir Glacier and by melting icebergs on the ground. It might be tempting to think humanity can do nothing right, but the short history of human interaction with the Antarctic suggests we can at least learn from our mistakes and reverse some of the damage we have caused. If it all melts, sea levels will rise by more than 50 metres. Did the whale realise there was an obstacle in its path? Now, researchers from the US and South Korea have run climate simulations that include the "iceberg effect" and found that melting icebergs could … The icebergs can be seen behind a thin layer of clouds just off the ice shelf near the center of the image. For 4.5bn years, not a single whisper was carried on the winds or the waves of this region. .css-1xgx53b-Link{font-family:ReithSans,Helvetica,Arial,freesans,sans-serif;font-weight:700;-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;color:#FFFFFF;}.css-1xgx53b-Link:hover,.css-1xgx53b-Link:focus{-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;}Read about our approach to external linking. We set out across the ice-filled Antarctic bay to listen for whales, but first we heard something altogether different: an upside-down sound below the Southern Ocean, something like the sound of climate crisis itself. But it is all too vulnerable to the other great global crisis – climate change. Prof Fricker had predicted back in 2002 that Loose Tooth would come off sometime between 2010 and 2015. It was a sobering thought to sleep on Low amid that shifting climate. The whale was about 30 metres away, and coming towards us. “What you can hear are the pops as they are released,” he said. The explorers who first mapped the continent were lauded as heroes, but carnage often followed in their wake. “That’s the sound of the iceberg melting,” Lewis informed us. After separating to gather food, they reunite with ecstatic greetings. The Cotopaxi glacier is seen in Ecuador, March 23, 1986, left, and Feb. 5, 2007. Most of the Icelandic glaciers retreated rapidly during the warm decades from 1930 to 1960, slowing down as the climate cooled during the following decade, and started to advance after 1970. Our Iceberg Is Melting is based on John Kotter's pioneer­ing research into the eight steps that can produce needed change in any sort of group. Just as the first explorers once charted coastlines voyage by voyage, the aim was to map Antarctic ecosystems. There is always the anticipation of loss, which makes me feels sad,” Rackete said. The stratosphere high above our heads is proof of that. Veterans of Antarctic exploration had warned me that this location would give me my first taste of how rapidly the region is warming. As the sun’s pale afterglow faded behind the mountains, the dusky bay was as smooth as polished chrome. But although wobbly, Loose tooth is still attached. Thirty years ago, the noise would have been louder. Steady increases since the moratorium on commercial whaling that came into effect in 1985 have taken southern hemisphere humpbacks close to their pre-exploitation population of about 80,000, according to the International Whaling Commission. The glacier sits atop one of the tallest active volcanoes on earth at 19,347 feet. Thrillingly, blue whales are also making a comeback. This south-westernmost island in the South Shetlands, nine miles long by five miles wide, takes the full brunt of the winds and waves that spin around the Shrieking Sixties, the stretch of latitude between 60 and 70 degrees south, which is notorious for howling gales. Last month, a British Antarctic Survey mission to South Georgia recorded 55 in just three weeks. This is roughly Amery to the Eastern Weddell Sea. There is a risk that a closed ozone hole will trap more heat, but the initial damage is on its way to being repaired. NASA’s before and after pictures show how much ice and snow was lost in just nine days. Before then, sturdy, compact iceberg heads had a big advantage over other lettuces in ease of transport and use. On this final leg around the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands, nine researchers from British, French and US universities were measuring how human activity is disturbing the region’s natural equilibrium. It wants to "smoosh out," explains Dr Riverman. Never mind. Polar peak Iceberg is now glowing after more melting ice exposes a hidden cube stone within! The change is another consequence of the ominous sound we had heard on the hydrophone several days earlier. So, scientists knew this calving event was coming. Although the contrast in temperature and salinity between the ice and surrounding water is the primary driver of melting, melt rates are also influenced by the size and shape of icebergs and by the ocean properties. Chinstrap penguins diving into the ocean. I know a thing or two about that,” he said. Many of the waters and islands we were visiting had not been surveyed for decades, if ever. 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