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The massive crack in the Antarctic ice shelf is hanging on by a 12-mile ‘thread’



Scientists released aerial footage of a 1,500 foot crack in Antarctica. Angeli Kakade (@angelikakae) has the story.

It’s the ice crack that’s captivating the world.

One of the world’s biggest icebergs ever is poised to break off from an Antarctic ice shelf, but scientists say it’s still hanging on by a 12-mile “thread.”

They also aren’t sure when the now 110-mile crack will finally break open the rest of the way, creating a massive iceberg larger than Rhode Island. “It is particularly hard to predict when it will occur,” said Adrian Luckman of Project MIDAS, a British Antarctic research project that’s keeping watch on the ever-growing crack.

“I am quite surprised as to how long it is holding on!” he said in an e-mail to USA TODAY.

The crack in the Larsen C Ice Shelf is more than 1,000 feet wide and has grown by 50 miles since 2011, according to the British Antarctic Survey. Once the crack goes all the way across, the iceberg will break off.

The largest icebergs known have all broken off from ice shelves, the survey said.

Ice shelves are permanent floating sheets of ice that connect to a land mass, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. (Thus, since they’re floating, when the berg finally breaks off, it won’t add to sea-level rise). However, ice shelves also serve to hold back the ice behind them: When ice shelves collapse, the ice that had been trapped behind it plops into the ocean, where it then adds to sea-level rise.

Most of the world’s ice shelves hug the coast of Antarctica. The Larsen C shelf is on the Antarctic Peninsula, the portion of the…

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