Iceberg shaped like a colossal sheet cake drifts through Antarctic

Hamish Pritchard | British Antarctic Survey via AP

Hamish Pritchard | British Antarctic Survey via AP

The US space agency's explanation that the odd-looking iceberg's sharp angles and flat surface was an indication that it had recently broken off from a larger iceberg didn't seem to cut it online.

"How the berg is formed is speculative given the collisions are not known in much detail, nor is the physical state of the iceberg - many rifts are visible in satellite imagery, many are not yet visible but are forming as the berg responds to its journey", says Shuman.

Brandon wrote on his blog that in July, 'the weather conditions and ocean currents conspire to swing the trillion tonnes of the giant iceberg A68 in an anticlockwise direction.

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Most icebergs live only three to six years, but if they stay in cold waters and don't collide with other icebergs (or land), they can survive for 50 or more years. At that point, tides or strong winds could break icebergs off. Petty compares it to a glass plate that shatters - the lines are typically very straight.

Eric Rignot, a research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab and a professor at UC Irvine, agrees that Larsen C's massive size created the rectangular shape.

NASA's Operation IceBridge, which monitors polar ice using plane surveys, has been going on for a decade.

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The rectangular iceberg is about a mile wide, Petty says - considerably smaller than another well-known iceberg from the Larsen C ice shelf.

NASA ice scientist Kelly Brunt said Tabular icebergs come about via a process "a bit like a fingernail growing too long and cracking off at the end". In the past, these flights have mapped Greenland's ice sheets, identified collapsing ice shelves, and spotted mysterious holes in the Antarctic ice. "Scientists can then calculate the distance between the aircraft or the satellite and the ice surface, which gives them the ice height".

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