NASA spots bizarrely rectangular iceberg in Antarctica

It looks like the monolith from 2001, but it's not a movie prop and it wasn't planted by aliens.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

We all have an idea of what an iceberg looks like, and usually we imagine a chunky mountainous formation or an irregular slab with a seal lounging on top. 

And then there's the iceberg photographed last week by NASA's Operation IceBridge team. It's so rectangular that it looks totally wild. 

Enlarge Image

This iceberg has all the right angles.

NASA Operation IceBridge

Operation IceBridge is on a mission to measure and monitor polar ice and document changes over time. The team caught sight of the unusual iceberg during a flyover and posted it to Twitter last week. 

Operation IceBridge refers to the formation as a tabular iceberg and says it was found floating in the sea ice just off the Larsen C ice shelf in the Antarctic. "The iceberg's sharp angles and flat surface indicate that it probably recently calved from the ice shelf," the team writes.

Twitter users jumped on the odd-looking image, dropping references to everything from aliens to tofu to the monolith from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey

Some also accused the image of being fake, but it's a perfectly natural phenomenon. 

NASA ice scientist Kelly Brunt told Live Science that tabular icebergs are shaped like sheet cakes and split off from the edges of ice shelves. She said the visible portion is just a small part of the mass and the rest is underwater.

The tabular iceberg is a standout due to its extremely geometric shape, but it's not the only one that looks like it could fit into a Mondrian painting. Operation IceBridge posted a look at a fairly triangular iceberg late last week. 

The Larsen C ice shelf is also the source of the infamous iceberg A-68, a monster that calved in 2017. The tabular iceberg photographed recently is much, much smaller than that beast.

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