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Published on February 23rd, 2011 | by Susan Kraemer


A 40 Million Tonne Iceberg Dumped in Lake by NZ Earthquake

February 23rd, 2011 by  

There’s more than climate change triggering the collapse of the world’s glaciers.

The 6.3 magnitude earthquake in New Zealand’s South Island on Tuesday apparently caused a massive iceberg, estimated at 30 – 40 million tonnes, to shear off from Tasman Glacier  and drop in Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake, at Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.

In what must have been a truly spectacular glacier calving, the gigantic iceberg ripped off from the glacier within minutes of the earthquake that rocked the South Island, and crashed into the lake. Some chunks are now towering up to 50 meters – or 164 feet – above the lake.

“Within about a minute of that happening, the staff at the lake heard from five kilometers away (from the glacier) a sound that sounded like a rifle shot and then over the next two minutes all the events started to unfold”.

When it collapsed, it created waves up to three meters high (almost ten feet) in the lake for 30 minutes, rocking two sightseeing boats that were on the lake at the time.

Richard McNamara from the Department of Conservation did not witness it himself, but said if “it carved in one big lot; a face about a kilometer long carving is a spectacular sight.” The iceberg, he said, would then have popped up to the water like a porpoise before starting to break into smaller pieces.

The glacier was already at the tipping point, according to locals who had been expecting a major iceberg to drop from the glacier for the past month.

McNamara also believed that the timing may have been coincidental. “You could argue whether the earthquake precipitated it or not — the fact is that the terminal face was about due to carve anyway.”

Susan kraemer@Twitter

About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.

  • Kamariah Kamaruddin

    Christchurch as I can remember has 4season colours with a shallow cristal clear river flowing through was such a romantic city. It sadens me to hear of the distruction and my sympathy to the people of Chritchurch and be strong

  • Bill Woods

    Christchurch got hit pretty hard. My sympathies for the people. It’s one of the nicest cities I’ve been to.

    • Yes, a sweet city. I went to boarding school there, and used to play hooky to draw all those old Gothic churches. It is staggering to see the destruction.

  • Will

    I see it described as 30-40 Tonne OR 30-40 MILLION Tonne…
    Maybe proofread more carefully?
    A 30-40 Tonne (ton?) iceberg would be pretty non-controversial I’d think.

  • Daniel Suggs

    So is it “40 million tonnes” or “30 to 40 tonnes”. Sounds like you might need an editor. Otherwise, thanks for the article.

  • An American

    Who says quakes aren’t increasing due to global warming?

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