Such breaks in the ice shelf, where the glacier extends off the land and floats above the water, happen fairly regularly – PIG also birthed icebergs in 2001 and 2007. But this crack took longer than usual to spread, allowing the ice shelf to grow for longer and resulting in a whopper of an iceberg.
The crack was first spotted by NASA in 2011. On Monday, the German Earth-observation satellite, TerraSAR-X, penetrated the Antarctic darkness with radar and confirmed that the break had spread across the whole 30-kilometre width of the ice shelf, calving a new iceberg into the Southern Ocean.
All eyes are on PIG because it is the longest and fastest-flowing glacier in Antarctica and it's at risk of collapse.