SHACKLETON NEWS ARCHIVE
Pine Island Glacier, one of the biggest on Antarctica, may be on the verge of slipping into the sea far faster than anyone previously thought, according to the preliminary results of a survey mission to the White Continent.
The team of scientists from Chile's independent Centre for Scientific Studies and the US space agency (Nasa) has teamed up with the Chilean Navy to make a series of flights over some of Antarctica's most important and unexplored regions. Their aim has been to create the most detailed maps ever made of the ice surface and the underlying geology, so scientists can accurately measure the impact of climate change.
Pine Island, a massive block of ice pushing out into the ocean in the remote and relatively unexplored western corner of Antarctica, stretches some 50 kilometres across in places, with ice up to four kilometres deep. Its mouth is protected by the Antarctic sea ice; it lies at the most remote part of the entire Antarctic continent, where Antarctica is also most unstable. Here any small changes in the Earth's temperature as a result of global warming are likely to have a big impact on the ice. The unexpectedly rapid rate of glacial disintegration has surprised the scientific community.