It’s 11.8 miles long and 5 miles wide. It’s so big it can be seen from space by satellite. If you’re the captain of a ship in the waters off the west Australian Coast, there’s an iceberg you’ll want to watch for.

The massive iceberg, officially known as B17B, calved from the eastern end of the Antartic Ross Ice Shelf – along with others. At first, most of these drifted out of the Ross Sea and began to head westwards round the Antarctic coastline, but many became trapped in “fast ice” for several years in an area east of the Mertz Glacier.  

As it encounters warmer waters near Australia, experts believe it will begin to break into hundreds of smaller icebergs that will become even further hazards to ships in the area.

The finding comes after two large icebergs were spotted further east, off Australia’s Macquarie Island, followed by more than 100 smaller ice chunks heading towards New Zealand. (PDF map of New Zealand icebergs.)

Young described the icebergs as uncommon, but said they could become more frequent if sea temperatures rise through global warming.

A long tongue of land that points northwards towards South America, the Antarctic peninsula has been hit by greater warming than almost any other region on Earth.

Scientists say that in the past 50 years, Antarctic temperatures have risen by 2.5 degrees Celsius (4.5 degrees Fahrenheit), around six times the global average.

But then there’s no such thing as global warming – as evidenced by the recent “Climategate” event.

So sayeth the StickMonkey.

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