The massive iceberg identified as A68a broke off from the Antarctic in mid-2017and is moving towards South Georgia. This is a British Overseas Territory BOT and home to a huge variety of wildlife. In case the iceberg grinds to a halt at that location, it would pose environmental problems. It would be a serious threat to local penguins and seals because the iceberg would block the normal routes they follow to get food for their young ones. Moreover, marine creatures generally found on the seabed would perish under the vast mass of ice. The result would be irreversible.

The BOT is a sort of graveyard for the icebergs of Antarctica and is becoming an environmental issue.

The BBC quotes an expert saying - "Ecosystems can and will bounce back, of course, but there's a danger here that if this iceberg gets stuck, it could be there for ten years." He adds that it would make a huge difference and change the scenario in case that happens. The ecosystem of South Georgia would suffer as well as its economy. He is Prof Geraint Tarling from the British Antarctic Survey BAS, and he made this observation to a section of the media. Strong currents usually move the icebergs towards the continental shelf surrounding the remote island, which becomes their final resting place.

A68a weighs hundreds of billions of tonnes, and it has been adrift since mid-2017. It might end its journey when it slowly stops on the coast of South Georgia.

Icebergs can pose serious problems

In 2004, the A38 (an earlier iceberg) grounded in South Georgia, and innumerable dead penguin chicks and seal pups appeared on local beaches.

The most critical period in the lives of penguins and seals is rearing the chicks and pups. At that time, they have to Travel to find food (fish and krill), and in case of a detour, they have to travel long distances. By the time they return, the young ones might have starved to death. That is what happens when an iceberg gets stuck on the shore, blocks the penguin and seals' routes, and compels them to follow alternate routes.

The BBC adds the potential impacts of grounding of A68a iceberg at South Georgia are multi-faceted. Of course, there would be positives because icebergs will bring with them material to fertilize the ocean plankton. This will be beneficial for the food chain. However, the negatives cannot be ignored.

Scientists are studying the path of the iceberg

Satellite imagery indicates the path of A68a is directed towards South Georgia, but there is no certainty. That is the opinion of a mapping specialist of BAS. He admits it is difficult to predict the course of the iceberg. Scientists are requesting the European Space Agency to make available additional satellite imagery. That would help to track the direction of movement of the iceberg irrespective of weather conditions and provide advance warning to the authorities.

The iceberg could reach South Georgia within a few weeks

According to CNN, the A68a iceberg broke off from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica in July 2017. It has been on the move and is approaching the BOT of South Georgia. Its area is 1,815 square miles. This is greater than South Georgia itself. Once it reaches the shore, it might have a long time effect on the area's wildlife populations. In case it remains there as a barrier for years to come, it would endanger marine life. South Georgia and the neighboring South Sandwich Islands SGSSI are home to millions of seals and are an essential habitat for migrating whales and diverse fish populations. Icebergs calving from glaciers is a natural process, but the rate of melting and calving is on the rise.

This results from human-induced warming of the oceans and atmosphere due to the release of greenhouse gases. The melting of ice would translate into the sea-level rise, which would impact the coastal population. Many countries are aware of this problem and are taking precautions.