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Striped Icebergs

When the British passenger ship RMS Titanic sank in the early morning hours of 14th April, 1912 after colliding with an iceberg, an international alarm was caused. The sinking of the largest ship of that time, causing death of more than 1500 of its passengers is still regarded as the worst maritime disaster in history. This is why the United States along with 12 other nations formed what was known as “International Ice Patrol” to warn ships against icebergs in the North Atlantic.

The Bow Railing of RMS Titanic

titanic bow railing as seen under water

Courtesy: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Dept. of Commerce

Do you know what an iceberg is?

An iceberg is actually a broken piece of a glacier or an ice-shelf that floats away in the seawater; constantly interacting with it, and changing its shape and texture with time. And here’s a fact about icebergs which you must always remember. An iceberg appears as a small white boulder of ice floating in the ocean, but do not be fooled by its looks! The part visible to us is usually one tenth of the total size!

Tip of the Iceberg

iceberg above and under water

Courtesy: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Dept. of Commerce

An iceberg mostly appears white. Do you know why?

Due to temperature changes, the ice in the iceberg continues to melt and freeze, leading to the formation of air-filled pockets or bubbles in the iceberg’s body. These bubbles reflect and scatter the visible light in all directions. Hence making the iceberg look white!

However, there are icebergs, which are not quite white but have pigmentation! They add colour and look absolutely beautiful against pristine white surroundings of the frigid zones of Earth.

Striped Icebergs

Icebergs in the polar-regions, especially in areas around Antarctica, sometimes develop coloured stripes and textures. They are known as striped icebergs, and are formed as a result of snow’s reaction to different environmental conditions.

Nature’s Sculptors

Over time, the ice sheet breaks into icebergs which further become fragmented. Wind and waves carve and sculpt these broken icebergs, and so their different layers develop attractive patterns.

Courtesy: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Dept. of Commerce

Blue icebergs and blue stripes: As years pass by, ice in the icebergs keeps on becoming compressed and dense. Usually bubbles get formed in the iceberg. However, compression removes all the bubbles. The ice absorbs all the colours in the spectrum except for blue which is reflected and the whole iceberg starts to look pleasantly blue.

blue iceberg in antarctica

Courtesy: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Dept. of Commerce

When melted water gets filled in a crevice of an iceberg and freezes so quickly that bubbles do not get formed, blue stripes appear on an iceberg.  

Green stripes: When salty seawater, rich in algae and other organic matter freezes in the cracks and fissures of an iceberg floating in the sea, or freezes on the underside of an iceberg, green stripes get formed.

Brown, black and yellow lines: Deposits are picked by an ice sheet as it slides into the sea, grinding against rocks containing minerals. When this happens, brown, black and sometimes yellow lines are formed. When the ice sheet breaks, ice bergs appear with dark stripes.

Courtesy: Steve Rideout Photography

Fun Fact

Around 99% of glacial ice on Earth is contained within the polar ice sheets!

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