In October 2011, researchers flying in NASA’s Operation IceBridge campaign made the first-ever detailed, airborne measurements of a major iceberg calving event in Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier, while it was in progress. Four months later, the IceBridge team has mapped the crack in a way that allows glaciologists and the rest of us to fly through the icy canyon.
The above image is a still frame captured from a three-dimensional, virtual flight through the new rift in the Pine Island Glacier. (Web and high-definition versions of the movie are linked below the image.)
The rift formed in an ice shelf that extends from one of West Antarctica’s fastest-moving glaciers. The flight path of the DC-8 (depicted in this animation) lasted roughly 18 miles (30 kilometers), though the actual crack is longer. The gap had an average width of 240 feet (about 80 meters) and was 820 feet (250 meters) at its widest. The canyon ranged from 165 to 190 feet deep (50 to 60 meters).