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South African Iceberg? October 12, 2007
Photo of an iceberg
An unconfirmed report of an iceberg off the coast of South Africa prompted officials to issue a warning to maritime traffic.
Maritime officials in South Africa broadcast a navigational warning to ships passing off the country’s southern coast after a fishing vessel reported seeing a large iceberg 35 nautical miles from the Eastern Cape coast, near Port Elizabeth.

The crew estimated the chunk of ice was about 80 feet (25 metres) in length and 65 feet (20 metres) in height, and was drifting in a southwesterly direction.

Reports of icebergs near the southern tip of South Africa are exceedingly rare given that Antarctica is 2,400 miles (3,700 km) to the south.

There were a few sightings reported in the 1850s near Cape Town, and a piece of ice about 3 feet above the surface was seen in 2002.

Air force pilots on routine patrol said they failed to see this week’s reported iceberg, but believed poor weather and high seas could have prevented them from making visual contact.

Professor Peter Roberts of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, a specialist on global warming and climate change, said he thinks the ship’s crew was mistaken in its observation. "It's impossible. No iceberg can float in the warm Mozambican current. It would have melted long ago," he said.

Meanwhile, South African Weather Service marine researcher Ian Hunter said an iceberg of this magnitude was unlikely.

"An iceberg this big would have to drift through a considerable amount of warm water because of the warm Agulhas current. Anyway, a big iceberg such as this would be seen by ships on their radar," said Hunter.

Photo: Jan Will