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Shipping alert issued over giant iceberg

Australia Rare Iceberg
This satellite view shows the giant iceberg, fourth from right and named B17B, that is moving towards Western Australia. The massive iceberg is still largely intact after breaking away from Anatarctica in 2000.Australian Antarctic Division via AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology issued a shipping alert Friday after a massive iceberg was spotted 1,100 miles off the country's southwestern coast.

Glaciologist Neal Young of the Australian Antarctic Division spotted the iceberg on satellite imaging. It is 12 miles long and 5 miles wide, about the size of Washington, D.C., and is edging slowly northeastward toward Western Australia state, Young said in a statement.

Young said the iceberg, named B17B, is one of several that split off in Antarctica in 2000 when parts of two major ice shelves — the Ross Sea Ice Shelf and Ronne Ice Shelf — fractured.

Most of those icebergs drifted out of the Ross Sea and floated westwards round the Antarctic coastline, but many became trapped in sea ice for several years.

B17B is expected to spawn many more smaller icebergs, none of which will actually reach Australia. "As the water warms up the iceberg is thinning and slowly breaking up, resulting in hundreds more smaller icebergs in the area," Young said.

New Zealand issued a shipping alert last month after authorities spotted a flotilla of icebergs heading toward South Island. Those icebergs have since moved east, away from New Zealand.

Icebergs are routinely sloughed off as part of the natural development of ice shelves.