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Massive Tasman Glacier Splits After New Zealand Quake

February 24, 2011

How big is big? How about 40 millions tons, that’s the weight of the piece of the Tasman Glacier that calved off as a result of the recent earthquake in New Zealand.

Clean Technica reports:

The 6.3 magnitude earthquake in New Zealand’s South Island on Tuesday apparently caused a massive iceberg, estimated at 30 – 40 tonnes, to shear off from Tasman Glacier and drop in Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake, at Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.

In what must have been a truly spectacular glacier calving, the gigantic iceberg ripped off from the glacier within minutes of the earthquake that rocked the South Island, and crashed into the lake. Some chunks are now towering up to 50 meters – or 164 feet – above the lake.

“Within about a minute of that happening, the staff at the lake heard from five kilometers away (from the glacier) a sound that sounded like a rifle shot and then over the next two minutes all the events started to unfold”.

When it collapsed, it created waves up to three meters high (almost ten feet) in the lake for 30 minutes, rocking two sightseeing boats that were on the lake at the time.

Richard McNamara from the Department of Conservation did not witness it himself, but said if “it carved in one big lot; a face about a kilometer long carving is a spectacular sight.” The iceberg, he said, would then have popped up to the water like a porpoise before starting to break into smaller pieces.

The glacier was already at the tipping point, according to locals who had been expecting a major iceberg to drop from the glacier for the past month.

McNamara also believed that the timing may have been coincidental. “You could argue whether the earthquake precipitated it or not — the fact is that the terminal face was about due to carve anyway.”

National Geographic reported:
A huge vertical slab calved off the front of the Tasman Glacier (see map) into Tasman Lake after the 6.3-magnitude quake had hit Tuesday afternoon. The temblor was centered about 125 miles (200 kilometers) away, near Christchurch (see map). (See pictures of the New Zealand earthquake’s aftermath.)

The chunk is estimated to have been three-fourths of a mile (1,200 meters) long by 250 feet (75 meters) wide, scientists say.

The iceberg’s collapse also kicked up 10-foot (3.5-meter) waves in Tasman Lake.

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