Shelf Ice breaks close to Indian Station Maitri in Antarctica

Last two consecutive seasons 2010-11 and 2011-12 have witnessed heavy sea ice built-up around the Indian Barrier (Cargo Unloading Site of on the shelf ice which is about 100 km north of the Indian Station Maitri) in Princess Astrid Coast, East Antarctica and thus hampering the Indian operations in and around Maitri Station so much so that both the Russian Ice Breaker and the Indian Expedition Ship Ivan Papanin, could not reach their respective barriers in February / March 2012. On the other hand contradicting the recent trend a huge portion of the ice shelf measuring nearly 2 km x 1 km adjoining the Indian Barrier in Princess Astrid Coast, East Antarctica broke away and drifted along with some Indian tank containers and Russian cargo and fuel between 5th and 24th April 2012 .  This calving of the shelf ice was noticed by the Russian crew while on a routine traverse ferrying the fuel and cargo from Barrier to the Station. According to Russian sources the calving of the shelf ice were recorded by seismic stations as five separate events between 20th and 28th April 2012.

Detailed analysis of RADARSAT images has shown that the calved out portion of the shelf ice had disintegrated into 10 small icebergs with no signature of presence of metallic objects which is a clear indication that cargo gone with the iceberg in all probability has sunk into the cold sea. This unforeseen loss of cargo though a natural catastrophe and a setback for the Indian and Russian programmes but will not affect the scale of operations in Antarctica.