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Friday, January 14, 2005

Penguins face starvation as ice blocks access to food ....largest floating thing on the planet

He called the iceberg Â?the largest floating thing on the planet right nowÂ? and said it could block four supply ships due to arrive in Antarctica in a month."
Tens of thousands of penguin chicks could starve to death in the next few weeks as a huge iceberg blocks access to coastal feeding grounds, a New Zealand official said today.

A 1,200-square-mile iceberg, known as B15A, could also block the sea route used to supply three science stations during the Southern Hemisphere summer, said Lou Sanson, chief executive of the government scientific agency Antarctica New Zealand.

The iceberg has blocked sea ice flows from McMurdo Sound as it moves at a speed of 1.2 miles-a-day. US researchers have estimated that B15A contains enough fresh water to supply EgyptÂ?s Nile River complex for 80 years, Sanson says.

He called the iceberg Â?the largest floating thing on the planet right nowÂ? and said it could block four supply ships due to arrive in Antarctica in a month.

Three thousand breeding pairs of Adele penguins on AntarcticÂ?s Cape Royds face a 112-mile round-trip to bring food to their chicks because their access to ocean feeding grounds has been cut by the ice build-up.

Â?So by the time a penguin comes in from the ice edge on a return 112-mile walk, theyÂ?ve used all the food,Â? he said.

Â?Penguin researchers are predicting that the annual hatching is pretty certain to fail,Â? Sanson said, meaning most chicks will die.

Scientists also fear that only about 10% of the 50,000 breeding pairs of Adele penguins at nearby Cape Bird will rear a chick this season, Sanson added.

Adult penguins there face a 60-mile round-trip across the ice to reach open water and food.

Antarctica New Zealand is working with the United States and Italian Antarctic programmes on alternatives for receiving vital fuel supplies for their science bases in late January.

A US icebreaker, fuel tanker and cargo ship plus an Italian cargo vessel are due to deliver a yearÂ?s supply of fuel and food at that time.

The alternatives are to break an 81-mile channel through the pack ice to reach Winter Quarters Bay on the McMurdo Sound coast Â? or offload the fuel and other supplies on the ice edge, pumping fuel through temporary lines several miles to storage tanks, he said.

All Antarctic bases have contingency supplies of a yearÂ?s food and fuel, Sanson says.

Currently there is Â?more fast (blocked) ice in McMurdo Sound than weÂ?ve ever recorded in living history for this time of year,Â? he said, adding that the iceberg has been stopping normal winds and water currents from breaking up sea ice in McMurdo Sound.


The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to yourself, respect; to all men, charity. ~ Arthur J. Balfour




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