Nature follows specific laws, but results are often irregular and asymmetric like clouds and coastline and ocean waves. So when NASA scientists flying over the northern Antarctic Peninsula last week as part of Operation IceBridge spotted a neatly cut rectangular piece of iceberg floating amidst a jumble of broken ice, everybody thought it was pretty interesting.
While icebergs with relatively straight edges are common, this was the first time anybody has seen an iceberg with two corners at right angles, explained Jeremy Harbeck, senior support scientist of Operation IceBridge.
This type of rectangular formation is called a tabular iceberg. They are wide and flat, and long, like sheet cake, Kelly Brunt, a ice scientist with NASA and at the University of Maryland, said. They split from the edges of ice shelves like fingernails breaking off when they grow too long. These fracture lines can form interesting geometric structures like rectangles and triangles. This particular rectangular iceberg is about a mile wide, and it had just broken off from the Larsen C ice shelf.
And here is another piece of slightly less rectangular iceberg with rounded edges.