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Majestic Glaciers and Icebergs of the Arctic and Antarctica

by Holly Chavez Blog

Antarctic Peninsula

Highlights: Ross Ice Shelf

The world is a fascinating ecosystem that utilizes all of its resources to provide a habitat for life on this planet. If water and air are the two most important elements to life, then glaciers and icebergs can take their place at the top of the world's ecosystem as well. According to researchers, the glaciers, ice caps and permanent areas of snow throughout the world comprise 1.7 percent of the total water worldwide. However, glaciers and icebergs actually serve a much more vital function than this statistic would seem to indicate.

The same ice formations and snow that are found in cold climate areas such as the Arctic Region and Antarctica, which are also referred to as the North Pole and the South Pole, account for a shocking 68.7 percent of the world’s freshwater supply. In other words, icebergs and glaciers provide the main storage for the drinking water that all living beings need to survive.  Understanding this data makes it even more exciting to go on an Arctic expedition.  

The Difference Between Glaciers And Icebergs

Glaciers are large sheets of ice that can spread out for miles. The larger glaciers are referred to as continental glaciers, and they all start at a central point and spread out as they add more ice. Many glaciers are located in the Arctic and Antarctic parts of the world, and they can also be found growing on large mountains.
Icebergs are pieces of glaciers that have broken off and are now drifting with ocean currents. Direct sunlight or rising air temperature can cause glaciers to crack, and this creates icebergs. Only continental glaciers can create icebergs, as it would be pretty difficult for a mountain glacier to release an iceberg into the sea.

The Importance of the Glacier/Iceberg Ecosystem

Why do glaciers and icebergs matter? Because glaciers are supposed to continually grow and release icebergs into the Arctic and Antarctic seas. Those icebergs follow ocean currents and wind up feeding some of the larger rivers and lakes in the world. Without icebergs, many of those critical rivers and lakes would dry up.

Drinking Water

The vast majority of warm sea water is salt water, and this makes it undrinkable. However, as previously mentioned, glaciers and icebergs are formed from fresh water. Due to this, glacial water is bottled by companies from all over the world and sold as drinking water. Additionally, the rivers and lakes that glaciers and icebergs feed provide drinking water to millions of people around the world.

The Tip of The Iceberg

Have you ever heard someone refer to a growing problem as being only the tip of the iceberg? This is a saying that comes from the fact that most of an iceberg is submerged under water and cannot be seen. Icebergs melt from the bottom up instead of the top down, which means that you never know how much more of an iceberg there is underwater. This has been a huge issue for shipping vessels over the years, and it was a contributing factor in the famous sinking of the Titanic in 1912.

A Colorful Masterpiece

As glaciers grow, they pick up sediment from the ground and volcanic materials from the air. These huge ice formations also develop pockets of color that vary from the rest of the ice. This colourful phenomenon is caused by ice on the surface of the glacier temporarily thawing and then becoming frozen again. All three of these factors combine to create the colorful streaks in glaciers that are then passed on to icebergs.

Enjoying the Look of An Iceberg

When you watch an iceberg, there are a couple of interesting elements to look for that will help you to appreciate just how complex they are. Along with the color streaks, the melting and refreezing on the surface of an iceberg can create large caves that have walls of many different breathtaking colors.

When you head out on an Arctic or Antarctic cruise, it is absolutely worth it to take some time to experience the beauty of an iceberg. Keep in mind that what looks like nothing more than a large ice formation will actually have many interesting aspects available for visual inspection.

Icebergs and glaciers are much more than just sheets of ice. They are critical to the world's ecosystem, and they are also pretty fascinating to explore as well. If you ever get the chance, go out on an expedition in Antarctica or the Arctic Ocean. Be sure to take some time during your expedition to get close to an iceb1erg or a glacier so that you develop a true understanding of what these important ice formations really look like. 

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