Iceberg - Encyclopedia

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ICEBERG (from ice and Berg, Ger. for hill, mountain), a floating mass of ice broken from the end of a glacier or from an ice-sheet. The word is sometimes, but rarely, applied to the arch of an Arctic glacier viewed from the sea. It is more commonly used to describe huge floating masses of ice that drift from polar regions into navigable waters. They are occasionally encountered far beyond the polar regions, rising into beautiful forms with breakers roaring into their caves and streams of water pouring from their pinnacles in the warmer air. When, however, they rest in comparatively warm water, melting takes place most rapidly at the base and they frequently overturn. Only one-ninth of the mass of ice is seen above water. When a glacier descends to the sea, as in Alaska, and "advances into water, the depth of which approaches its thickness, the ends are broken off and the detached masses float away as icebergs. Many of the bergs are overturned, or at least tilted, as they set sail. If this does not happen at once it is likely to occur later as the result of the wave-cutting and melting which disturb their equilibrium" (T. C. Chamberlin and R. D. Salisbury, Geology: Processes and their Results, 1905). These bergs carry a load of debris from the glacier and gradually strew their load upon the sea floor. They do not travel far before losing all stony and earthy debris, but glacial material found in dredgings shows that icebergs occasionally carry their load far from land. The structure of the iceberg varies with its origin and is always that of the glacier or ice-sheet from which it was broken. The breaking off of the ice-sheet from a Greenland glacier is called locally the "calving" of the glacier. The constantly renewed material from which the icebergs are formed is brought down by the motion of the glacier. The ice-sheet cracks at the end, and masses break off, owing to the upward pressure of the water upon the lighter ice which is pushed into it. This is accomplished with considerable violence. The disintegration of an Arctic icesheet is a simpler matter, as the ice is already floating.

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