Flipping an Iceberg

Alex Cornell is a designer, filmmaker, and sometime musician. He traveled to Antarctica in December of 2014 and captured these amazing, rare photos of the underside of an iceberg.

Icebergs don’t normally flip over. Gravity keeps the bulk of the ice underwater, leaving just the tip to breach the surface. If you ever see a flipped iceberg, chances are the iceberg has an irregular shape, and it flipped during its formation while it was breaking away from a glacier.

Flipped icebergs can trigger tsunamis, earthquakes, and give off as much energy as an atomic bomb.

A few inquisitive physicists wanted to study what happens when an iceberg flips. Their results, published in the  Journal of Geophysical Research, are pretty amazing.

5 Things You May Not Know About Icebergs

  • The ice must be a minimum of 16 feet across to be considered an iceberg. Any smaller and they are called “bergy bits” or “growlers.”
  • Icebergs are generally 90% submerged under water. So that “tip of the iceberg” you see floating is barely 10% of the ice’s total mass.
  • Though icebergs float in the salty ocean, icebergs are formed from snowfall and are actually made of freshwater.
  • The biggest iceberg ever discovered is called Iceberg B-15. It is 4,500 square miles – roughly the same size as Connecticut.
  • Iceberg Alley is an area of the coast of Newfoundland. It’s infamous for being a deadly area for ships to traverse. From 1882-1890, fourteen passenger liners sank, and in 1912 the Titanic sank after grazing an iceberg while passing through.


Photos courtesy of Alex Cornall.

Sources: Alex Cornell, Science World, How Stuff Works

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