Historical occurrence of Antarctic icebergs within mercantile shipping routes and the exceptional events of the 1890s

A major consideration for maritime activity in the Southern Hemisphere is the northern limit of icebergs, or the Southern Ocean Limit Of Known Ice (SOLOKI). This analysis of historical reports of icebergs during Southern Hemisphere voyages from 1687 to 1933 provides a basis for examination of their geographical and chronological occurrence during ~250 years. The analyses use tabulated data from 742 voyages and other reports from many sources, some including first-person descriptions. While these data are dependent on icebergs being reported by mariners, as well as the variable frequency of voyages, they demonstrate distinct periods of exceptional frequency of icebergs occurring in certain localities, particularly the far South Atlantic. Based upon historical records the evidence suggests unprecedented numbers of icebergs were present in southern shipping channels in the 1890s. When these historical observations are combined with modern iceberg drift trajectories, their possible origin can be elucidated. Owing to the numbers of icebergs seen and their geographical spread, our results suggest that this was possibly the largest near-synchronous calvings in the last 300 years, and the northernmost extent of the SOLOKI.


Publication status:
Published Online
Authors: Headland, Robert Keith, Hughes, Nicholas Edward, Wilkinson, Jeremy Paul

On this site: Jeremy Wilkinson
27 October, 2023
Journal of Glaciology
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