Sunday 22 November 2009

Cruise vessels on alert as four icebergs are spotted drifting towards New Zealand

At least four icebergs are bearing down on New Zealand, drifting only a few hundred kilometres off the South Island coast and moving closer by the day.

NZ National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research oceanographer Mike Williams said four icebergs up to 250m in length had been spotted by fishermen about 80km northwest of the Auckland Islands, 400 to 500km off the coast of New Zealand.

The mass of icebergs was first spotted about two weeks ago by Australian Antarctic Division researchers working on Macquarie Island. Satellite imagery showed the icebergs, were now tracking northeast towards the South Island at about 1 to 2km an hour, Mr Williams said.

Rodney Russ (pic left) expedition leader on the polar tourist ship “Spirit of Enderby” and an expert on Sub Antarctic New Zealand said this is the first time in almost 40 years of visiting this area that he has seen icebergs so far north.

"They currently appear to be moving north at about 1.25 kilometers per hour. It is possible that they might reach New Zealand intact - but they are showing signs of deteriorating and breaking up," he said.

"We first sighted them 10 miles off the eastern entrance to Carnley Harbour in the Auckland Islands. Weather and sea conditions at the time prevented a closer inspection but as conditions improved today and we were able to locate them and sail close by”.

"They had traveled 19 nautical miles to the north and they currently lie six miles east of Port Ross at 50 38'S, 166 25'E," he said.

The "Spirit of Enderby" left the Auckland Islands on Wednesday (November 18) bound for Macquarie Island and fully expects to encounter more icebergs as they were seen by researchers, based on Macquarie Island, last week.

"The crew of the vessel has been put on special 'iceberg lookout' as these icebergs pose a significant risk to shipping. We have never had 'iceberg alerts' in the Sub Antarctic islands before. 'Iceberg lookouts' are a feature of our Antarctic voyages but have not been deemed necessary on a Sub Antarctic Expedition, but maybe that will have to change," he said.

Heritage Expeditions is a New Zealand award winning expedition travel company, which specializes in worldwide natural history small group expeditions for the discerning traveler to areas such as the Ross Sea, Antarctica, the Sub Antarctic Islands, subtropical Kermadec Islands, Pacific Odyssey and the Russian Far East.

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