Huge iceberg off St Francis Bay ‘unlikely’

It is highly unlikely that there could be a massive iceberg off St Francis Bay, a top South African Weather Service marine researcher said on Tuesday.

On Monday, the crew of a fishing vessel, the Ntini, reported seeing a massive iceberg — estimated at 25m in length and 25m high.

It was last seen at 6pm on Monday, 35 nautical miles south-east of St Francis Bay.

National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) spokesperson Craig Lambinon said there had only been one sighting thus far, and he could not confirm the find.

Air force pilots on the lookout for the iceberg on Tuesday did not see anything of the sort from the air. Lambinon said the air force did not specifically go looking for the iceberg.

”The air force was due to fly in that area anyway and not specifically to look for the iceberg. They were requested to keep a lookout for it, but they did not find or see any iceberg,” said Lambinon.

”But we must take into consideration that they flew in unfavourable weather conditions where there were high waves,” he said.

Ian Hunter, a top marine researcher for the South African Weather Service, said an iceberg of this magnitude is unlikely. ”It’s very unlikely because of the warm Agulhas current off the east coast,” he said. ”The history of iceberg climatology in this area also shows that there has never been anything like this in the past.”

Hunter said the South African Sailing Direction, a book published by the hydrographic office under the South African Navy, mentions that there were a few iceberg sightings in the 1850s near Cape Town.

He said there was a report from a ship in 2002 off the Cape west coast of a piece of ice, with about a metre of it sticking above the water.

”We refer to this as a ‘growler’ because it is very small. Bearing in mind the cold Cape Town water, this was, to an extent, acceptable,” he said.

But the chances of an iceberg of this magnitude to arrive off St Francis Bay are slim.

”An iceberg this big would have to drift through a considerable amount of warm water because of the warm Agulhas current. Anyway, a big iceberg such as this would be seen by ships on their radar,” said Hunter.

”This was one sighting and it could be a navigation hazard. A navigation warning has already been sent out based on this report.”

Hunter said it is imperative that this sighting be verified as soon as possible because if a ship hit the iceberg, the ship would sink.

He added that the air force may not even see the iceberg because high waves may block it from sight. — Sapa

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