Manhattan-Size Ice Island Cracks in Half

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The larger chunk measures about five by three miles (eight by five kilometers). The smaller one is about three by three miles (five by five kilometers). As of May the ice was 148 feet (45 meters) thick.

Copland expects the ice chunks to completely melt within a decade or so, given their new southern position. Previous ice islands in the Arctic Ocean have stuck around for upward of half a century.

Collision Averted

In summer 2006 the ice island was drifting rapidly to the west, raising fears that it would head into the Beaufort Sea and collide with an oil rig there.

But the chunk's southern foray appears to have averted the crisis: The Queen Elizabeth Islands are mostly uninhabited and lack industrial infrastructure.

"The risk [of collision] has actually been reduced," Copland said.

Researchers are continuing to monitor the ice chunks.

Since their breakup, the two pieces have traveled at different speeds and followed their own courses through the narrow passages in the remote island chain.

"They'll either get stuck within the islands, or there is a chance they can make their way through these gaps in these islands and then actually head to the North Atlantic," Copland said.

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