It can be tough to know what to believe on the internet these days. From Russian trolls and fake news to photo-shopped fakes and click bait, we’ve all grown painfully aware of how easily our eyes can deceive us. There was a time when seeing a picture of something was enough to make you believe it, but now, we all tend to approach internet fodder with a side-eyed skepticism, lest we become like our parents, using our e-mails purely for correspondence that begins with “FWD: FWD: FWD: FWD:” and ends with poorly supported claims about a politician they hate.
The thing is… sometimes, even in today’s cynical world, seeing can be believing. The image above, making its way around the internet, has been claimed by many to be a natural ice formation, despite looking so perfectly square that it must be either a man-made sheet of ice or a photo-shopped bit of image fakery. It is, in fact, neither of those things: this floating ice cube is not only real, it’s a naturally occurring phenomenon.
From yesterday’s #IceBridge flight: A tabular iceberg can be seen on the right, floating among sea ice just off of the Larsen C ice shelf. The iceberg’s sharp angles and flat surface indicate that it probably recently calved from the ice shelf. pic.twitter.com/XhgTrf642Z
— NASA ICE (@NASA_ICE) October 17, 2018
With what looks like a perfectly flat top, 90-degree angles and sheer sides, it boggles the mind that this sort of ice structure could be formed by nature, but according to NASA scientists and researchers working on the agency’s IceBridge Program — that’s exactly what happened. The IceBridge program involves sending routine flights over arctic regions to monitor how the terrain is changing. Notably, IceBridge flights have previously mapped mysterious holes appearing in the Antarctic ice sheets, as well as the collapse of ice shelves in Greenland. This particularly interesting iceberg was actually spotted near to another large chunk of celebrity ice: a portion of the Larsen-C ice shelf that saw a Long Island-sized iceberg break away from it last July.
This square iceberg probably isn’t actually quite as square as it looks. A portion of the ice can’t be seen in the image and, of course, there may be a great deal more ice hidden beneath the surface of the water. Nonetheless, this seemingly manufactured bit of ice isn’t even all that anomalous if it is as square as it appears, as most icebergs tend to break off of larger chunks in “sheets,” only to melt into irregular shapes thereafter.
In fact, that wasn’t even the only rectangular seeming iceberg spotted on last Tuesday’s flight.
“I thought it was pretty interesting; I often see icebergs with relatively straight edges, but I’ve not really seen one before with two corners at such right angles like this one had,” IceBridge senior support scientist Jeremy Harbeck said of his flight that produced the viral image. “I was actually more interested in capturing the A68 iceberg that we were about to fly over, but I thought this rectangular iceberg was visually interesting and fairly photogenic, so on a lark, I just took a couple photos.”