January 6, 2005
Icebergs Enter New Zealand Waters
WELLINGTON (AFP) -- New Zealanders complaining about unseasonal summer rain in recent weeks have received proof of changing climatic conditions after icebergs were sighted in local waters for the first time since 1948.
The icebergs were see in the Southern Ocean, about 700 kilometres (420 miles) southeast of the South Island, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) said Thursday.They were a hazard to all shipping, including yachts participating in the Vendeeglobe solo round-the-world race, officials said.
The Vendeeglobe website has issued a warning to competitors after one sailor sustained minor damage to his boat when he hit an iceberg just before Christmas.
NIWA scientist Lionel Carter said 15 icebergs, some up to three kilometres wide, have been recorded.
"In 30 years of working for NIWA, this is the first time I have recorded sightings of icebergs in New Zealand waters," Carter said.
Previous reportings were in the 1890s, early 1920s, 1930s and in 1948.
In 1931 icebergs were seen as far north as near Dunedin in the South Island.
He said it was too soon to blame this flotilla of ice on global warming, although the coincidence of large collapses of the Antarctic ice shelves with a rapidly changing climate could not be dismissed.
The icebergs are expected to drift towards South America.