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Icebergs moving towards New Zealand

world Updated: Nov 20, 2009 10:27 IST

A cluster of Antarctic icebergs were heading towards New Zealand after being spotted around 400 kilometres (250 miles) south of the country, scientists said on Friday.

Icebergs are a rare sight in the sub-Antarctic waters south of New Zealand but in 2006 a number floated to within 25 kilometres of the coastline, the first such sighting since 1931.

Oceanographer Mike Williams said currents and winds would determine whether the latest icebergs, estimated to be up to 80 metres in length, would come close to the New Zealand coastline.

The icebergs were spotted by a tourist ship, Spirit of Enderby, near the Auckland Islands and expedition leader Rodney Russ said it was the first time in 37 years of visiting the area that he had seen icebergs.

“They currently appear to be moving north at about 1.25 kilometres an hour,” Russ said in a statement.

“It is possible that they might reach New Zealand intact -- but they are showing signs of deteriorating and breaking up.”

Last week Australian scientists saw a mass of icebergs floating past Macquarie Island, another 600 kilometres to the southwest.

The largest was reported to be around two kilometres in length.

Williams told Radio New Zealand the icebergs -- like those spotted in 2006 -- are most likely to be parts of six very large icebergs that broke off from the Ross Ice Shelf between 2000 and 2002.