Iceberg patrol gains faster updates from orbit

09 November 2016

The international iceberg patrol service set up after the sinking of the Titanic is now able to track drifting ice from orbit more swiftly through ESA-backed cloud computing.

The icebergs drifting in transatlantic shipping lines typically break off from the Greenland ice sheet before being carried into Baffin Bay. From there, they typically either become grounded or continue southwards. Most are gradually weathered away, but some can endure dangerously far south.

On 15 April 1912 the most infamous iceberg in history collided with the Titanic just south of the tail of Newfoundland's Grand Banks. The loss of life was enormous, with more than 1500 passengers and crew perishing.

The disaster prompted maritime nations to establish an iceberg patrol across the North Atlantic that continues to this day. Since 1913 the US Coast Guard has run the International Ice Patrol, and no vessel heeding the published iceberg limit has collided with an iceberg in that time.

Throughout the January to July ice season, aircraft make regular reconnaissance flights, adding to an increasing amount of radar imagery from Europe's Sentinel-1A and -1B satellites.

The Patrol uses aerial and ship sightings to feed an iceberg database to publish daily warnings for mariners.

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