A flipped blue iceberg

After years of following leads and contacting travel/expedition companies, it looks as if I’ll be lecturing next year on some cruises to Antarctica and the Falkland Islands, which has always been a great dream of mine. It will be great fun lecturing on cruises again (I’ve done it four times), as the audiences are always much more receptive and interested than are the students in a regular college course. And I can’t wait to see the scenery and, especially, the wildlife. And maybe a blue iceberg!

Until I read this article from MyModernMet, and followed the links, I had no idea that icebergs could actually be blue. (They can also be green.) After all, they’re made of water, and water is clear and ice cubes are clear. But this doesn’t appear to be the case with ‘bergs. As the “Met” link reports:

While on an expedition in Antarctica, interface designer and filmmaker Alex Cornell was treated to the rare sight of a massive iceberg that had recently flipped over, revealing an extraordinarily vivid blue underside. With the strikingly polished ice ranging in hue from light aqua to dark teal to near-black, this breathtaking specimen looks “more like a galactic artifact than anything terrestrial,” according to Cornell in a discussion with Fstoppers.

Icebergs are normally white because of the air bubbles trapped inside, Jan Lieser, a marine glaciologist at the Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Co-operative Research Center in Tasmania, tells the Sydney Morning Herald. The deep blue color of this iceberg indicates virtually no air inclusion, most likely as a result of pressure from accumulating snow squeezing out all the air.

What we see of an iceberg is only about 10 percent of its entirety, with the majority of the mass hidden beneath the surface of the water. Dr. Lieser explains, “While the iceberg is in the water it actually melts, so that balance becomes imbalanced and, at some stage, which nobody can really predict, these icebergs flip and turn.” Those flips, which are extraordinary to witness, are even powerful enough to sometimes create tsunami-like conditions.

Some photos from Alex Cornell’s website:


Cornell’s video of the flipped iceberg, explaining how he made the photos. Yes, he manipulated them, but he didn’t make them appear blue, as you can see in the video itself. Rather, he tried to reproduce what he actually saw with his eyes.

And a rare video of a different iceberg flipping over:

Finally, a bit more from the Sydney Morning Herald (link above):

“I’ve seen beautiful examples of green [flipped] icebergs, which we refer to as jade icebergs, but they have a completely different evolution.”

The underside of icebergs can vary in colour from blue to green and jade.

“This iceberg will remain this colour for the rest of its life. How long that will be, I don’t know, but this ice will be as blue as it is until it’s melted in the ocean – unless it turns again,” Dr Lieser said.

I want to see a green one, too!



  1. Posted September 22, 2018 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  2. Posted September 22, 2018 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    I love watching iceberg flip. Also impressive is when a really big iceberg floats by a town:


    Make sure your ship has good internet! I hear it can be pretty sketchy on cruise ships.

  3. Posted September 22, 2018 at 3:23 pm | Permalink


    Any happy cruising/lecturing!!!

  4. Posted September 22, 2018 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on A Classicist Writes… and commented:
    From Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution is True.”

  5. Posted September 22, 2018 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Enjoy the great adventure before middle eastern businessmen start hauling Antarctic icebergs to thirsty regions of the planet.


  6. Mark R.
    Posted September 22, 2018 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like a blast. Take lots of photos!

  7. Posted September 22, 2018 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Very cool, pun intended

  8. grasshopper
    Posted September 22, 2018 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    And now there came both mist and snow,
    And it grew wondrous cold:
    And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
    As green as emerald.

    The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – 1834
    (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

  9. grasshopper
    Posted September 22, 2018 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    An uneducated guess. The berg is blue due to Rayleigh scattering of light as it passes through air trapped in the ice.

  10. Posted September 22, 2018 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Yeah that would do it, icebergs have fascinated me since as child they use to float past NZ. Not so much anymore but one did come recently and there was a helicopter scramble to greet it.
    Try this berg for size,

    • Diane G
      Posted September 23, 2018 at 3:43 am | Permalink


      • Posted September 24, 2018 at 2:52 am | Permalink

        I’ll say, i can see that parked off the beach down the road from my place…

        • Diane G
          Posted September 24, 2018 at 5:29 am | Permalink

          Omigosh! I hope you won’t have to evacuate!

    • rickflick
      Posted September 23, 2018 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      What a strange place to want to live. No swimming I guess.

      • Posted September 24, 2018 at 2:57 am | Permalink

        Yes and isolated… something about not liking crowds?

  11. Heather Hastie
    Posted September 22, 2018 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t know about green or dark blue icebergs. How amazing! I hope you get to see those on your trips.

  12. Jimbo
    Posted September 22, 2018 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    Very cool. If you haven’t seen it, check out the largest glacier calving event ever recorded which occurred in Antarctica in 2008. Lots of blue ice.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 23, 2018 at 9:32 am | Permalink


    • Diane G
      Posted September 24, 2018 at 5:30 am | Permalink


  13. Posted September 23, 2018 at 3:32 am | Permalink

    Actually, water is blue. It’s just very pale and appears to be clear in small amounts.

  14. Paul Dymnicki
    Posted September 23, 2018 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    Why was there nothing in the article to say why the iceberg is blue. Is’nt that more interesting than the fact I’ve seen a blue iceberg.

    • Posted September 23, 2018 at 6:10 am | Permalink

      I’ll leave that to you to look up. A partial answer is suggested in one of the articles.

  15. wmelchior
    Posted September 23, 2018 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Coyne- Interesting news about your possible cruise lectures.  My wife and I, having done an Arctic cruise last month, are now interested in the ANTarctic.  (We didn’t see many animals north of the arctic circle.). While we may not go to the far south anytime soon, we’ve been doing a bit of research on different cruise companies.  Would you be willing to share the name(s) of the group(s) you’ve been in talks with? (I enjoy your blog, which I started following after reading WEIT; I’m quite interested in evolution as an outside interest.   I was a biochemist/molecular biologist for the FDA fornearly 40 years, and while I have trouble with the math of modern evolution, the subject fascinates me.) Best wishes to you and the ducks. -Bill Melchior

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPad

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