The Matusevich Glacier flows toward the coast of East Antarctica, pushing through a channel between the Lazarev Mountains and the northwestern tip of the Wilson Hills. Constrained by surrounding rocks, the river of ice holds together. But stresses resulting from the glacier’s movement make deep crevasses, or cracks, in the ice. After passing through the channel, the glacier has room to spread out as it floats on the ocean. The expanded area and the jostling of ocean waves prompts the ice to break apart, which it often does along existing crevasses.
On September 6, 2010, the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite captured this natural-color image of the margin of Matusevich Glacier. Shown here just past the rock-lined channel, the glacier is calving large icebergs. Low-angled sunlight illuminates north-facing surfaces and casts long shadows to the south. Fast ice anchored to the shore surrounds both the glacier tongue and the icebergs it has calved. Compared to the glacier and icebergs, the fast ice is thinner with a smoother surface. Out to sea (image left), the sea ice is even thinner and moves with winds and currents.
Matusevich Glacier does not drain a significant amount of ice off of the Antarctic continent, so the glacier’s advances and retreats lack global significance. Like other Antarctic glaciers, however, Matusevich helps glaciologists form a larger picture of Antarctica’s glacial health and ice sheet volume.