Icebergs split off, pose risk in South Pacific

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — A flotilla of hundreds of icebergs that split off Antarctic ice shelves is drifting toward New Zealand and could pose a risk to ships in the South Pacific, officials said Tuesday.

The nearest one, measuring nearly 100 feet tall, was 160 miles southeast of New Zealand's Stewart Island, Australian glaciologist Neal Young said. He couldn't say how many icebergs in total were loose in the Pacific, but he counted 130 in one satellite image alone and 100 in another.

Large numbers of icebergs last floated close to New Zealand in 2006, when some were visible from the coastline — the first such sighting since 1931.

Maritime officials have issued navigation warnings for the area south of the country.

No major shipping lanes or substantial fishing grounds are in the area, but most ships there have little hull protection if they collide with an iceberg. Very few adventure sailors would be in the waters in November, when it is still the southern hemisphere's spring.

Maritime New Zealand safety services general manager Nigel Clifford said the agency was "keeping a close eye on the increasing risk."