Scientists will set out in the next week to study an Antarctic realm that has been hidden for thousands of years.
A British Antarctic Survey-led team will explore the seabed ecosystem exposed when a giant iceberg broke away from the Antarctic Peninsula in 2017.
The organisation has also released first pictures of the berg, which covers almost 6,000 sq km.
Its true scale begins to emerge in a shot filmed from an aircraft flown along its edge.
An international team will spend three weeks, from February to March, on board the research ship RRS James Clark Ross, navigating ice-infested waters to reach the remote Larsen C ice shelf from which the berg calved.
British Antarctic Survey marine biologist Dr Katrin Linse, who is leading the mission, said that the calving of the iceberg, which has been named A68, provides researchers with “a unique opportunity to study marine life as it responds to a dramatic environmental change”.
“It’s important we get there quickly before the undersea environment changes as sunlight enters the water and new species begin to colonise,” she explained, adding that the mission was “very exciting”.
Prof David Vaughan, science director at BAS stressed that it was a treacherous journey but said the team needed to “be bold”.
“Larsen C is a long way south and there’s lots of sea ice in the area, but this is important science, so we will try our best to get the team where they need to be,” he said.
“The calving of A68 offers a new and unprecedented opportunity to establish an interdisciplinary scientific research programme in this climate-sensitive region. Now is the time to address fundamental questions about the sustainability of polar continental shelves under climate change.”