Calving is traditionally a farming term, "calving time", the birth of baby cows springs to mind. But it also applies to the breaking off of huge pieces of ice from the ice shelves of the polar regions to form icebergs. The process occurs as glaciers push their mass seaward, and huge ice shelves fracture with the seasonal alternation.

The icebergs are given designations according to aerial surveys, this is true for the Antarctic icebergs. Iceberg names range from A-D depending on what quadrant they calved from. I'm not sure how those that calve into the Atlantic from Greenlandare named.

IN the Southern ocean huge chunks of ice have been liberating themselves especially off the Ross Ice shelf near New Zealand

In 2003 an iceberg called C-19, almost 20 miles wide and 124 miles long, more than twice the size of Rhode Island broke off.**

In 2001 an even larger iceberg designated B-15 took the record at the time of writing (AKA "twice the size of Delaware")- though for non Americans Delaware is not a standard unit of measure* - so that would be roughly 10,000 sq km or the size of the largest island of Fiji- Viti Levu.

Calving of this magnitude is an environmental hazard for the Phytoplankton, and near coastal ecologys they displace. Excessive calving contributes directly with the current (2004) 6% decline in phytoplankton productivity which is alarming many scientists of various climate and ecological disciplines.

The sound of calving

One of the most intense experiences must be to witness such and event. There is the sound of the cracking, the groans of an impending birth and many sharp bursts like artillery. The calving events on a smaller scale are often tied to the midwifery of sunlight. I'd like to describe the sound but you can listen to it yourself. Here is a link to a small event, the link is sure to work for those fortunate enough to read this node near its own calving.

On a human scale the second most overwhelming part of the experience after the sound are the waves generated by the displacing mass, in some ways it is a small taste of a meteor impact -maybe not- but it is taking "throwing stones into a pond" to a whole new level.

For more information
A good general iceberg resource

*Is there some kind of scale with successively bigger States? It would be interesting if random but equivilent island sizes were used for the international community, e.g "It was twice the size of Samoa but not quite as big as Fiji.

**Smallest U.S. State 1,045-1,545 square miles (~1000-1500mi2.)-depending the inclusion or exclusion of Narragansett Bay. If you're thinking metric, you don't need a U.S state for comparison, here is an alternative, Rhode Island is half the size of Bali