Photographer Captures the Coveted ‘Rest of the Iceberg’

Curators’ Corner

Photographer Captures the Coveted ‘Rest of the Iceberg’

Everyone is always telling you about “the tip of the iceberg,” but what about the rest of it?

The figure of speech plays off the scientific fact that only about 10 percent of an iceberg is visible above the surface of water due to the varying densities of ice and saltwater. However, did you know that on occasion, an iceberg will actually capsize? San Francisco-based photographer and filmmaker Alex Cornell was lucky to capture such an occurrence on a family vacation to Antarctica, and the resulting image is pretty amazing:


Cornell was on a boat expedition to Cierva Cove, a glacial bay off the peninsula, when a scientist aboard became excited at a sight ahead.

“Everything I was seeing was pretty exciting,” Cornell told Smithsonian. “This particular iceberg at the time kind of blended in with all the crazy stuff we were seeing.”

As they approached the 30-foot-tall mass, it became clear that this wasn’t the typical snow-covered and weathered “tip of the iceberg,” but rather the gem-like underside. Cornell’s guide suggested that the iceberg had recently flipped, likely from melting. Nevertheless, the result is a pristine sculpture that almost looks like a macro shot at first glance.

Smithsonian and the National Snow & Ice Data Center suggest that the ice was probably aged and extremely dense, and that minerals may have seeped into the underwater part to create its aquamarine appearance. Unfortunately, the phenomenon may also be attributed to climate change. Emory University assistant professor Justin Burton explained that outlet glaciers, “rivers of ice that flow outward from an ice cap or ice sheet into the sea,” are retreating from Antarctica and Greenland, thus causing more icebergs to flip.

Meanwhile, Cornell told Smithsonian that he was thankful to have captured the moment.

“It’s like if you see a double rainbow over a whale breaching; you’re just lucky that you’re there,” Cornell said. “Anybody could have been there and captured it, so I am happy that I was the one for this one.”

By the way, Antarctica is stunning enough on its own. Check out a few more of Cornell’s shots below, and click here to visit his website.

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