The giant Ayles Ice Island drifting off Canada’s northern shores has broken in two, much earlier than expected. In a season of record summer melting in the region, the two chunks have moved rapidly through the water – one of them covering 98km (61 miles) in a week.

The original Manhattan-sized berg (16km by five km; 10 miles by three miles) broke off the Ayles Ice Shelf in 2005.

Luke Copland of the University of Ottawa, has told BBC News that the fact that the island had headed south was significant. “The island became more vulnerable to breaking up with the warmer temperatures in more southerly latitudes, together with having less protection from the smaller amounts of surrounding sea-ice. Ultimately, the ice island should break up faster because of the warmer temperatures – I’d be surprised if it lasted more than a decade or so.”

The icebergs are being tracked amid fears they could edge west towards oil and gas installations off Alaska. How ironic…