If an iceberg can calve, will the genetic engineers become involved in future calvings?

So what does the picture above have in common with the picture below?

We live and learn, as they say.

Alf has just learned that calving can happen in places other than dairy farms.

He did know it can happen at research centres, where genetic engineers do their thing, and it can happen in the ocean, when whales give birth.

But that’s not all…

Alf’s latest linguistic lesson came with news that glacier watchers on the Tasman Lake had an experience of a lifetime at the time of the earthquake devastated Christchurch.

The Timaru Herald reported that –

Two guides and 16 passengers were on two boats on the lake when the 6.3 magnitude Canterbury earthquake hit, triggering tsunamis and causing a massive ice calving off the glacier.

Aoraki-Mt Cook Alpine Village Ltd general manager tourism Denis Callesen is reported to have explained that the guides were radioed from the village as soon as the earthquake was felt, so were able to prepare for the event.

The boats endured 30 minutes of tsunamis, up to 3.5 metres high, he said.

Staff are trained for the event, knowing to turn the boats towards each tsunami and motor gently forwards.

And then came a bit more stuff on this calving carry-on…

About 30 million tonnes of ice calved – 1200 metres across the face, 30 metres above the lake and more than 250 metres below the surface to the bottom of the lake and back for about 75 metres.

Mr Callesen said it was either the third biggest, or second-equal biggest event in Tasman Lake’s history.

The headline on this item of news was: Earthquake causes glacier to calve

Alf’s initial reaction (he admits this with just the hint of a blush) was to instruct Mrs Grumble to draft a letter for him to send to the editor of the Timaru Herald, admonishing him (or maybe it’s a her in these days of gender confusion) for the misuse of the word “calve”.

But Mrs Grumble persuaded him to check things out first.

She consulted an on-line dictionary and – lo and behold – she found the following:

calve [kɑːv]
1. (Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Zoology) to give birth to (a calf)
2. (Earth Sciences / Geological Science) (of a glacier or iceberg) to release (masses of ice) in breaking up

How calving can have such very disparate meanings is apt to puzzle Alf for the rest of the day.

He is also wondering how come the Timaru Herald happens to have hired a journalist – obviously a smart-arse – with the wit to know that “calve” was the word to use in explaining what happened when the glacier spliintered.

But Mrs Grumble reckons just about everybody knows that glaciers can calve and Alf’s first encounter with glacial calving has come astonishingly late in his life.

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