You had to have known that sooner or later I was going to go all cold and icy in one of my post-Newfoundland stories.
Even without the story of the Titanic, icebergs are fascinating. They take upwards of 3 years to drift down from the Arctic into the shipping lanes of the North Atlantic off the coast of Newfoundland.
The best chance of viewing one of these great slabs of ice is in the late spring and I accidentally chose the best year in 35 years for iceberg viewing .
It’s not because of climate change as one might think.
Apparently, Newfoundland had been experiencing brisk winds, above normal, from the east. Instead of the majority of icebergs drifting far out into the Atlantic as they normally would, the east winds had been causing an unusual number of them to be pushed towards the coastline.
This was a bonus for us. It meant that up until our last day, we were seeing icebergs everywhere we stopped … or it could mean we stopped everywhere we saw icebergs. Either interpretation works.
A grey foggy background doesn’t provide a very dramatic backdrop for an iceberg compared to a close-up on a sunny day.
We had only one chance for that and it was the day we took a boat ride out to the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve where thousands of marine birds nest … including the adorable little puffin.
This iceberg was rocking erratically and the captain of our boat believed it was going to roll in the water. We were actually a safer distance away from it than this photo might suggest.
I was hoping to catch some dramatic footage of this iceberg flipping over but to my profound disappointment, it just continued to bob and pitch like a drunk teenager on Saturday night, and we eventually moved on.
We learned a lot about icebergs on this boat trip however some of it was inconsistent with definitions I later found by other sources. I’m going to use the definitions provided by Environment and Climate Change Canada.
I think most people know that only 10% of an iceberg is actually viewable above the surface of the water. This has something to do with icebergs being freshwater and having a different density than seawater … but this is science-y stuff that I tend to gloss over.
To classify as an iceberg, the slab of ice needs to be at least 5 metres (16 feet) above sea level. If it’s less than 5 metres, it’s called a bergy bit and these are actually much more problematic for marine traffic because they are more difficult to detect and track.
As bergy bits melt, the smaller chunks that break off are called growlers. These are defined as chunks of ice measuring only a metre (3 feet) above the surface.
This trip did not sated my desire to see icebergs. I knew when I chose St John’s as my target destination it wasn’t going to be the best location for viewing these frozen giants but I had to make compromises with the time available.
I’m already dreaming of a return trip someday to the northern shores of Newfoundland for more iceberg hunting.