The Iceberg Edition

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.

At Cape Spear we suddenly peeled off the road at the sight of 2!! icebergs off shore.
We braved the rain and a nasty wind off the water to capture photos.

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.

Closer shot of the iceberg on the right in the previous photo..

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.

Witless Bay

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.

Deb and I – the intrepid Iceberg Hunters

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.

Bay Roberts

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.

Witless Bay

I’m already dreaming of a return trip someday to the northern shores of Newfoundland for more iceberg hunting.

100 comments

  1. Great pictures, Joanne…heard from the Badass that you were the intrepid iceberg hunter! It looks like you were there when it was still chilly!

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  2. I loved my trip to Newfoundland some 20 years ago. I was there in June, and there were icebergs right in the bay near St. John’s. We climbed Signal Hill, and made an excursion to Cape Spear. We also went to see the nest sites of some rare sea birds that nest in cliffs by the sea, but I no longer remember where it was or the type of bird.

    Jude

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  3. Somehow this post landed in my spam folder. 😦 Icebergs are so cool. We saw some when I went to Alaska with my sister many years ago. Stunning pictures!

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  4. wow, wow and wow! Such beautiful natural sculptures. (Just recently I read a book at library Story Time that featured a puffin. I didn’t know until I read the book that a baby puffin is called a puffling…so cute).

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  5. Ohhh…I loved this! I haven’t seen icebergs before, but I think I’d be as excited as I was the first time I saw snow (okay, maybe much, much more excited!).

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  6. It must be bizarre to be up close to these things. I’m so not an Arctic creature but the sight sends shivers, doesn’t it? Literally, but very beautifully too. Sounds like an awesome trip, Joanne. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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  7. I love the vision I have of you two suddenly veering off the road to gaze at and photograph Icebergs!

    I’ve never seen one in person. I can only imagine how exciting it would be to see one. Their blueness is amazing.

    I’m looking forward to reading more about your adventure with Deb.

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  8. Love the photos of the icebergs and the two of you! You both exude so much joy. Boiling here in the heat of Viet Nam and these icebergs seem more appealing than ever. Thanks for all the tidbits and iceberg education!

    Peta

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    • ‘Exuding joy’ pretty well described us every day of this trip. I couldn’t have asked for a better travelling partner on this trip and we both left Newfoundland reluctantly.

      The closest I get to an iceberg now are the ice cubes in my water bottle 😏

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    • The relaxed pace of the province made it so easy for us to suddenly stop and pull over whenever the mood possessed us. In Toronto this erratic driving behaviour would likely have caused numerous accidents πŸ˜‰

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  9. Wow…I had no idea about any of this…my experience with icebergs comes from Jack and Rose and James Cameron πŸ™‚ I even thought icebergs were saltwater…but of course it makes sense that they are fresh water…fantastic post, Joanne.

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  10. It seems mother nature knew you were coming on an iceberg hunt given that it is the best year in 35 yrs to view icebergs! Isn’t it funny how the more we travel, the more we want to travel? Great post Jo!

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  11. Hi Joanne, I have had goosebumps just waiting patiently for “the Iceberg Edition.” I enjoyed reading Deb’s post and I was looking forward to reading more. “Peeled off the road” major lol. I can see the wind in the still photos. Considering you gloss over science stuff, great fascinating information. The last iceberg I saw was outside of Juneau. I may have to resurrect the photos from that trip. Your iceberg excitement is contagious. Thank you for sharing:)

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  12. The last photo is very beautiful. I can’t say icebergs have featured heavily on my ‘must see’ list, but I do like seeing wildlife programmes from the Arctic region.

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    • I agree that the names are ‘cute’. It kind of reduces their danger factor when in fact it’s quite the opposite.

      I too thought that hollowed-out iceberg was very interesting. I suspect it might have had only another day or two as it was drifting south. It was already breaking apart.

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    • I was good with the boat ride. I’ve been known to get seasick, but on this day I loved the rocking of the boat over the waves and the roar of the wind. The water was very deceiving. It appeared to be calm but the waves were much more pronounced than I expected. It was an experience that made me feel alive.

      Puffins= ❀️

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  13. Dear Joanne,
    growlers are dangerous because of the radar doesn’t show them. Well, icebreakers are able to handle them but they can sink yachts. When I went on a zodiak to have a proper look at icebergs (North-Greenland) there was always the danger that they will flip around which causes a kind of tsunami which is quite dangerous for such small boats. The flipping around is caused by melting which changes the centre of gravitation.
    Thanks for your article πŸ™‚
    Have a happy week wishing you
    The Fab Four of Cley
    πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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    • Wow! You’ve been to Greenland! I would love to go there someday!!

      I hadn’t considered the ‘tsunami’ affect but it makes sense. A respectful distance is always a good idea. Nature can be unpredictable.

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      • Dear Joanne,
        well, I survived several Arctic expeditions πŸ˜‰ If you are into icebergs the north of Spitsbergen is fine but if you make it over to East Greenland you will be astonished how many and how big icebergs you see there.
        I can highly recommend going to Greenland, especially NE Greenland – well, the Scoresby Sound is far north enough, if you are not into real expeditions. It’s the greatest travel experience I have ever had.
        Wishing you a happy day
        Klausbernd

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        • I resigned myself to the fact that Newfoundland is just rainy and foggy and hoped for the best.
          We prepared for the worst and as it turned out, the weather was very cooperative and didn’t start raining until mid-to-late afternoon every day.
          The fog was just weird. It would be sunny and foggy at the same time – or sunny then suddenly thick fog and back again. I’ve never seen anything like it!

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  14. Bergy bits and growlers. Who knew? I’m with Ally Bean–we sell growlers of beer, here. And fresh water….obviously I know nothing about icebergs. Fascinating stuff, Joanne.

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  15. Well, that’s exciting and not at all weird to someone who chases Bluebonnets and tulips. I checked out your buddy’s post also. Incredible photos from the two of you.

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    • hahaha! I can relate to chasing flowers πŸ™‚ I’ve been known to race up and country roads looking for lilacs to harvest for bouquets. For some reason, city people don’t like you to cut their trees πŸ˜‰

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  16. And you had to know that we’ve been waiting for this post. I like the sciency stuff, but I can look it up. Great photos, Joanne. I’m glad you picked such a good time to go.

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    • Funny – I just finished commenting that I wondered how many people didn’t know icebergs were freshwater. To be honest, it was one of those pieces of info that made me go ‘ooooh yeaaaah’ from the deep recesses of my memory.

      I only learned a couple of years ago about beer growlers. Interesting that the word growler is used for something both big and small.

      Liked by 1 person

    • hmmmm – any project that involves multiple delays over several years and disputes among the parties involved doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence for success.

      I think glaciers are pretty awesome too – like land-based icebergs πŸ˜‰… which come to think of it, they kind of are.

      Liked by 1 person

    • We ARE rugged, fearless adventurers πŸ™‚ … who happen to require clean bathroom facilities, a warm comfortable bed at night, a few glasses of something to reminisce over, and a well cooked meal on a regular basis πŸ˜†

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