Two Bays; A Few Bergs

The coast of Labrador and the northeast coast of Newfoundland is right along the part often known as Iceberg Alley. Each year in April and May it plays host to thousands of the icebergs as they make their way south, driven mainly by the cold Labrador Current. It’s something of a tourist draw. Boat tours in particular do a good business in showing the sights from a safe distance.

I was delighted to come across this grounded berg at Hearts Delight.

I was delighted to come across this grounded berg at Hearts Delight.

Most of these bergs are formed (calved) from glaciers on the west side of Greenland. Once afloat they slowly make their way along Baffin Island, then along the coast of Labrador, then along Newfoundland. Many go aground here and slowly melt throughout the summer. The rest continue their journey south along the Grand Banks.

As the Titanic disaster proved, they are quite a hazard to shipping. This continues to this day where oil production operations are continually on alert for the dangers resulting from the bergs, which may be a million tonnes or more.

Who knows, maybe these people were off to chip away a few chunks of ice.

Who knows, maybe these people were off to chip away a few chunks of ice.

For the most part, though, modern shipping and oil production relies on technological means and publicly funded services. They bergs show up on radar and are tracked by satellite. Sites like Iceberg Finder make it all fairly easy.

If you look you can see this one in the fog.

If you look you can see this one in the fog.

This is generally the second year of travel for the bergs in Newfoundland. Yes, it took two years to get here.

Of course that’s nothing compared to the age of the ice–ten thousand years or more.

Yes, I was content with this view at Hearts Content.

I was content with this view at Hearts Content.

Last summer Josephine and I were sitting out in the back garden, enjoying a fine evening, when my buddy Mike K dropped by. He had a large bag under his arm, which he dropped on the deck with a loud clatter.

A great big lump of ice.

“I got this out by Black Head,” he announced. “A Growler (note: small iceberg) came ashore there by the beach so I grabbed my boots, drove out there and cut off some of it. It’s great for putting in drinks.”

He proceeded to demonstrate.

He was right.

Despite being in salt water, icebergs are made from fresh water. They come from glaciers which, in turn, are formed from fallen snow.

Quite a few bergs could be seen just outside the harbour at Old Perlican.

Quite a few bergs could be seen just outside the harbour at Old Perlican.

Being the hardy people we are, nothing is gong to waste!

There’s a company here that makes, among other things, Vodka, using the water from icebergs.

That ten-thousand year old ice yields wonderful “drinking” water.

The Portuguese named it Bay De Verde (Green Bay). Maybe they should have named it Bay De Bergs!

The Portuguese named it Bay De Verde (Green Bay). Maybe they should have named it Bay De Bergs!

As you probably know, around nine-tenths of an iceberg is under water. So what you see is, well, just the tip of the iceberg. The part you can’t see may be much different.

Kind of reminds you of many of the people you know, doesn’t it?

The bergs are constantly being eroded too by contact with the sea floor, the water and the air. They occasionally de-stabilize owing to this asymmetric loss of mass and can suddenly pitch and toss; maybe even roll all the way over as they seek a new equilibrium in the water–quite a dangerous situation if you are foolhardy and dare to get too close.

Hmmm. Now that I think about it, some people can be a bit like that too when you try and get close.

iceberg-2014-baydeverde2

Panning the camera more towards the east shows even more bergs further up the shore in Bay De Verde.

Icebergs also make sounds, but you often have to get close to hear them.

There’s generally four kinds of noises:

  • those caused by the wind as it flows past this irregular surface in the middle of the open ocean–it can be eerie sometimes;
  • those caused by the waves as they strike along the irregular surface; choppy, sloppy, thumpy noises;
  • huge cracks, roars and waterfall sounds that happen when a berg destabilizes and rolls or breaks apart;
  • and finally, pops and fizzes. You only get this on the really quiet days. It’s the dissolved gas escaping as the ice melts. That dissolved air may also be why iceberg water tastes so good, who knows!
iceberg-2014-caplincove1

No capelin here just yet in Capelin Cove. Lots of bergs though.

Last Saturday was a bit mauzy; too damp for doing work outdoors but still nice enough to make you not want to spend the day indoors. It seemed a good day for a drive. So that’s what OH and youngest daughter did–we drove the section of road along the peninsula that separates Trinity Bay from Conception Bay.

iceberg-2014-caplincove2

Further along the road shows even more bergs outside Capelin Cove.

Of course icebergs weren’t the only thing we saw but it did seem like a good idea to photograph at least some of them.

iceberg-2014-western-bay1

Funny–they came south and ended up here in Northern Bay.

What you see is only a small fraction of what’s there. I’d estimate there are thousands to be seen.

iceberg-2014-jobscove1

With a little patience I was able to frame these bergs near Jobs Cove.

A few days earlier my cousin Paddy, who lives in Fogo (which could call itself an iceberg capital) climbed some of the hills on the island and took a few pictures of his own. On one of them he counted…

…seventy-two icebergs!

iceberg-2014-broadcove1

Getting the broad view shows some irregularly shaped bergs near Broad Cove.

We never did see that many at a time, but, who knows, this year’s iceberg season is far from over.

iceberg-2014-broadcove2

The two in the previous shot aren’t the only ones near Broad Cove. Panning the camera North shows lots more.

Of course the south-bound icebergs will soon be met by the north-bound whales. They’ll be at our shores soon.

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About Maurice A. Barry

Coordinator: Teaching and Learning Commons, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Parent & Husband. eLearning consultant/coordinator. Program Development Specialist - eLearning (Department of Education; Retired). Writer: over 40 Math/Physics texts/webs. Developer & Manager of web content. Geek. Not into awards but loves comments.
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20 Responses to Two Bays; A Few Bergs

  1. Awesome. Now I know what time of year I want to visit.

    I love the people/icebergs metaphor…. 🙂

    • Of course each month brings its good and bad but, yes, early June when we get both icebergs and whales is a great time to be around here. My own favourite is mid August, when the weather tends to be fine and the beautiful smells of the boreal forest, the wetlands and the sea all mingle together.

  2. You knew I’ve been waiting for these! Thanks for taking the time out of your busy life to capture and present this most excellent series of images. Excuse the pun … but I think bergs are really cool. Although it would probably be pretty dangerous (i.e., stupid), I’d love to board a skiff and run right up to these for some up-close-and-personal photos with my super-wide lens. D

    • It’s safe enough if you keep 50 to 100 yards between yourself and the berg (depending on how big it is). That would give great opportunity to get both the sights and sounds. I forgot my polarizing filter when I went out on Saturday. Too bad–it does wonderful things with icebergs.

  3. elkement says:

    Really interesting and impressive images, Maurice! I like the description of the sounds and root causes thereof in particular!

    There was some language thing that irritated me – it took me a while to figure it out: Isn’t it strange that in ‘icebergs’ the German word for mountains has been preserved – ‘Berge’, while with mountains made from rock it hasn’t been?

    • Up to now I had never thought of how the two languages were juxtaposed there. I think it’s originally from Dutch , I just ran a web search and the best I could find was–no surprise–wikipedia which suggests the origin is ijsberg which does mean ice mountain. That’s not a surprise as in the early days of global sea exploration using lateen sails, the Dutch were very much world-leaders so I’d expect some of their naval terms to be moved directly to other languages.
      (short pause)
      Ha ha, I couldn’t resist looking into that idea. I just visited the wikipedia page for nautical terms
      (it’s here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_nautical_terms)
      and found that a few do come from Dutch, including the term “Avast” as well as “Schooner” a term that’s near and dear to the hearts of those of us who live in NL, since those vessels are our heritage.

      • elkement says:

        Thanks for the research, Maurice! 🙂 I have now checked Wikipedia, too – I also like the disambiguation article! So many fictional super heroes named Iceberg! 😀

  4. Tiny says:

    Absolutely awesome post and great pictures! I didn’t know that icebergs make sounds…and that they make such good drinking water. I hope you can catch a few northbound whales as well 🙂

  5. TamrahJo says:

    Wonderful story! I just recently learned about adding pulverized glacial rock to garden beds – if applied properly, it remineralizes your beds and slowly releases minerals/trace minerals over the next 100 years! 🙂 So those great bergs provide many gifts, even to those of us in the middle of the continent and far, far away! 🙂

  6. tw says:

    This is amazing Maurice and very beautiful. I love the odd shaped bergs. I hope we get to see some whales visiting you too soon 🙂

  7. Mary says:

    Just getting to read/view this now after a hectic couple of weeks – wonderful photos and story behind the bergs!will look back to this post whenever I need to ‘chill out’ – as just looking at those images has a truly calming effect! Thanks for providing a truly enjoyable and relazing read.

  8. M. Hatzel says:

    I have only one question that arose in my mind that wasn’t eventually answered in your essay: are there more icebergs now than there were in the past (i.e. a decade or two)? Sometimes we hear on the news about a higher sighting rate of icebergs traveling further south, and these are usually attributed to global warming. Does this seem to accord with your observations?

    • There’s quite a variation from year to year in iceberg sightings here in Newfoundland. This year they are quite plentiful and can be seen just about anywhere along the half of the island that faces more or less north. Last year they were relatively scarce by comparison as the ocean currents kept them all further out to sea. I don’t recall seeing a single one last year, as a matter of fact.
      The relationship between iceberg sightings and global warming is something that does get discussed from time to time and I think, overall, there’s not a great consensus about what this means for the system. We do know that the total amount of glacial ice, worldwide, is shrinking since the Earth is noticeably warmer. Overall, it gained around 3/4 of a degree from the late 1800s until the 1970s and an additional degree since then. That does not sound like a lot, but it is more than sufficient to make a huge difference in the long run. As for what that means for icebergs, we are not sure as the calving process is not understood very well. It will likely speed up the process…but there are remaining unknowns. Perhaps we will see more but smaller ones formed which will melt faster and thus not make the long voyage. Perhaps the opposite will happen–fewer but larger ones that will stick around longer.
      And, of course the Earth is fantastically complex! An example: water from icebergs is somewhat rich in iron. The additional iron from the ice adds to that already in the ocean and, in turn, better promotes CO2-eating algae! Who would have thought that this negative-feedback mechanism could even exist?
      LOL–Michelle, I bet that’s the longest “I am not sure” you have had in a while!

      • M. Hatzel says:

        I love it! I am reading over here in “Not Banjaxed Yet” and enjoying the interaction with uncertainty and complexity. I am completely thrilled with how you’ve un-simplified the straight-forward media conclusions on icebergs and climate change.

        • Thank you. Those who choose the polar opposite viewpoints on the topic tend to over-simplify the situation and, in doing so, become blind to the fact that we do not fully understand the complex interactions that occur on this Earth system.
          That said, the recent revelation of how our publicly-funded climate scientists and meteorologists are under official gag orders that MAY go all the way back to the PMO disturbs me greatly.

  9. johnlmalone says:

    a wonderful post. glad I visited. I read it all the way through. loved the photos and your astute observations resimilarities between bergs & members of our human species

    • Thanks, John! By the way, I’d noticed that, until recently your posts had become less frequent, but put that down to the fact that we all spend less time indoors in summer.

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