Wednesday 20 March 2013

Iceberg Alley

In honour of my Newfoundland native mother-in-law, whose birthday is today, I am blogging about icebergs.  As a child, Doris could open the front door of her Bell Island house, look out onto the Atlantic Ocean, and see the glacial giants.  Sometimes they even had polar bears climbing on top.  The bergs first appeared in April but would often not melt until June or July.  Nowadays, iceberg watching has become a pastime for some people, who plan trips around the event.


Icebergs have been around for 10,000 years.  The bergs off the 29,000 kilometre coastline of Newfoundland and Labrador, are pieces of glaciers from Western Greenland which have broken off.  About 40,000 icebergs start the journey from Greenland to St. John's, but only 400 to 800 make it there.  The Titanic hit such an iceberg which was floating 400 miles off Newfoundland's coast.

Icebergs travel at an average speed of 0.7 kilometres per hour, but have been clocked as fast as 3.6 kilometres per hour.  They make their way down the Newfoundland coast, through Iceberg Alley.  Once they hit St. John's they usually start to melt, not lasting more than a year.


Icebergs can be anywhere from snow-white in colour to aquamarine.  Sometimes they have streaks in them, rocks, or even tunnels.  They come in various shapes including:  tabular, blocky, wedged, dome , pinnacle and dry dock.

Iceberg Shapes

They come in various sizes.  The biggest iceberg on record appeared in 1882 off the coast of Baffin Island and measured 13 kilometres in lenght by 6 kilometres in width by 20 metres in height (above sea level).  It weighed 9 billion tonnes.  We can only see 10% of the iceberg; the rest remains hidden under the water.  Remember the saying:  "It's only the tip of the iceberg."  Some icebergs are much smaller:  "bergy bits" equal the size of a house and "growlers" equal the size of a grand piano.

Tourists who visit Iceberg Alley are treated not only to the glacial giants but also the wildlife.  Polar bears prance on the floating icebergs.  Seabirds, like puffins, soar above their craggy peaks.  And humpback whales swim beneath their depths.  So, take a trip to Newfoundland this spring.  It's a feast for the eyes!

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