10 Facts About Icebergs in Newfoundland

10 Facts About Icebergs in Newfoundland

Are you interested in an up-close and personal experience with icebergs so close you feel like you could reach out and touch them?  Love the icy chill of the breeze that comes from being so close. This is the opportunity to be around floating glacier portions as they drift through our Newfoundland waters that occur each spring in Iceberg Alley.

If you have answered yes, watching icebergs in Newfoundland is the ideal opportunity for you! Newfoundland is uniquely placed to take advantage of these behemoths as they sail past our province.

What is an Iceberg?

An iceberg is a large piece of a glacier that was calved off western Greenland usually that follows ocean currents to its inevitable demise in warmer climes. Icebergs have travelled as far as Bermuda, Ireland and tropical destinations in the Atlantic when conditions are right.

To be classified as an iceberg, it must rise at least 16’ out of the water and be at least 98’ thick. Smaller pieces of ice are known as “bergy bits” and “growlers”.

Blocky pinnacle iceberg
Blocky Pinnacled Iceberg

Icebergs are also classified by shape, most commonly as either tabular or non-tabular. 

Large Tabular Iceberg
Large Tabular Iceberg 2016

Tabular icebergs have steep sides and a flat top (like a tabletop). Non-tabular icebergs can further be described as blocky, pinnacled, domes, or wedges. We have every instance and variety of them in Newfoundland which makes us the ideal iceberg destination. 

Where are the Icebergs in Newfoundland?

Icebergs start their journey in Greenland’s west coast where the glaciers calve into the ocean. They then travel with the Labrador current down the coast traversing over to Newfoundland around St. Anthony at the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula. The Labrador current then coaxes them further down the coast tipping out around White Bay and the Baie Verte peninsula. The best place to see them is along our own north-eastern coastlines from St. Anthony right down to Cape Race. Iceberg season lasts from April to July usually but can be longer the further north you go towards Labrador. The stretch of coastline that the icebergs hug during their travel south around Newfoundland is known as Iceberg Alley.

Trinity is a major part of Iceberg Alley. so we’re in a prime location for you to experience these marvels of nature.

Iceberg Tours in Newfoundland

When can you see Icebergs in Newfoundland?

Typically, you can see icebergs in Newfoundland between mid-April and mid-July. However, every year is different from the one before, so it’s a good idea to check IcebergFinder or the Canadian Ice Service charts but the best way is to watch our Facebook Page for our posts of the icebergs we are visiting in the area. We usually post daily in season. By keeping an eye on these resources you can get a good idea for what you can expect on one of our iceberg viewing tours.

We did a great interactive photoshoot for the Globe and Mail last year on one of our trips. It will give you a great idea about what our trips are like.

10 Facts About Icebergs in Newfoundland

1. Newfoundland’s icebergs are 10,000 years old

The glacial ice that creates icebergs was formed during the last ice age. Just think, mammoths may have walked on the very ice that you’re looking at in Trinity Bay.

2. Icebergs are not the same temperature all the way through

While the interior of an iceberg can be as cold as -15 to -20C, the surface is the same temperature as the surrounding water, with the ice melting as the water warms.

3. Icebergs are not salty

Icebergs may be floating in the saltwater of the ocean but they themselves are not salty. Icebergs are calved from giant glaciers that are formed from snow which turns into ice. Which is what makes iceberg ice perfect for your drink.

4. 90% of Newfoundland’s icebergs are born in Greenland

While we can get some icebergs coming from glaciers in Canada’s arctic, the vast majority are calved from the glaciers of western Greenland and make their way here via the coast of Labrador.

5. It can take icebergs up to three years to reach the coast of Newfoundland

Icebergs aren’t known for their speed and some can take years to get from Greenland to Trinity Bay. While each berg moves at its own pace, dictated by ocean currents, waves, wind, and its own shape and size, the average drift speed of an iceberg is 0.7 km/h.

6. By the time icebergs reach Newfoundland they have already lost about 85% of their original size

Since it can take so long for icebergs to make their way to Newfoundland, slowly melting the entire way, it makes sense that they’re smaller once they get here. But did you know that what we see is actually just a small fraction of their original size?

7. Icebergs can weigh up to several million tonnes

Icebergs are just like people in that they vary in size and shape from one to the next. The biggest of the big bergs are truly awe-inspiring coming in over 10 million tonnes! The average weight of Newfoundland icebergs is much smaller but still impressive 100,000-200,000 tonnes.

8. 85-90% of an iceberg is underwater

You’ve all heard the phrase “tip of the iceberg” and it’s all true. Ice has a density of 0.92 g/ml, or nine-tenths of water’s density, which is why the majority floats below the surface. The ice goes out as well as down, with the maximum width of the iceberg being 20%-30% larger than you can see on the surface.

9. The word iceberg comes from the Dutch term ijsberg meaning “ice mountain”

First recorded in the 1820s as “detached piece of a glacier or ice pack at sea” iceberg is derived from ijs “ice” + berg “mountain”. Earlier English terms for icebergs were sea-hill (1690s) and island of ice (1610s).

10. One of the best ways to see icebergs in Newfoundland is on a zodiac boat tour

Feel the cold air coming off massive icebergs as we float by at sea level. Get up close and personal instead of standing on the shoreline. Be awestruck by the full scale and enormity of these blue-white behemoths. When you view an iceberg from one of our Zodiacs, it’s a breathtaking experience to be so close to the water looking up at a large pinnacled or drydock iceberg. If you did not follow the link above before it is a great time to go back and experience one of our trips from last iceberg season!!

If you want to get up close and personal with icebergs in Newfoundland this year, book yourself onto one of our 3-hour zodiac tours!

10 Facts About Icebergs in Newfoundland

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