Monday, March 04, 2013

Iceberg Season Drifts Into View

April, May and June are prime iceberg-watching season in Newfoundland and Labrador,since this is the time of year when these northern giants drift south on the Labrador current after spending the winter frozen into the sea ice.  They'll gradually break free as the ice begins to break up, and move with the current to the shores of Labrador and then the island of Newfoundland. Their pace is slow and stately, befitting to the offspring of glaciers, and like most youngsters they move much more quickly than their parents. They move at the speed of the current, getting the occasional boost from favourable breezes if the berg is tall enough to act as a sail. They come in all shapes and sizes, from growlers the size of a cottage to massive,
floating islands of ice like those that calved from Greenland's Petermann Glacier in 2010 and 2012. They heave into view in the distance and inch to the south each day, but changes in wind direction can play tricks: one berg that had grounded on the south side of Bay Bulls (near St. John's) last spring suddenly freed itself drifted out of sight to the north before abruptly changing direction and moving south, ending up in Ferryland by the next morning. Bergs are often at their most spectacular as they begin to break up; the centre of gravity shifts as a result of erosion from sun, wind and water, and suddenly the massive weight of the berg can no longer support itself and a huge section will crack off, or the entire berg will roll and chunks of ice will fly in arcs to the water. It's important to treat these ice giants with respect, but they can certainly provide some wonderful viewing opportunities.

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