The word “Iceberg” doesn’t come from the English language. Just like moose aren’t native to Newfoundland (see our blog post on where moose actually came from) the word iceberg is a dutch word that, literally translated, means “Ice Mountain”
Next time you see a massive iceberg, remember you’re only looking at 10% of it’s mass. The other 90% of the ice is hidden underwater, and it’s notoriously hard to judge the shape of what’s underwater by looking a the tip that’s sticking above the surface.
The largest recorded iceberg floating in Newfoundland waters was 170 meters (that’s 550 feet) above sea level, making it over 50 stories high. That’s a third of the way up the CN Tower, and certainly taller than any building in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Icebergs actually travel a long distance to get here, starting in Greenland, spending a year travelling through the Arctic, and then taking the gulf stream down to Newfoundland. It’s actually pretty rare to see icebergs anywhere. Unless you’re planning a trip to Greenland or Antarctica, Newfoundland is the best place to experience these giants up close and personal.
Iceberg ice is different than ice you find in your freezer. It’s been frozen for over 10,0000 years, melts slower than regular ice (ask anyone who’s used iceberg ice in their drink), often has a blue tinge to it, and contains some of the purest water on the planet. After all, the water contained in icebergs has been frozen for so long, it predates the industrial revolution. As iceberg ice melts it makes a hissing sound as the 10,000 year old bubbles of air trapped in the ice get released. Sometimes scientists analyse the air trapped in icebergs to better help them understand what the earth’s atmosphere looked like during the last ice age.
At Whale House, we always have some iceberg ice in our freezer and every spring we collect iceberg chunks, locally called “bergie-bits” to keep our drinks cool. If you’ve never held a piece of iceberg ice or had a perfectly chilled drink with a bergie bit to keep it cool, you can often find chunks scattered along the beach at the end of our lane, or you can just ask us – we’re happy to chip a piece off the old block to share with you.
Although icebergs come in all shapes and sizes, they can be categorized into two distinct shapes, tabular icebergs and non-tabular, with the tabular icebergs having a flat-top and steep edges. Non-tabular icebergs (ones without the flay top and steep cliff style edges) can further be classified into Dome (ones with a round top), wedge (think pizza slice), dry dock (one with a tunnel or channel through it), and pinnacle (steep and pointy).
Icebergs are beautiful and dangerous all at the same time. They can roll at anytime without warning, which means if you’re close to them when this happens you could be injured or killed. This process of rolling often produces a large wave that can capsize boats and cause large waves to wash up on shore. Needless to say, running into an iceberg with a boat (even a boat as large as the titanic) can have devastating consequences. To keep mariners safe, the National Ice Center has been forecasting iceberg positions with the help of satellites since 1995.
Are you wondering where icebergs are now? Take a look are the website icebergfinder.com for real time info on where icebergs are right now and take the guess work out of searching for icebergs during your trip to Newfoundland.