Massive Iceberg Makes A Stop Off Newfoundland Coast

Apr 20, 2017
Originally published on April 20, 2017 1:56 pm

Residents of the Canadian town of Ferryland, a small fishing village in Newfoundland, recently welcomed a new visitor: a huge iceberg that ran aground just offshore.

Watching icebergs is a Newfoundland tradition, and Ferryland bed-and-breakfast owner Maxine Dunne can see this iceberg outside her window. She tells NPR's David Greene that she and her husband, Charlie, have seen some pretty large icebergs over the years because they live along what is known as "iceberg alley," for the frequency with which icebergs float by after breaking off of glaciers on Greenland or in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

"But this is I would say certainly the highest iceberg that we've ever seen," she says. It's considered a "large" iceberg, which range between 150 feet and 246 feet above water, according to Scott Weese, a senior ice forecaster with the Meteorological Service of Canada.

Charlie, a crab fisherman, estimates it's about a half-mile from their house. In photos, the iceberg dwarfs the houses in town — and that's just what's visible. (Weese says it's hard to say just how big this iceberg is under the water because of its irregular shape.)

Icebergs can pose a problem for the shipping industry — and for crab fisherman like Charlie, who usually goes about 25 miles offshore.

"They have to post lookouts and they have to exhibit a lot of caution when you have a number of icebergs in the area," Maxine says. Boats don't want to get too close, she says. "There's always the risk it could roll and that's dangerous or little pieces could break off," she says.

Weese says so far this season, which runs from October to September, there have been about 600 icebergs in the North Atlantic corridor off the Newfoundland coast. Last year there were 687 for the entire season; the year before, there were 1,165. He says it's not clear whether this season is unusual, but in late March, strong winds pushed icebergs south.

Winds could give this ice chunk a nudge and send it on its way, or it could extend its Easter visit through Mother's Day.

Here, an aerial video of the iceberg that may make your knees weak.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The town of Ferryland in Newfoundland, Canada, has a visitor that seems to be staying for a while. It is a massive iceberg that floated south and ran aground just off the coast. And when I say massive, I mean, this thing is huge. It dwarfs the houses in town, and that is just the part that's visible. Now, Maxine Dunne can see this iceberg from the bed and breakfast she runs with her husband.

MAXINE DUNNE: We've seen some pretty large icebergs over the years. We're located at the end of Iceberg Alley. But this is, I would say, certainly the highest iceberg that we've ever seen.

GREENE: Did you say Iceberg Alley? This is, like...

M. DUNNE: Yes.

GREENE: ...An area where icebergs come and go all the time?

M. DUNNE: Absolutely. Usually in the month of April and May and mid-June, we see a fair number of icebergs.

GREENE: But this one, you're saying, is a monster.

M. DUNNE: Oh, yes. They're estimating it's approximately 150 feet above water. So you can imagine what's below water.

GREENE: Because this is just the tip of the iceberg, not to (laughter) use a cliche but...

M. DUNNE: That's the tip of the iceberg (laughter).

GREENE: How close is it really to you?

M. DUNNE: Oh, my goodness. How many feet from our window would you say it is, Charlie? I'm - my husband's right here in the background.

GREENE: Oh, yeah, yeah, no problem.

CHARLIE DUNNE: It's roughly a kilometer from the house.

M. DUNNE: Roughly one kilometer from our house.

C. DUNNE: About a half mile.

M. DUNNE: Yeah, it's about a half a mile. It's right there.

GREENE: My goodness. So is this all people are talking about in town?

M. DUNNE: (Laughter) Yes. Well, I mean, we're getting a lot of visitors. Most of our visitors, at this point, are from various parts of the island. You know, it's a little early for outside tourists yet. But at this point...

GREENE: So this sounds like it's a fun thing. No one is worried. Because I don't know anything about icebergs. I just didn't know if there was some risk that this big thing...

M. DUNNE: You know...

GREENE: ...Could start floating towards you or something.

M. DUNNE: (Laughter) No. Well, as long as you stay, like, you know, clear from it - if you're out in a boat, you don't want to go too close. There's always the risk it could roll, and that's dangerous or little pieces could break off. But it's - they're quite beautiful. There's - icebergs are absolutely beautiful. But they are a concern for the shipping industry and the crab fishermen.

Now, my husband is an inshore crab fisherman. He fishes with his three brothers and his nephew-in-law, and they go approximately 25 miles offshore. So, you know, they have to post lookouts, and they have to exhibit a lot of caution when you have a number of icebergs in the area.

GREENE: When you say rolled, I mean, you mean it's, like, the bottom of the iceberg is hitting the ocean floor and you're seeing some of the ocean floor come up to the surface or what?

M. DUNNE: Yeah. If the top part becomes heavier than the part that's under water, sometimes the top part will roll to the bottom and the lighter part will come to the top.

GREENE: My goodness, the thing actually turns upside down.

M. DUNNE: Absolutely. That's what it means, turns upside down.

GREENE: God. If that happened with this big one, that would be quite a thing to capture.

M. DUNNE: It certainly would (laughter).

GREENE: Keep your cameras ready.

M. DUNNE: (Laughter) Absolutely.

GREENE: Well, Maxine Dunne, tell your husband, Charlie, thank you to him. And a special thanks to you for taking the time. And keep an eye on that iceberg. If it starts rolling, I'm hoping to see some video of it.

M. DUNNE: You're certainly welcome. You're certainly welcome. It was my pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CAPELIN TIME")

THE DUNNE FAMILY: (Singing) Oh, take me home when it's capelin time again.

GREENE: All right, this is cool. In addition to running an inn, Maxine and Charlie Dunne are also musicians. No songs about icebergs, but they do have one about a fisherman longing for capelin season in Newfoundland. Capelin are these small fish, and it's an early summer tradition to scoop them up from the beach.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CAPELIN TIME")

THE DUNNE FAMILY: (Singing) And here again, the lonely... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.