The term iceberg most likely originates from the Dutch term “ijsberg”, which means “ice mountain”. With 29,000 kilometers (18,020 miles) of spectacular coastline, it is not difficult to encounter these magnificent 10,000 year old relics from many points along NL’s northern and eastern coasts.
It may also come as a surprise, but not all icebergs are snow white, many come in aquamarine color shades as varying as their shapes and sizes. Growing up in NL, I spent many summer days hiking the hills of Signal Hill and encountering these majestic chunks of ice, a truly awe inspiring and humbling experience.
90% of icebergs seen off NL’s coastline originate from the West Greenland glaciers, with the remaining 10% arriving from Canada’s arctic glacial islands.
Arctic icebergs vary in size ranging from a large piano called ‘growlers’ to the dimensions of a 10-story building (greater than 10 million tonnes). Icebergs about the size of a small house are called ‘bergy bits’.
Icebergs are carried along NL’s shores by the Labrador Current at an average drift speed of 0.7 kilometers (0.4 miles)/hour. However, speeds greater than 3.6 kilometers (2.2 miles)/hour have been documented. They are among the fastest moving bergs in the world.
Each year, roughly 40,000 medium to large sized icebergs break off or ‘calve’ with 400-800 reaching as far south as St. John’s. Unfortunately, for the Titanic, her maiden voyage was on a doomed collision course at the very tail end of treacherous iceberg alley, some 640 kilometers (398 miles) east of Newfoundland. Today, icebergs continue to pose a threat, not to vessels given advances in nautical science, but to oil and gas platforms situated off Newfoundland.
Best Times To View
In Labrador, peak iceberg season runs between April and July, and in Newfoundland, between early/mid-May to late June/early July. These time-frames vary due to environmental conditions.
Ideal Vantage Points
The ideal NL spots for viewing icebergs are ‘around da bay’ (a colloquial term for rural NL). At these locales, you will most certainly be mesmerized by the daunting beauty of icebergs, all the while soaking up true NL outport hospitality amidst quaint, charming towns, villages, and coves.
Check out Iceberg Finder, a real-time tracker of bergs along NL’s coast.