Spectacular iceberg drifts off Canada shore. See it here
Thursday, April 20, 2017, 3:46 - The shores of Newfoundland have been a little more crowded as of late, both at land and sea, making for a sightseer's dream and a shipper's nightmare.
Coastal roads saw unusually significant traffic Sunday as sightseers flocked to glimpse several icebergs near the eastern shore of the Avalon Peninsula -- the latest of which is a massive chunk of ice stuck in shallow water near the coast of Ferryland.
But what happens to these icy wanderers when they move into coastal waters, like Ferryland's visitor?
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Gorgeous massive iceberg near Ferryland,— Moogboy (@Moogboy808) April 16, 2017
Newfoundland and Labrador (not far from St. John's.)
Awesome pic from a friend on Facebook. pic.twitter.com/txG1Zia8xd
Not surprisingly, the bergs will melt. Eventually.
The warmer environment of the south comes at the iceberg from all sides, with warmer air causing melting above the water line, and warmer water eating away at the ice from below. Melt water pooling atop the berg trickles through cracks in the ice, contributing to breaking it into smaller pieces - something that's already been happening to the now-famous Ferryland tourist attraction.
Water temperatures hovering just below freezing, with similar air temperatures, should give would-be iceberg hunters on the Avalon good viewing opportunities for at least the immediate future.
"It's a huge iceberg and it's in so close that people can get a good photograph of it," Ferryland Mayor Adrian Kavanagh told CTV News. Kavanagh was referring to the latest addition to the collection of icebergs, pictured above. "It's the biggest one I ever seen around here."
Though quite the sight, these frozen visitors are a big nuisance for the shipping industry.
At this time of year the waters of the shipping lanes near the Grand Banks would typically host about 80 icebergs. But, as of this week, the U.S. Coast Guard International Ice Patrol says there are a staggering 481 icebergs in the region, according to a CTV report. That number is more common in late May or early June.
Gabrielle McGrath, commander of the International Ice Patrol, told CTV she expects this year's total number of icebergs affecting North Atlantic shipping lanes to exceed last year's total of 687, and may approach record numbers by the end of the season in late September. McGrath expects the fourth consecutive extreme ice season; 2016's "Iceberg Alley" season got off to an unusually early start as well.
This map from IcebergFinder.com shows the cluster of Arctic visitors around Newfoundland right now.
The International Ice Patrol was launched after the sinking of the Titanic, which famously collided with a berg in this same region 105 years ago last week.
The Canadian Coast Guard ice bulletin for the region covering Ferryland's waters includes a special ice warning, citing "bergy water" and the "unusual presence of sea ice."
Pack ice has already caused problems for several communities over the past couple of weeks. Volunteers at Bell Island had to step in to rescue several dolphins who had been trapped, though a humpback whale trapped near Old Perlican was not so lucky. Near Cape Breton Island, a ferry was trapped by pack ice for several hours before being freed earlier this month.
Most of the pack ice has cleared, though Canadian Coast Guard officials told CBC News this week that's not the case yet for the southern Avalon.
There are different theories as to why more icebergs are floating into shipping lanes this year, but winds and climate change are certainly part of the formula.
McGrath suspects the violent wind storm that caused damage in St. John's several weeks ago set things in motion, both breaking up sea ice to allow bergs smooth sailing, and setting up winds to drive them south.
In terms of pushing more icebergs into prime viewing range for Newfoundland tourists, it depends on the location of specific weather systems to come.
"You want the origins of the strong winds to be co-located with the icebergs' source region, which is off the coast of Labrador," The Weather Network meteorologist Nadine Hinds-Powell says. "But in this instance winds increase as a result of a mid-Atlantic low-pressure system that tracks northward. So the movement will be primarily with icebergs that are already close to harbour as opposed to icebergs that are further up in the north Atlantic."