Did you know that one of the best places in the world to photograph icebergs is in iceberg alley off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada? I do, and that’s why I have been running photography tours and workshops to photograph these incredible structures for years.
On my tours you can live the life of a lighthouse keeper overlooking “Iceberg Alley”.
Hear the Killer Whales’ call echoing off massive icebergs in your private cove and awaken to the sounds of the Humpbacks calling you across vast stretches of the North Atlantic. Explore the rugged landscape made famous in “The Shipping News”, the Pulitzer prize-winning novel Judi Dench, Kevin Spacey movie.
Feel the salt spray sting your face as you journey amidst the dolphins and whales. As you land in the cove, imagine you are returning home to the sod huts, thousands of years old, which lay undisturbed here. Forge a link with ancient humans as you stand in the remains of their huts overlooking the cove and picture the tiny beach coming to like as it was eons ago. Your home for a portion of our trip lies atop the cliffs at the northern tip of this deserted island.
The contrast of the rugged beauty of the island and the cosy luxury of our Lighthouse Inn will bring back your childhood feelings of laying by the fire as a storm raged outside. Imperceptibly your priorities in life will shift as you become part of the primal connection between humans and the remote reaches of the sea.
You are now in the best spot on earth to visit with whales and icebergs. At dawn, be certain to introduce yourself to your only neighbors – the whales migrating past your doorstep. An abandoned fishing village near the lighthouse is a great walking destination today. Learn of the tragic but romantic mass murder and suicide that inevitably lead to its demise. Our audio app of the island offers interpretation as you wander.
View the “vast cathedrals of ice”. On sunny days they appear lit from inside and on dull days other senses take over as they seem to grow in size. Their chilling effect spreads to your mind and you feel a timeless empathy for sailors who have dreaded these giants for millennia.
Icebergs are edges of glaciers that have broken off and slipped into the ocean. Glaciers form on land by snow building up over thousands of years. Each layer of snow compresses those below until, 60 to 70 metres down, glacial ice forms. Glaciers then "flow" or "creep" towards the ocean under their own weight, and eventually slip in. The glaciers of western Greenland flow at speeds of up to seven kilometres a year, among the fastest moving in the world. After slipping into the ocean, the bergs float in frosty arctic bays melting slowly, if at all, until passing through the Davis Strait and into the Labrador Current which carries them south into Iceberg Alley. Once they head south, they rarely last more than one year.
Every year about 40,000 medium- to large-sized icebergs break off, or calve, from Greenland glaciers. Only about 400-800 make it as far south as St. John's, but these numbers can vary greatly from year to year. The chances of seeing icebergs in a particular area depend on the number of bergs, wind direction, oceans current and temperatures, and the amount of sea ice, or pack ice.
I monitor the icebergs every year and work with locals to predict when and where they will wail past our locations… and time our tours appropriately.
And just think, almost 90% of an iceberg is under water, hence the phrase “tip of the iceberg.” Its maximum width under water is 20% to 30% larger than you can see at the surface. The average depth, or draught of an iceberg, is slightly less than its apparent length above water.
How big can these icebergs get? Well, in the Northern Hemisphere, the largest iceberg on record was encountered in 1882 near Baffin Island. It was 13 km long, 6 km wide, and was about 20 m above water. It weighed over 9 billion tonnes – enough for everyone in the world to drink a litre of water a day for more than 4 years. Icebergs from Antarctica can be many times larger. In 1987 an iceberg, with an area of 6,350 sq. km, calved from the Ross Ice Shelf. It weighed about 1.4 trillion tonnes and could have provided everyone in the world with 240 tonnes of pure drinking water.
Icebergs can vary greatly in size, ranging from very large – greater than 10 million tonnes and hundreds of metres long – to large, medium, and small bergs. The smallest are termed “bergy bits,” which are the size of a small house, and “growlers,” which are the size of a grand piano. These smaller pieces are hazardous to ships because radar may not pick them up as they bob up and down among the waves. The average weight for a Grand Banks-area iceberg is 100,000-200,000 tonnes – about the size of a cubic 15-storey building.
Why don’t you come see for yourself, I run tours to Newfoundland every year… but not just for the icebergs… our groups see humpback whales, a variety of seabirds, and some of the most photogenic landscapes Canada has to offer.
All my Newfoundland workshops can be found here on my workshop page. http://www.kevinpepperphotography.com/workshops