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Iceberg Tracking

Icebergs are quite a popular tourist attraction in Newfoundland and best seen between the months of May and June. However, the ability to predict where, and when, icebergs will appear is virtually impossible. For real time iceberg reports and information, follow the Iceberg Finder app.

The setting sun casts an illuminating glow on the tall end of this wedge-shaped iceberg in the ocean near the Pouch Cove coast.
The setting sun casts a sun shadow on the tall edge of this wedge-shaped iceberg in Pouch Cove, NL.

Iceberg formation and travel

Most of the icebergs that are seen in Newfoundland originate in the Arctic region of Greenland, a travel distance of about 3369 km from the city of St. John's. There, over the course of about 15,000 years, countless layers of fallen snow have been compressed into glacial ice, which now covers 3/4 of the island.

Iceberg with fissuring and crevices floating in the ocean near the coast of Pouch Cove, NL.
Iceberg with fissuring and crevices floating near the coast of Pouch Cove, NL.

In response to continued downward & outward pressure upon the glacial ice sheets, the edges of the mass snap off and are swept into the ocean, giving birth to an iceberg. From there, the north-south direction of the ocean's current propels the icebergs into the Labrador sea where as many as 98% will melt or become eroded by ocean waves. Those that do survive are carried further downward along the shores of Newfoundland following a pathway knows as Iceberg Alley.

Strong ocean waves slam an iceberg near the coast of Pouch Cove, sending jets of ocean spray high into the air.
Strong ocean waves slam an iceberg near the coast of Pouch Cove, sending jets of ocean spray high into the air.

The iceberg's journey will come to an end in the warmer ocean waters of Newfoundland.

This small chunk of ice has broken off an iceberg & is floating near the shoreline of Pouch Cove, NL.
The warmer ocean waters of Newfoundland will mark the end of the journey for the iceberg.

Why do icebergs float and how fast do they move?

Icebergs are made of snow (pure water) and, because fresh water is lighter than salt water, the iceberg will float. There are many things that determine how fast the iceberg will move, including:

  1. The size and shape of the iceberg

  2. The ocean current

  3. Winds

  4. Water temperature (which, in turn, influences melting)

  5. The degree to which the route is clear from pack ice

Blocky ice berg showing signs of weathering, is floating in the icy blue ocean waters near the Pouch Cove coastline.
Blocky ice berg showing signs of weathering, is floating in the icy blue ocean waters near the Pouch Cove coastline.

Why does an iceberg look dirty if it's supposed to be pure?

Icebergs are created from snow which is pure and relatively free from pollutants. However, due to exposure to land, birds, and dust particles in the air, some of the iceberg's surface may contain foreign particles.

This pinnacle-shaped iceberg, with a discolored surface, is floating in the ocean near the Pouch Cove shoreline.
This pinnacle-shaped iceberg, with a discolored surface, is floating in the ocean near the Pouch Cove shoreline.

Icebergs: More than meets the eye

When viewing icebergs, it is impressive to consider that we are only viewing about 10% of the iceberg's true size. This is because there is a density difference of about 10% between fresh water (from which the iceberg is formed) and the salt water found in the ocean. Check out this fun activity to get an idea of how much of an iceberg is actually concealed underwater.

This iceberg near a the coast has a green silhouette reflecting underwater. This represents the portion of the iceberg that is concealed below the ocean surface.
An iceberg is 90% larger, and 30% wider, than what can be seen from atop the ocean surface.

Icebergs: No two alike

Icebergs vary considerably in terms of shape and size. In fact, no two icebergs are exactly alike and, due to melting and erosion, no iceberg is the same from day to day. However, icebergs can be classified in relation to their shapes:

  • Tabular: an iceberg with a flat bottom that is five times longer than its height

  • Blocky: an iceberg with steep sides with a flat top that resembles a block

  • Wedged: an iceberg with one steep side sloping toward a shorter side

  • Dome: an iceberg with a rounded top

  • Pinnacle: an iceberg with at least one pointed peak

  • Dry Dock: an iceberg that has at least 2 peaks divided by an eroded channel

Sometimes icebergs can be heard making a fizzing sound which is caused by the releasing of trapped air when the iceberg begins to melt.

abular iceberg shrouded in low lying fog on the Bay Bulls, NL, coastline.
The magnitude of this tabular iceberg can be appreciated when compared to a speedboat moving away from it.

Iceberg caution

Because an iceberg's center of gravity changes often due to melting and erosion, caution must be exercised when viewing them as they can flip or break apart without warning. A safe distance must be kept from icebergs to reduce the risk of injury.

A gull flies next to this dry-dock shaped iceberg near the coast of Pouch Cove, NL.
Dry-dock shaped iceberg near the coast of Pouch Cove, NL.

Iceberg photography

Be sure to take advantage of icebergs as amazing subjects to use in your nature photos during your time in Newfoundland. Mother Nature provides the best filters imaginable for unique iceberg photos.

The orange horizon glistens on the surface of this wedge-shaped iceberg in the ocean waters of Pouch Cove, NL.
The orange horizon glistens on the surface of this wedge-shaped iceberg in Pouch Cove, NL.


Icebergs bobbing in the ocean water next to the coastline of Outer Cove, NL.
Icebergs bobbing in the ocean water next to the coastline of Outer Cove, NL.

Person taking a photo of an iceberg from the coast of Bauline, NL.
Phil Murray, owner of Murray House Vacation Home, taking iceberg photos in Bauline, NL.

Small iceberg in the ocean next to the rocky shoreline of Bauline, NL.
Small iceberg near the coast of Bauline, NL.

With the horizon in the distance, these small icebergs trapped in sea ice close to shore in Outer Cove, NL.
Small icebergs trapped in sea ice close to shore in Outer Cove, NL.

A rusty anchor balances on an oceanside boulder as a small iceberg approaches the coastline of Bauline, NL.
A rusty anchor balances on an oceanside boulder as a small iceberg approaches the coastline of Bauline, NL.

The early morning fog embraces the surface of an iceberg near the Pouch Cove coastline.
The early morning fog embraces the surface of an iceberg near the Pouch Cove coastline.



Iceberg fun: What do you see?

I've always enjoyed looking at icebergs and comparing them with things of similar shapes. Do you see what I see in the following pictures?

With the horizon as a backdrop, this wedge-shaped iceberg floating in the dark blue coastal waters.
To me, this iceberg resembles a horse's head facing leftward.

This iceberg, resembling a snail, floats in the turquoise colored sea near the Pouch Cove coast.
To me, this iceberg resembles a snail.

In Newfoundland, you can even drink an iceberg!

Located in St. John's, Newfoundland, Quidi Vidi Brewery uses iceberg water instead of tap water in its alcoholic beverages.

Please continue to follow my blog as I showcase more amazing tourist attractions in eastern Newfoundland.

Sandra Murray, owner of Murray House Vacation Home and writer of Newfoundland Travel Blog standing on a bridge overlooking a forest clearing and waterfall.
Sandra Murray, owner of Murray House Vacation Home and writer of Newfoundland Travel Blog

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