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Kittiwake Economic Development Corporation

The eKubator Project

A Word on Bergs


To us, the iceberg is the consummate Newfoundland icon. With a resilience and history borrowed from 15,000 years of history, these leviathan bergs are an awe-inspiring site. It so happens that the Kittiwake Coast is located along Iceberg Alley, the world's greatest location to view these glacial mammoths. A dream for photographers, a nightmare for those who ply their trade from the sea, how you view the iceberg depends on what you want from its presence.

E-Berg is our digital version - what you see is 20 per cent of what you get. It is created from a rich history that has evolved into contemporary, progressive Newfoundland and Labrador. We're sure to catch your eye, capture your imagination and when we calve and founder, you'll be sure and hear it.

We scour the province for pertinent news, insightful opinion and in search of that invisible thread that makes us a unique people and binds us to this rock, perched on the lap of the cold North Atlantic. With pride as our fuel and vision as our compass, we're on board for an interesting voyage as Newfoundland and Labrador sails through the Millennium.

Add your voice. Join the chorus. Visit often. Whether you live in Philadelphia or Plum Point, your roots are planted, firmly, in the Rock. E-Berg is your piece of the Rock, away from home.



ICEBERG FAST FACTS
Courtesy of Dr. Stephen E. Bruneau Ph.D., P.Eng, Tatham Offshore Canada Limited

Approximately 40,000 medium to large sized icebergs calve annually in Greenland and about 1 to 2% (400-800) of those make it as far south as 48o north latitude (St. John's). The numbers vary greatly from year to year and seasonally as most are seen off Newfoundland in the spring and early summer.

The icebergs that reach the east coast of Newfoundland probably calved from a glacier more than a year before. They often spend a year or more in cold arctic bays melting slowly (or not at all in winter) until eventually passing through the Davis Strait and into the Labrador current

The average drift speed of icebergs off the north east coast of Newfoundland is around 0.2 m/s (0.7km/h). Iceberg drift speed is actually influenced by many factors including iceberg size and shape, currents, waves and wind. Speeds greater than 1 m/s (3.6 km/h) have been observed, as have stationary non-grounded bergs .

Icebergs are mostly white because the ice is full of tiny air bubbles. The bubble surfaces reflect white light giving the iceberg an overall white appearance. Ice that is bubble free has a blue tint which is due to the same light phenomenon that tints the sky.

The "tip of the iceberg" expression can be explained as follows: Icebergs float because the density of ice (around 900 kg per cubic meter) is lower than that of seawater (around 1025 kg per cubic meter). The ratio of these densities tells us that 7/8 of the iceberg's mass must be below water. Usually icebergs are 20% to 30% longer under the water than above and not quite as deep as they are long at the waterline.

Besides estimating the iceberg's size and shape there are many features which may be noted. Coloured streaks, caves and tunnels, old and new waterline notches, even objects such as boulders or birds are seen on icebergs. Even more spectacular is the occasion of an iceberg calving and rolling which can often be heard from a good distance.

It is dangerous to approach an iceberg because it can calve or roll creating a huge disturbance in the water which can upset a boat. There is no rule for safe space because certain icebergs may have long underwater rams which pose an even greater threat to an unwary vessel. Usually a minimum distance of the iceberg length should be kept though at this distance safety cannot be guaranteed. It is even more dangerous to attempt to get on an iceberg. Falling ice is a threat and a rolling berg can dump you in the very cold water before collapsing over on top of you.

Since glacier ice is formed from falling snow and snow results from condensed water vapor in the atmosphere, the water from icebergs is quite pure. Sometimes airborne dust from volcanic eruptions or from the wind (thousands of years ago) is deposited on the surface of a glacier and gradually becomes trapped within the ice so that traces are found in icebergs. But there are not likely to be many pollutants!

Often icebergs are very unstable. The highly random shape and non-uniform melting and breakup of an iceberg leads to frequent shifts in orientation. Tabular bergs are generally the most stable whereas domed and wedge shaped bergs may roll completely over in seconds without any apparent provocation.

The crushing strength of ice is around 1% that of steel or 10% that of concrete. Though this may not sound very hard, a ship collision with an iceberg would surely end in disaster. The enormous momentum involved and potentially huge contact area with the ice can generate hundreds of tonnes of force on the hull which would cause it to dent and crumple.

Icebergs often "ground" or contact the seabed and get stuck. This is a frequent occurrence along the coast where icebergs are brought into shore by irregular tidal currents or strong winds. Sometimes icebergs "scour" the seabed creating irregular troughs that may be several kilometers in length. The edges of the Grand Banks are criss-crossed with old and new iceberg scour marks.

Icebergs are comprised of pure fresh water. There may be some dust embedded in the ice and salt water may be on the surface but it does not penetrate the ice. Iceberg ice is quite safe to consume.