The province of Newfoundland and Labrador is one of the best places to see icebergs. In fact it’s called the ‘Iceberg Capital in the World’ and between 400 and 800 of them float along Iceberg Alley every year until they melt away.
These are among the fastest moving icebergs in the world. The journey usually starts in Greenland where the icebergs break off (calve) from a glacier. After a year or so in the arctic water, the icebergs pass through the Davis Strait and are carried south by the Labrador current, arriving off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador from mid-May to mid-July.
The government says the best places to see the icebergs are St. Lewis, Battle Harbour, Red Bay, Point Amour, St. Anthony, La Scie, Twillingate, Fogo Island, Change Islands, Bonavista, St. John’s/Cape Spear, Bay Bulls/Witless Bay, Cape St. Mary’s and St. Vincent’s. My family saw icebergs at St. Anthony off the Great Northern Peninsula. St. Anthony was one of the earliest fishing ports in Newfoundland and where British medical missionary Sir Wilfred Grenfell opened the first permanent hospital for the region in 1901 and recruited many volunteers from far away to work there.
Icebergs are really something to see. They are different sizes, as big as a 15-storey building and as heavy as two hundred thousand tons. Most are snow-white because the ice is full of tiny air bubbles. Some can have a blue tint, which happens when meltwater fills the crevasses and refreezes. They can be flat-topped, rounded, slanted and even pyramid shaped.
What you see, though, is only about 10% of the iceberg’s mass because the rest of it in under the water. It’s also quite a bit wider under the water than above, which is one of reasons you can’t get too close. The other is that icebergs are very unstable and can suddenly roll over. If a ship runs into an iceberg it is ‘game over’, like what happened to the Titanic, the largest ship afloat at the time that sunk off shore on a foggy night in 1912.
Before you reach St. Anthony there’s a reconstructed Viking settlement that is fun to explore called L’Anse aux Meadows. The remains of the oldest European settlement in North America were found here. It dates back to the year 1000. This Viking camp consisted of 8 houses, one forge and four workshops. The techniques used to build the structures were similar to those used in Norway at the time—wood-framed buildings covered with turf taken from a peat bog, pointed roof, and sod floors. Archaeologists found a large number of iron boat nails and this more than any other find led them to identify the site as Norse.
The area was first populated by Dorset Eskimos who arrived much earlier than the Vikings did. However, UNESCO made it a World Heritage Site because it’s an important milestone in the discovery of the universe. It’s also a National Historic Site.
L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site and St. Anthony are located near the tip of the Northern Peninsula, along the Viking Trail (Route 430), just under 400 km from Gros Morne National Park. The Viking Trail begins at the town of Deer Lake on the Trans-Canada Highway (Route 1). 20 km before St. Anthony, turn onto Route 436 and drive for 30 km to L’Anse aux Meadows.
See the ever growing: Bucket List for Kids in Canada
For further information:
The Iceberg Finder
L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site of Canada
By Sylvia Fanjoy
Photo credits Sylvia Fanjoy
© Riding the buses™ 2015