The historic, seaside town of Ferryland, Newfoundland doesn’t draw many tourists on an average day. Lately, however, people have been flocking to the sleepy village for a once-in-a-lifetime view of massive glaciers floating in the ocean.
Each year, hundreds of iceberg float past Ferryland through shipping lanes. The massive blocks of ice break off in the Arctic, and float south as they slowly melt away.
This year, a particularly large iceberg has run aground right next to the town. The 150-foot-high block of ice dwarfs the town (which needless to say, has no skyscrapers).
The mayor of the town told the Canadian Press, “It’s the biggest one I have ever seen around here. It’s a huge iceberg and it’s in so close that people can get a good photograph of it.”
While icebergs are not an unusual sight in Ferryland, this year has offered far more than usual. There have already been 616 sighted in just the first quarter of this year compared to 687 observed in all of last year.
Most of those floated slowly past the town, and residents would have to settle for a view from a distance. This particular ice mountain grounded itself so close to the town that visitors and residents have an intimate look at the ancient chucks of ice.
Experts estimate that the iceberg took about 10,000 years to form meaning that it is far older than the oldest living things on the planet (some coral species can live to over 4,00 years old). Much like looking through history by viewing a tree’s rings, you can see the different strata on the iceberg.
The icebergs that float past Newfoundland and Labrador were formally attached to Arctic glaciers. For various reasons (the most common being that the glacier is expanding), glaciers calve, or break apart. The big chunks sometimes become bound in a sea of ice, but those that don’t will drift on currents to the south.
Knowing when the icebergs will float by towns like Ferryland is difficult to predict, so the grounded one has been a great boon to the town. Tour companies, like Iceberg Quest Ocean Tours, are enjoying record profits because of the reliably beached ice mountain.
While the town has just 465 permanent residents, there’s been traffic jams along their Southern Shore Highway due to amateur and professional photographer vying for position. Everyone wants a photo of this beautiful and somewhat surreal natural phenomenon.
The iceberg is estimated to be 150 feet high. If that’s accurate, that would make the chunk of ice over 50 feet higher than iceberg that sank the Titanic. Though to be fair, the iceberg that sank the Titanic may have had much more mass below the surface.
A floating iceberg generally has 91 percent of its mass below the surface. The one in Ferryland has much more exposed because it has run aground.
There’s no telling how long the massive iceberg will last in Ferryland. If it becomes unmoored, it could float away in a matter of hours. If it stays beached, it could last through the summer as it slowly melts away.
If you can make it to Ferryland, now is the time to go. The iceberg is there, but it might not be for long.