Chasing Icebergs

 A Bucket List Experience 15,000 Years in the Making

There is an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment when you can cross something off your bucket list. This happened to me at the Iceberg Festival in St. Anthony, Newfoundland, when I came within six feet of an iceberg.

St. Anthony is located in the northern Peninsula of Newfoundland which is known worldwide as iceberg alley. The Iceberg Festival is held annually in early June to mark the start of iceberg season. Once you are in St. Anthony, I recommend taking the Northland Boat Tour, a two hour ride that sails you up to the icebergs. The company is run by the Alcock family who are very passionate about the sea. The guides are extremely knowledgeable and full of Newfoundland hospitality and charm.

It was a beautiful clear day when I went on the tour and the clouds only dusted the pale blue sky as the sun shone down. The ocean was a deep royal blue and was as calm and smooth as glass. Heading out to the icebergs, the guide shared with us his commitment to marine conservation, whale research and preserving Newfoundland heritage. He told us that the coastal waters of St. Anthony are known for having the longest whale season in Newfoundland. In these waters you can find Humpback, Orca, Minke, and Fin whales as well as White-beaked dolphins. It is also very common to see a variety of different sea birds such as: Northern Gannet, Puffins, Kittiwakes, Guillemots and Eider ducks.

88% of an iceberg is under the Wawater

I was listening intently as my guide spoke with such passion about the allure of the wildlife and wilderness of the area. This is also when I learned where the saying ‘It’s just the tip of the iceberg’ came from, as approximately 88% of an iceberg is under the water, leaving us to see only the tip. It was at this moment that he smiled at me and asked,

    “Can you see it?”

I turned around and could see the iceberg in the distance and began snapping pictures straight away. As the boat pulled along side the frigid beast I brought the camera down and stood frozen in amazement.

No one who has ever seen an iceberg and no one who ever will see an iceberg, is ever going to see one that is identical to the one I was observing.

Floating six feet from me was a massive 15,000 year old piece of beauty. It was a shimmering mountain of white. No man-made piece of art comes close to the elegance of this natural masterpiece. I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised if choir music had started to play at that very moment.

I pulled my jacket a little tighter as I could feel the chill blowing off of the iceberg. It was June and I was bundled in a jacket, hat, mitts and a scarf but I didn’t care. What I was experiencing was too amazing to worry about the cold. As I admired the exquisiteness, I relished in the fact that no two icebergs are ever the same. No one who has ever seen an iceberg and no one who ever will see an iceberg, is ever going to see one that is identical to the one I was observing.

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Bundled up in June, but we were too happy to care.

One of my favourite parts of traveling around the world is the history, feeling like you are a part of time. Touching the tower of London, walking along the Great Wall of China, sitting in the amphitheatre in Ephesus. Floating alongside a 15,000 year old iceberg was definitely the oldest piece of history I was ever a part of and I was truly grateful for the experience. That’s the thing about life, the best experiences are the ones when you feel connected to it all.

I found it interesting to learn that it takes an iceberg two to three years to travel the 1,800 nautical miles from Greenland to the island of Newfoundland. As the icebergs float down from the north, they melt and bits of them fall off and float to shore. These are called ‘berg bits’ and since iceberg ice is the purest in the world, people collect it for their drinks. There is also a vodka company and beer company that use the water from the ice to make their products, both appropriately named “Iceberg”.

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Berg bits chilling my drink

Warming up with Berg Bits

That night, as I sipped on my cocktail chilled with berg bits, I smiled to myself. Not only did I get to cross seeing an iceberg off my bucket list but it completely surpassed my expectations.

St. Anthony hosts many interesting things to do during the iceberg festival such as: wine tasting, fused glass art class, rock art class, iceberg hunting on ATV’s (a 6 hour program that includes ATV training and a guided wilderness tour) and the Great Viking festival (a theatrical dining experience with the Vikings in the only sod-covered restaurant in North America).