File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS A tour boat cruises pass an iceberg off the coast of Bonavista, N.L. in this undated handout image. Photos of spectacular icebergs on social media are drawing visitors from all over the world to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Massive iceberg grounded off Newfoundland

BONAVISTA, N.L. — Social media photos of prehistoric ice sculptures that dwarf seaside houses and run with waterfalls are drawing visitors from around the globe to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Bob Currie of Discovery Sea Adventures in Bonavista said Thursday it’s a banner iceberg viewing season driven by increasing attention on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

There are at least three icebergs near the town that can be reached by boat, including a giant one grounded in 120 metres of water, he said.

“If you could see that out of the water, it would blow you away.”

About nine-tenths of an iceberg are typically hidden under the cold North Atlantic waves. Still, the mammoth berg rises about 30 metres in the air, Currie said.

Unusually thick spring pack ice down the northeastern coast of Newfoundland and Labrador made for a slow start to the boat tour season. The trade-off, however, is spectacular bergs of various wave-carved shapes. One near Bonavista resembles the face of a fisherman in a sou’wester hat if you see it from the right angle.

Currie is now hosting guests from as far away as Japan, China and Dubai who can’t get enough of the 12,000-year-old ice specimens originating from Greenland glaciers.

“They can’t get over it, right? I usually pick up a chunk in the water for them and they take that. It’s like gold to them. They love that. You bite a piece off of it, take it home and mix a drink with it.”

There have also been regular sightings farther north near Fogo Island, Twillingate, St. Anthony, and south toward St. John’s.

“News Alert!” Iceberg Quest Tours tweeted Thursday afternoon. “Heading to massive iceberg off St. John’s now!”

Photos soon followed of passengers taking selfies with a berg that looked a bit like a giant dog laying down.

The U.S. Coast Guard International Ice Patrol said in late April that strong winds had helped pull about 673 icebergs into North Atlantic shipping lanes off eastern Newfoundland. That’s almost as many as were counted during last year’s entire ice season, which usually ends in late September.

The International Ice Patrol was formed after the Titanic sank off southeastern Newfoundland in 1912. It works with Canadian partners to track icebergs and warn mariners.

Currie said the doomed ship is on the minds of many tourists as they head out into Iceberg Alley.

“They always ask about that, how big a berg it was that hit it. When they realize how big those bergs are … they’re really amazed.”

Joe O’Brien of O’Brien’s Whale and Bird Tours was heading out Thursday from Bay Bulls, just south of St. John’s, with a boatload of guests watching for whales, puffins and other seabirds.

“It has been a phenomenal year for icebergs,” he said. “Right now, our icebergs have all turned into vodka and Iceberg Beer, which is readily available, but we do have a lot more on our northern coast.”

—By Sue Bailey in St. John’s, N.L.

The Canadian Press

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