BEAUTY OF ICE­BERGS

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In Kath­leen Tucker’s col­umn this week, she de­scribes her ad­ven­ture see­ing ice­bergs. Check out her ad­ven­ture.

What could be bet­ter than get­ting up close and per­sonal with an ice­berg?

The an­nual Ice­berg Fes­ti­val is over, but there are still many spec­tac­u­lar pieces of ice on the hori­zon. This year, many are tab­u­lar-shaped rather than pin­na­cle­shaped and can be seen in a pro­ces­sion stretch­ing from coastal com­mu­ni­ties on the tip of the Great North­ern Penin­sula all the way south to St. John’s.

There was a time when ice­bergs were not al­ways seen as ob­jects of beauty, how­ever. To fish­er­men they were a nui­sance; as dan­ger­ous as rogue whales and as de­struc­tive as leviathans emerg­ing from the cold, grey At­lantic, es­cap­ing south af­ter a long, frigid im­pris­on­ment in the north. They were a hazard to ev­ery fish­er­man’s nets, stages and wharves.

In the days of the fish­ery, and at this time of year, ice­bergs floated ran­domly into har­bours, coves and bights. Fish­er­men thought long and hard be­fore putting out their nets be­cause th­ese gi­ants of the sea of­ten hooked onto trawl lines and dragged them along in their wake, or sailed right into trap berths and de­stroyed them. Many times a skip­per and his crew had to take up their nets when they saw the ice ap­proach­ing their cod trap.

Back when fish­ers jigged for cod, they’d put down a grapelin to an­chor the fishing boat while they jigged. On a few oc­ca­sions, a nearby piece of ice floated across the line that at­tached the boat to the grapelin, threat­en­ing to drag the fishing boat, and its cargo, be­neath the waves.

None of those thoughts were in my mind that Satur­day morn­ing when I stood in the kitchen mix­ing up a cake. The phone rang and Glenda asked if I’d like to go ice­berg-hunt­ing at St. Lu­naireGri­quet. I’d heard a lot about the mam­moth ice­bergs in that com­mu­nity, so it didn’t take me long to de­cide. “Sure, I’d love to go!”

I slammed the phone back into its cra­dle and started as­sem­bling back­pack, floater jacket, long johns, mit­tens, toque and cam­era. I pulled on a pair of old army com­bat boots, laced them up, and set off.

At the wharf, Glenda and Caleb held the 18’ fi­bre­glass boat steady and I climbed in and sat down on the thwart. The ocean, which had been smooth as glass an hour ear­lier, had rough­ened, and a cold north­east breeze fresh­ened as we pulled away from the wharf.

Scott, at the tiller, nav­i­gated around the bay and cir­cled some nice ice-for­ma­tions which could eas­ily have won awards for their sur­pass­ing grace and beauty. We snapped plenty of pic­tures be­fore head­ing out to sea.

I’m a land-lub­ber, so when we got out onto the choppy seas around White Cape, I thought, “This could be the day I drown, be­cause one sec­ond I’m see­ing the hori­zon and the next, the swells have blocked out the hori­zon! Waves and swells like this are bound to swamp the boat and I’ll never be seen or heard from again!”

So I closed my eyes, and thanked God that at least I wasn’t sea-sick.

But then I thought, “I’d bet­ter stay alert and keep my eyes open in case we have to bail out!”

Not­ing that Glenda was stand­ing up tak­ing pic­tures, how­ever, I de­cided that maybe I was over-re­act­ing, and aimed my cam­era at the looming ar­mada of ice­bergs and started tak­ing more pic­tures. Once around the Cape the swells less­ened and the chop di­min­ished.

I am al­ways amazed at a New­found­lan­der’s abil­ity to sit in a boat and know ex­actly where he is by sighting land­marks. Scott pointed out old trap berths as we mo­tored along the coast­line. White Cape and Gri­quet Is­land, he ex­plained, were tidey berths, mean­ing they were sub­ject to strong tides and rough wa­ters (some­thing I had no trou­ble imag­in­ing). Scott men­tioned how one old fish­er­man worked the Gri­quet Is­land berth in the early 1980s; then he pointed to Shoal Point and ex­plained how a white leader grap­nel was used rather than a shore­fast and, fi­nally, he in­di­cated Shoal Point South, which was a prime berth that al­ways yielded a good catch.

Scott steered the boat past one mas­sive berg af­ter another, al­ways ready to cut the motor as Glenda and I took pic­tures.

I never tire of ice­bergs, and I thought about how many times I had stood on my doorstep look­ing far away to the Strait of Belle Isle, wish­ing I could get up close to them.

Fi­nally, we stopped by an ice­berg shaped like a fox head and Scott aimed the boat at the snout while he and Caleb leaned out with a gaff and chopped off some pieces, then picked up the dip-net and scooped them out of the wa­ter and dumped them into a cooler at my feet.

My heart may have been in my mouth sev­eral times on that ex­pe­di­tion, but I wouldn’t trade it for any­thing. Af­ter all, what could be bet­ter than get­ting up close and per­sonal with an ice­berg?

KATH­LEEN TUCKER PHOTO

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