BEAUTY OF ICEBERGS
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?