Al­most 1,000 ice­bergs in ship­ping lanes this year

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ATLANTIC -

Ice­berg Al­ley off New­found­land has been an es­pe­cially dan­ger­ous stretch this year with al­most 1,000 ice­bergs counted in North At­lantic ship­ping lanes since Fe­bru­ary.

Gabrielle McGrath, com­man­der of the U.S. Coast Guard’s In­ter­na­tional Ice Pa­trol, said Mon­day it’s al­ready among the top 20 most se­vere ice sea­sons on record since 1900.

A fi­nal rank­ing won’t be known un­til later this year as some bergs are still drift­ing south, she ex­plained.

“There are def­i­nitely a lot still in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and near the en­trance to the Strait of Belle Isle and then up along the Labrador coast,” she said in an in­ter­view.

The gi­gan­tic slabs of pre­his­toric ice break off from Green­land glaciers then move south. They drift in what­ever di­rec­tion the cur­rents and winds take them.

The count con­tin­ues but it’s so far the 18th worst ice sea­son on record, McGrath said.

“Con­sid­er­ing that num­ber goes back the whole way to 1900, even the 18th most se­vere is still pretty sig­nif­i­cant when you’re look­ing at 117 years of data.”

In 2014, there were 1,546 ice­bergs in the ship­ping lanes, mak­ing it the sixth high­est count since 1900. There were 1,165 ice­bergs in 2015.

The In­ter­na­tional Ice Pa­trol was formed af­ter an ice­berg sank the Ti­tanic in 1912. It works with Cana­dian part­ners to track con­di­tions, in­clud­ing us­ing sur­veil­lance flights, and up­date mariners.

McGrath said the pa­trol has a per­fect safety record for those who heed its warn­ings. As of Mon­day, there were about 12 ice­bergs drift­ing through the ship­ping lanes off east­ern New­found­land.

McGrath said a se­ries of low­pres­sure sys­tems last spring drove hun­dreds of ice­bergs close to shore along with un­usu­ally thick sea ice.

The height of the ice sea­son is typ­i­cally in late May or June but sev­eral bergs along New­found­land’s east­ern coast have lit up so­cial me­dia this month.

FILE PHOTO

A large ice­berg lingers just out­side the har­bour at Twill­ingate, N.L.

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