St John’s Newfoundland is used to visitors blowing in. As one of Canada’s windiest cities, you might spot mountains of ice on their sluggish journey along the coast’s Iceberg Alley. In spring and early summer, ice breaks off the coast of Greenland ice sheet, beginning a long trek across the Atlantic until it gradually melts into the sea, or disintegrates against the coastline. It’s a natural spectacle that draws thousands of tourists every year, hoping to get up close to these constantly-changing ice giants, perhaps even pick up a “bergie bit” to taste some of the purest water on the planet.
Harvesting icebergs for water is nothing new. Compressed 10,000-year old snow is dense and absolutely pure, making it an exceptional ingredient in some of the Newfoundland’s finest beverages. Microbrewery Quidi Vidi’s Iceberg Lager, made with real iceberg water, is bracingly fresh, and so in demand the company offers double the refund value to get its distinctive blue bottles back. Auk Island Winery, located in the tourist hotspot of Twillingate, also uses iceberg water in some of its fruit wines, while the Newfoundland Liquor Board produces the award-winning Iceberg Vodka, available in liquor stores across the country. There is a government regulation in place when it comes to iceberg water, mostly to protect the consumer rather than to save the icebergs. For these are truly massive amounts of water. The largest iceberg ever recorded was 13 kilometres long, 6km wide, 20 metres above the sea and weighing an incredible 9 billion tons – that’s enough fresh water to provide the entire world with drinking water for four years!
Don’t be mislead by the iceberg’s height. 90% of the iceberg is underwater, invisible to the eye and unsuspecting, supposedly indestructible cruise ships on their maiden voyages. The compacted snow feels like concrete, much denser than the ice you might have in your freezer. Their organic shapes and smooth blue lines are incredible to witness, which is why you’ll find Iceberg Tours departing from St John’s Harbour, within walking distance of the major hotels. On board you’ll learn more about the icebergs – how they are formed and where they come from – while also looking out for the world’s largest concentration of humpback whales, and a variety of marine mammals and seabirds.
For the particularly adventurous, consider paddling out to an iceberg. Kayak tours place you on the water, where the true size and girth of the iceberg can be experienced. Since the icebergs are constantly calving and melting, kayakers can’t get too close. Besides the falling ice, there’s a chance it could tip on its side, and take everything nearby with it.
Whether you choose a boat, kayak, the shore or the nearest pub, experiencing the icebergs of Newfoundland is naturally on The Great Canadian Bucket List.