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Nine times larger, you say?....


Are they really as big under water as people claim they are? That's the question that many visitors to the Twillingate area this time of year often ask as they view the awe-inspiring sight of a gigantic iceberg poking its head around a point of land or being grounded on a ledge as it blindly manoeuvred along a channel or trench. But that ledge is not just knee-deep! One of the icebergs that have been around for the past month, grounded just off Little Harbour (near Big Head) is estimated by 87-year-old Nelson Keefe, a retired fisherman of the community, to be aground in some 60-65 fathoms of water. Now, that's deep - in fact, over 360 feet deep. In any language, that's deep. That's gigantic!

TWILLINGATE - Are they really as big under water as people claim they are?

That's the question that many visitors to the Twillingate area this time of year often ask as they view the awe-inspiring sight of a gigantic iceberg poking its head around a point of land or being grounded on a ledge as it blindly manoeuvred along a channel or trench. But that ledge is not just knee-deep!

One of the icebergs that have been around for the past month, grounded just off Little Harbour (near Big Head) is estimated by 87-year-old Nelson Keefe, a retired fisherman of the community, to be aground in some 60-65 fathoms of water. Now, that's deep - in fact, over 360 feet deep. In any language, that's deep. That's gigantic!

Icebergs are reported to have reached an enormous size with the tallest in North Atlantic waters having been measured at 168 meters (about 551 feet) which is equivalent to the height of a 55-story building. When you attempt to imagine, if you can, that the size under water is nine times larger, then it becomes somewhat mind-boggling! And the shape it can take underwater will vary with each berg, with no way of determining from topside what that shape may be.

For those who still can't accept that the berg is nine times larger under water, simply try an experiment in your own kitchen. Take an ordinary ice cube and place it in an ordinary glass of water. And viola. The amount of ice under water is certainly nine times greater than what's floating. In salt water, of course, the berg floats a tad higher because of the different density but there's no doubt but they can be B-I-G creatures.

But they don't linger around those shores long enough as they move south and eventually disappear. There was a time that icebergs were a scourge to fisherman and to everyone else but now they move away far too early. They are now the main attraction for tourists coming to the island to see once again - or see for the first time - the sight of an iceberg.

Some years back when an exceptionally big berg was parked near Shoal Tickle Point (close to the bridge that connects the two islands of Twillingate), a bus load of tourists from the North-Eastern States stopped so that passengers could take photos. One tourist rushed into the nearby pharmacy in a huff and hurriedly requested a roll of film - "and hurry, please" was her request - she explained that she was afraid the berg would melt before she got out to take the photo.

Twillingate has been fortunate so far this season in having a number of icebergs and some of extraordinary size lying around. If only they would stay for the summer. Already, though, tourists from across Canada, from down into the States (including California), and from European countries such as Germany and Sweden, as well as far away Australia have come to Twillingate to take photos and carry back memories. And photos are possible from various vantage points around the island as well as from tour boats.

According to staff at the Iceberg Shop where an iceberg interpretation centre is located, many tourists don't seem to understand that the bergs are not this year's crop but have taken years in many cases to reach this far south. Some even find it difficult to accept that these bergs won't be back again next year. However, many are informed before arriving and have considerable expertise on the subject. Regardless, the presence of bergs translates into the presence of tourists, and that's good for everyone.

Otto Young, owner/operator of tourist cabins in Little Harbour, remarked that it is the best he has ever seen.

"I'm usually awed by icebergs," he said, "but I'm super-awed by these."

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