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magazine / ma06 / indepth




Singing icebergs
On the rocks
• Iceberg cowboy
Tracking monsters
• Oil and water
• Technology timeline
• The next frozen frontier
Ice heroes
The Northwest Passage
• Military muscle
Icy indicators
Profile: Ijsberg
• Knowledge Toolbox
• Cartographer’s table
• Just the facts

• Glaciers "flow" or "creep" outward under their own weight like a viscous fluid. When the edge of a glacier advances into the ocean the pieces that break off are what we call icebergs.

• Icebergs are comprised of pure fresh water.

• The term "iceberg" most likely originates from the Dutch term "ijsberg", which means ice mountain.

• The glaciers of western Greenland, where 90% of Newfoundland’s icebergs originate, are amongst the fastest moving in the world, up to seven kilometres per year.

• As icebergs drift south in the Labrador Current they enter Iceberg Alley, which extends south along the coast of Newfoundland. It takes approximately two to three years for these massive icebergs to reach Newfoundland covering a distance of 1,600 nautical miles.

• The icebergs that reach the east coast of Newfoundland probably calved from a glacier more than a year before.

• When an iceberg does happen to reach the Atlantic Ocean its long and travelled life quickly comes to an end since it melts rapidly in the warm waters.

• Between 10,000 to 15,000 icebergs are calved each year.


• The glacial ice that icebergs are made of may be more that 15,000 years old.

• Seven-eighths of the iceberg’s mass is below water.

• The average iceberg weight for the Grand Banks area is 100,000 to 200,000 tonnes and is about the size of a cubic 15-storey building.

• The interior temperature of icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador is in the range of -15° to -20° C.

• The largest Northern Hemisphere iceberg on record was encountered near Baffin Island in 1882. It was 13 kilometres long, six kilometres wide and had a freeboard (height above water) of about 20 metres. The mass of that iceberg was in excess of nine billion tonnes - enough water for everyone in the world to drink one litre a day for over four years.

• The largest icebergs (also referred to as ice islands) originate from the vast ice shelves surrounding Antarctica.

• Ninety-three percent of the world’s mass of icebergs is found surrounding the Antarctic.

• In 1987, an iceberg with an area of 6,350 square kilometres (roughly the size of the state of Rhode Island) broke from the Ross ice-shelf in Antarctica. That ’berg had a mass of around 1.4 trillion tonnes and could have supplied everyone in the world with 240 tonnes of pure drinking water.

• The tallest known iceberg in the North Atlantic was 168 metres high.

• When iceberg ice melts it makes a fizzing sound where the term "bergy seltzer" comes from. The sound comes from the popping of compressed air bubbles that are in the ice. The bubbles form when air is trapped in the snow layers that are compressed to form glacial ice. The released air is as old as the ice — thousands of years!

• Birds taking flight from an iceberg are a good sign that the ’berg is about to roll. A possible explanation is that birds’ keen sense of balance enables them to detect gradual movements in icebergs long before people can see them.

• A secret Second World War program, called Project Habbakuk, was proposed by the British to manufacture icebergs for use as unsinkable aircraft carriers.

• The Hibernia platform is designed to withstand the impact of an iceberg in excess of five million tonnes. The massive reinforced concrete structure has vertical wedge shaped elements on the surface intended to reduce iceberg impact loads.

• Greenland and other North Atlantic icebergs are usually peaked and irregular in shape; Antarctic icebergs are usually tabular, with flat tops and steep sides.

• Floating ice shelves constitute 11 percent of the area of the continent of Antactica.

• Antarctic ice shelves may calve icebergs that are over 80 kilometres long.

• Antarctica is actually a desert, receiving about the same precipitation (less than five centimetres a year) as the Sahara Desert.

• If Antarctica were to melt, the sea level would rise over 60 metres!

• The world’s record low temperature of -89.2° C was recorded in Antarctica.

• The coasts of Antarctica are some of the windiest places in the world, with gusts reaching nearly 321 kilometres per hour.

• The temperature in Antarctica once dropped 18° C in 12 minutes.

•  An ice sheet covers all but 2.4 percent of Antarctica’s 14 million square kilometers. At its thickest point the ice sheet is nearly five kilometres deep. It averages two kilometres thick, making Antarctica the highest continent. This ice comprises 90 percent of all the world’s ice, and it is 70 percent of all the world’s fresh water.

•  Antarctica is the coldest continent.

•  The Antarctic ice sheet has been in existence for at least 40 million years.

• Presently, 10 percent of the world’s land area is covered with glaciers. 

•  Glaciers store about 75 percent of the world’s freshwater.


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