During a recent visit to Newfoundland we decided to spend some time tracing the coastline in search of these frozen wonders. Even before landing we knew it would be a successful trip. As we flew over Conception Bay on our decent into St. John’s International Airport we could see several icebergs in the bay. When the plane made a dramatic pivot out over the Atlantic to align itself with the runway we found ourselves staring almost directly down at two large bergs anchored just beyond the dramatic cliffs outside St. John’s harbour.
Upon arriving we made for our first destination, the top of Signal Hill and its vast open vista of the Atlantic, which, from here, disappears over the horizon towards Europe. From here we were able to take in a rather spectacular view of the two icebergs in the bay that we had seen from the air an hour before as well as the sweeping view of the ocean and coastline with its steep, red cliffs. We only just arrived in Newfoundland and had already seen half a dozen bergs.
From our base at Placentia, about an hour and a half drive southwest of St. John’s, we revisited the city a few days later, this time going out to Fort Amherst at the harbour entrance which gave us a much closer look from a lower perspective. The spot had already been attracting a continuous stream of tourists and locals taking advantage of this excellent viewing location below the sheer coastal cliffs. At the same time we could see the local tour boats going to and from the icebergs, skirting among the ‘bergy bits’ trailing away from the soaring mass of blue-green ice. It’s difficult to say if it was real or imagined but everyone seemed to sense a distinct chill as the ocean air coursed over the nearby ice, flowing over the gathered shore dwellers moments later.
Encouraged by these first encounters we consulted the iceberg finder website and plotted our next course. Noting the reported presence of several bergs on the eastern side of Trinity Bay, once again from Placentia we pointed the car North towards the ‘Baccalieu Trail.’ Following the undulating coastal road, darting in and out between stunted forest and open windows onto the piercing blue waters of the bay we could see, far in the distance on the western side, white specks of ice, blazing in the midday sun but elusively far off.
Pressing on towards the tip of the peninsula, where the wind-blasted trees again gave way to barren, boggy, emptiness, we spotted a sign pointing us towards Grates Cove. Turning left down the twisting road we entered the village. Here we were greeted by a nearly treeless coastline of windswept, patchy, grasses tumbling down towards hard slabs of grey-brown rock tilting into the narrow cove which opened into the vastness of the northern ocean. In the distance, almost due north we spotted our objective. At medium distance but nonetheless impressive, a line of the giant pinnacles of gleaming white sailed slowly past, riding the cold Labrador current.