“That’s the biggest iceberg I’ve ever seen in these waters,” said Harry Spurrell, our host, as he took us on a tour of the icebergs around Torbay in Newfoundland today. We were out in his speedboat to get up close and personal with the bergs that could impede our progress across the North Atlantic.
From Torbay we could see three major bergs, impressive and majestic, especially when you consider that they are made of ice that could be tens of thousands of years old. But it’s not actually these big, conspicuous, impossible-to-miss kind of icebergs that we’re worried about. It’s their evil offspring, the fragments of ice no bigger than a refrigerator that would be so difficult to spot from a rowboat, especially at night or when they are disguised by the whitecaps of waves. As soon as the seas get more than a few feet high, we wouldn’t even see such a fragment until we were right on top of it and it was punching its way through our hull.
We saw many of these fragments today, drifting downwind of the bigger bergs that spawned them. They came in all kinds of shapes, many of them sharply irregular, sticking up from the ocean in strange shapes like witches’ hats or swans or sharks’ fins.
In a few weeks’ time these fragments will be gone. Maybe even their parents bergs will have melted away. We could see the meltwater pouring off them today in waterfalls cascading down their sides. They are diminishing rapidly.
But we have an immovable deadline to get to London before the start of the Olympics – or at the latest before I have to go to Yale for the start of the semester in mid-August. The clock is ticking.