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Life in Newfoundland

Predicting the 2018 iceberg season

Iceberg seasons are different every year, and that makes them difficult to accurately predict.

It is possible however to make an educated guess by studying the official iceberg charts from the Canadian Ice Service, so let’s have a look:

Iceberg chart for April 2, 2018 – Canadian Ice Service

The numbers in boxes around the island tell us how many icebergs are present in those areas. Every year I compare those numbers with previous years, because we know how those years turned out.

For example, have a look at the 10 year iceberg comparison I posted last year. That comparison shows early season and peak season charts from 2008 to 2016, it’s a way of gaining insight into the coming peak season by looking at the early season charts.

So what does today’s early season chart tell us?

The iceberg numbers are quite low compared to nearly every other recent year at this date. There’s a fair number of icebergs near shore already, but there aren’t many icebergs following them in the grid further out to sea. An early season chart like this usually means peak season will be near normal from St. Anthony to Twillingate, and below normal from Bonavista to St. John’s.

That said, you only need a couple of icebergs near shore to make an iceberg watcher happy, and even in an average season there are always a few icebergs like that if you’re willing to drive out to them.

The area around the East Coast Trail has 8 icebergs in it already, and I’m sure there are hikers out there looking for them as I’m typing this. 🙂

If you’re interested in keeping track of the unfolding iceberg season, keep your eyes on the ocean and on the daily Canadian Ice Service iceberg charts. The Newfoundland Iceberg Reports (on Facebook) is another great place to get info about current icebergs, and of course at the end of this month IcebergFinder will go live with their iceberg map.

Happy iceberg hunting!

Spring hike to Freshwater Bay

On the East Coast Trail, a late March hike can feel like spring one minute and like winter the next. With a bit of sunlight on your skin and shelter from the wind you’ll feel almost warm at times, but watch out for those clouds as it’ll get chilly quick when the sun is taken away and snow starts coming down.

Five years ago today I ventured outside on just such a day, exploring the area around Freshwater Bay near St. John’s. Heading down the Freshwater Bay access trail the trailbed and boardwalk were still covered in snow, but it was relatively easy to walk on, so instead of watching my step I enjoyed the scenery and sounds around me:

Freshwater Bay access trail – Deadmans Bay Path

Halfway down the path I was overtaken by a runner with 2 dogs, and not a minute later the forest erupted in chaos. First the dogs started barking, then I heard a large animal crashing through the woods not 40 m away from me, they’d obviously had a run-in with a moose…

This went on for quite a while, but it was an audio-only encounter for me. The forest was too dense to see what was going on, but when I ran into the guy later he told me his younger dog chased a young moose around, then his more experienced dog joined in, until the mother moose intervened and chased the dogs back to him. The standoff ended when he was able to collect and leash both his dogs, and the 2 moose apparently took off in the direction of the South Side Hills, nearly straight up the hill.

Shaking my head, I decided to head away from the harried moose and stepped onto an unmarked side trail that headed east from the access trail. At the end of this trail I heard an entirely new set of animal noises, and I tried being as quiet as possible while I closed in on a tree filled with juvenile eagles.

In the middle of changing lenses, a hardened patch of snow crumbled beneath my boots and sent the eagles flying, not to be seen again that day… The tree was a favourite perch of theirs by the looks of it, and with a commanding view of the barachois pond before it it was easy to see why.

Even with all the wildlife scared away now, the scenery at the frozen pond was rewarding all on its own:

Frozen barachois pond – Deadmans Bay Path

After enjoying the beautiful view for a while I continued along the frozen edge of the pond towards Leamys Brook. This brook flows into Freshwater Pond from the south and is the future site of a bridge to the other side (hopefully):

Leamys Brook – Deadmans Bay Path

When I was at the brook the crossing was not possible, well, not safely, so I walked back to the access path and crossed over the barachois instead. This is the regular way of crossing to the other side, right through the water flowing out of Freshwater Pond into Freshwater Bay:

Barachois crossing at Freshwater Bay – Deadmans Bay Path

As you can see, by this time clouds were gathering over the bay, quite a change from the sunny and ‘warm’ blue skies I enjoyed when I set out on my hike, so I figured it was time to head back before the clouds opened up… 🙂

Tracking the 2018 sea ice #4

Between weather systems, today we got a glimpse of Newfoundland’s sea ice:

Satellite image of Newfoundland’s sea ice – March 13, 2018

Even through the clouds, you can see that the sea ice near the Avalon Peninsula has all but vanished… With the exception of some pockets of pack ice in Trinity Bay (near Bellevue beach), there isn’t a whole lot of sea ice south of Bonavista. Northwest of the Bonavista Peninsula the story is very different, with sea ice packed into most harbours and bays along the Kttiwake Coast, all the way up to the Great Northern Peninsula, and of course along the coast of Labrador.

This last week we’ve also seen the first reports of polar bears and icebergs! (bears near St. Anthony, bergs near Bonavista and the East Coast Trail). Just like last year, I’m keeping track of these exciting sightings and signs of spring on my Icebergs in Newfoundland page.

Tracking the 2018 sea ice #3

With winter weather cloaking the island for much of the week, it was hard getting a proper look at the advancing sea ice from above. Today however, the cloud cover lifted just enough to see something cold and blue once again:

Satellite image of Newfoundland’s sea ice – March 3, 2018

You can see that the sea ice has slowed its progress somewhat, drifting further into Trinity Bay and out onto the Atlantic. Last week there was one day when you could actually see some tenuous patches of ice on the horizon from a webcam, today we need to be patient again, but at least the wind is blowing in the right direction:

Wind over Newfoundland (click to animate) – March 3, 2018

If you want to do your own daily sea ice checkups, head over to NASA’s Worldview for 3 satellite updates every day, or check the daily ice charts at the Canadian Ice Service.

Tracking the 2018 sea ice #2

This year’s sea ice is wasting no time making its way down south, going from just north of Fogo Island to just north of the Avalon Peninsula in a week!

Have a look at today’s beautiful satellite image:

Satellite image of Newfoundland’s sea ice – Feb 25, 2018

If this keeps up we may be able to see the pack ice from the East Coast Trail and Signal Hill in just a week or two. If you’re out on the trails to meet it, be sure to keep a look out for Arctic visitors!

Tracking the 2018 sea ice #1

Thanks to yesterday’s clear skies, NASA was able to give us a great look at Newfoundland’s advancing sea ice:

Satellite image of Newfoundland’s sea ice – Feb 18, 2018

You can clearly see the ‘river of ice’ flowing down Iceberg Alley, and it’s looking very good. When I see ice like this I can’t help but think of all the icebergs that come with it, and all the wildlife of course!

Here’s a closer look at this same image, focussing on Twillingate, Fogo Island, the Kittiwake Coast, and the Bonavista Peninsula:

Closer look at Newfoundland’s sea ice – Feb 18, 2018

I’ll keep a close eye on the situation and report about it on the front page and on my Icebergs in Newfoundland page.

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