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North Atlantic's "Iceberg Alley:"

Newfoundland - June 12-22, 2015
Some consider Newfoundland to be the "Iceberg Capital of the World." Every year, hundreds of huge icebergs conclude their 3 year journey south from the glaciers of Greenland, drifting down to the coast of Newfoundland. About 1% of Greenland's icebergs reach Newfoundland, a journey of 1600 miles.
 
I spent some time in Newfoundland, filming and studying these icebergs as part of a season four episode of Angry Planet. Along the way I was able to:
 
- Ice-climb up onto an iceberg to place a satellite tracking beacon..
- SCUBA dive alongside an iceberg to view them from underneath.
- Take a flight with the U.S. Coast Guard on an C-130 flight as part of the International Ice Patrol.
- Join the "Iceberg Cowboy as he and his team harvested the ice from these icebergs to sell to bottlers looking for the purest water for their products.
 
Newfoundland is awesome, with some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. Special thanks to everyone over at Ocean Quest for all their help on this project.

Iceberg Climbing

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In the Zodiac, on a perfect day in Conception Bay, Newfoundland. The plan was for me to climb up onto one of the icebergs and mount a satellite tracking beacon on it.
Stepping off the Zodiac and onto the 'berg. This was not an easy task. It took a couple of attempts, and in the chaos, I managed to poke a small hole in the Zodiac with one of my crampons... Oops! It had to be patched later.
Up onto the iceberg. This was the second time that I've been iceberg climbing. The first was in Iceland.

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On the iceberg and communicating with the team on the boat via radio.
Drone shot of ascending the iceberg. This one was perfect in that it was stable and had a rather gentle slope to get up high on it.
Iceberg climbing is EXTREMELY dangerous, so I can't recommend anyone else trying this. They can flip, roll, and break apart with no warning.

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This angle gives a pretty good idea of the size of the iceberg.
Looking straight down from the drone as I use an ice screw to secure the tracking beacon to the iceberg.
Look very closely at this photo. There's a very small dot at the summit of the iceberg... That's me.

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Because of the dangerous overhang, I didn't want to get too close to the point at the top. Remembering that this iceberg is about 90% under water, that makes it about the size of a small apartment building.
Back off the iceberg and safely on board the Zodiac. Mission accomplished.
Pieces of ice that had broken off of the iceberg. These things become quite unstable as they melt.


Iceberg SCUBA Diving

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Another day, another adventure. Today the goal was to SCUBA dive alongside a giant iceberg and film one from below. At the time, I didn't know that this was going to become my worst dive ever...
Many things went wrong this day. The water was choppy which delayed the team getting into the water. The Zodiac was bogging up and down in the swell and I was starting to overheat and get seasick.
While the camera operator and safety diver were in the water, getting ready for me to drop in, parts of the iceberg started to collapse and crash into the sea, very close to us. Talk about unsettling!

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Once in the water, I had more problems. I was having a lot of difficulty getting my buoyancy right, and I started to sink. The plan was to drop down to 30 feet, then swim over to the iceberg. I was now at 70 feet and dropping! I also had a leak in my dry suit and cold water was getting in. I managed to calm down and get back up to a better depth, but things were not good.
The ice was fascinating though. The blue hues and the scalloped shapes of the iceberg were mesmerizing. Too bad I wasn't really able to enjoy the view for very long. I was still having problems. As you get closer to the ice, the mix of fresh seawater vs. melted freshwater changes, which changes your buoyancy.
I eventually surfaced and canceled the dive. It was not worth the risk, given all the problems I was already having. As soon as I climbed back into the Zodiac, I started vomiting from seasickness. It was a bit of a crushing defeat, but I'm still alive. Iceberg diving can be very tricky and dangerous. They can break apart and roll at any time.


Coast Guard Iceberg Flight (U.S. Coast Guard & The International Ice Patrol)

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I got to fly with the U.S Coast Guard Ice Patrol. The team from Elizabeth City, North Carolina was based in Newfoundland for the season, and I spent the day with them aboard their C-130.
The International Ice Patrol & U.S. Coast Guard team up each year to gather data about icebergs... How many are out there? Where are they? How big are they? It was a privilege to join them on a mission.
The view of the cockpit. The crew uses a variety of techniques to find the icebergs including RADAR and good, old fashioned binoculars. Their observations are then used to update the iceberg database that mariners in the shipping lanes can use to avoid the icebergs.

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There have been just over 50 collisions between boats and icebergs since 1980.
We flew north from St. Johns up to the east coast of Labrador and back. I'm not sure how many icebergs we saw, but there were quite a few of them.
A pair of icebergs off the coast of Labrador.

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A lot of these icebergs travelled for 2 years from Greenland to eventually melt away to nothing here off the Newfoundland coast.
The Coast Guard team brings us in low to get a better look.
This is one of the few places in the world where icebergs can be found along major shipping lanes. Of course, the Titanic is the most famous ship to have ever been taken down by an iceberg.

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You can see a trail of smaller ice chunks that have broken away as this iceberg drifts south.
These icebergs regularly get pounded by huge waves.
Thank you, Coast Guard crew. What a cool experience. Keep up the great work.


Harvesting Icebergs with the "Iceberg Cowboy"

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The water in icebergs is typically ancient, often thousands of years old. This water pre-dates the industrial revolution, so the pollution levels were extremely low when they were formed. There is a market for this pure, clean iceberg water.
Ed Keene, aka the "Iceberg Cowboy" has an operation that harvests the icebergs, melting the ice down into water that is then used to make Iceberg Vodka, Iceberg Beer and other products.
I joined Ed and his team for a day. They take a boat and a special barge out to find a suitable iceberg, then they grab pieces of it and put them into special holding tanks in the barge.

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The barge-mounted excavator does a good job of grabbing and crushing the ice before dropping it into the storage tanks to be melted.
He extracts about 1.2 million liters of water per year.
Towing the barge back after a busy day of iceberg gathering.


More Newfoundland Icebergs

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