Off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada’s “Iceberg Alley” is one of the world’s most popular shipping lanes. Currently, a record number of icebergs has moved in (along with loosened sea ice) and is threatening navigational safety.
The situation right now is extreme, due in part to two extraordinary weather systems in late March. To give you an idea of just how extreme, here are a few stats from April of this year:
- There were about 660 icebergs in the area; the average number for the same time of year is about 212. More than triple the average!
- The Canadian Coast Guard was called in 85 times to break ships from the ice.
- Within the span of one week, the number of icebergs in the shipping lanes grew sharply—from 37 to 455.
Note that those statistics are from April—and peak season for the icebergs is May and June.
Thankfully, the International Ice Patrol is on the scene. The Patrol, which consists of an international coalition of 17 nations, formed in 1913 in response to the Titanic disaster. And it’s been warning ships of iceberg danger since.
Gabrielle McGrath is the U.S. Coast Guard commander leading the international effort, which is focused on identifying and tracking the biggest, most dangerous icebergs. In a recent interview with ABC News, she said, “In the last 104 years any vessel heeding our warnings has stayed safe from the danger of iceberg collision.”
According to Aslak Ross, head of marine standards for Maersk Line, the safety hazards posed by icebergs are not to be taken lightly. “We operate big ships, and our safety is a priority—and hence, we really try to avoid the areas of icebergs,” he said. “It is definitely something that needs to be considered in safe navigation.”