At dusk, tourists marvel at the sensational collapse of an iceberg at the end of its long journey from Greenland to Canada’s east coast, which now has a front row seat to the melting of the Arctic’s ice.
While the rest of the world nervously eyes the impact of global warming, the calving of Greenland’s glaciers — the breaking off of ice chunks from its edge — has breathed new life into the remote coastal villages of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Once a hub of cod fishing, the province now plays host to hordes of amateur photographers and tourists hoping to capture the epic ice melt for posterity. As winter ends, iceberg spotting begins.
“It keeps getting better every year,” says Barry Strickland, a 58-year-old former fisherman who now takes tourists in his small boat around King’s Point in the north of the province.
“We’ve got 135, 140 tour buses with older people coming into the town every season so it’s great for the economy.”
For the past four years, Strickland has taken visitors to bear witness to the death throes of these ice giants, which can measure dozens of meters in height and weigh hundreds of thousands of tons.
Winds and ocean currents bring the icebergs from northwest Greenland, thousands of kilometers (miles) away, to Canada’s shores.
In a matter of weeks, ice frozen for thousands of years can quickly melt into the ocean.
‘Incredible’ rise in tourism
Strickland’s boat excursions are often fully booked during the high season from May to July, with tourists coming from all around the world to King’s Point, a village of just 600 inhabitants.
The villagers keep track of the icebergs on an interactive satellite tracking map put online by the provincial government.
“There’s not much in these small outport towns anymore to keep people around, so tourism is a big part of our economy,” said Devon Chaulk, who works in a souvenir shop in Elliston, a small town of 300 on “Iceberg Corridor,” as the coastline is now known.
“I’ve lived here my entire life, and the increase in tourism around here in the past 10 to 15 years has been incredible. It’s not surprising to have thousands of people here over the next couple of months,” said the 28-year-old.
Last year, a total of 500,000 tourists visited Newfoundland and Labrador, a number roughly equivalent to the province’s total population.
Those visitors spent nearly Can $570 million (US $433 million), government figures show.