The Southern Ice Belt | oceanresearchproject.org
by Matt Rutherford
After rounding southeast Newfoundland we could finally head north. It’s pretty incredible how far east you have to go before you can turn north heading from the U.S. east coast. Canada is wider than it looks on a map. It was great to finally be heading north towards Greenland but now we had our first real obstacle, southern icebergs.
Icebergs come out of Hudson Bay and the Labrador Sea and travel south to southeast. It was one of these southern icebergs that sank the Titanic, so you know they can be pretty serious. Basically you look at an ice map which is a map broken into squares with numbers estimating the number of bergs in that region. You try to steer a course connecting the boxes that have the least amount of icebergs (check picture). At least that is the theory. The wind direction ultimately determines which box on the map you have sailed into and you just do your best to keep a sharp lookout. A sharp lookout in the fog that is. It’s a good thing we installed a radar before we left.
Sailing in the fog day after day is strange experience. It can even be a bit claustrophobic. It can be blowing a gale and still be incredibly foggy, and rainy. Hard to imagine a more dreary place to sail than the southern Labrador Sea. The grey foggy sky gives the water a greyish color so you’re completely surrounded by grey, for days on end. The fog can come or go so quickly that it seems like someone flipped a switch and the pea soup fog machine turns on or off. Fog itself is nearly always misting water so the deck, lines, everything outside is always wet. Mixing icebergs into this equation makes for sleepless nights. My stomach is not happy with all the coffee I’ve been drinking lately.
We are now north of the Southern ice belt, it will be a little while before we get far enough north to see the big boys. Huge icebergs that can be a mile around, hundreds of feet tall and who knows how deep. These southern bergs are hardly an appetizer compared to the feast waiting in the Arctic. Each iceberg is a unique and always changing natural sculpture. Icebergs are one of the most beautiful natural phenomena’s I’ve ever seen. (more after the break)