It appears a strong season lies ahead for iceberg tour operators on the Great Northern Peninsula.
Many bergs have already started appearing near St. Anthony — drifting along the province’s North East Coast on the Labrador Current.
It’s a welcome sight for local tourism businesses and tour boat operators as they prepare for the start of the season in May and June.
Paul Alcock, of Northland Discovery Tours, told The Northern Pen he recently counted about 20 icebergs off of Fishing Point Park, the prime area to spot icebergs in St. Anthony.
Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is tracking more than 1,200 icebergs from about as far north as Goose Bay to near 40.5N degrees south of Newfoundland.
St. Anthony operators say that’s not an unusual number of icebergs so far this year.
Alcock, who has run his operation for 22 years, says the bergs typically start showing up in these numbers around the end of April and early May.
He adds, it could have potentially spelled bad news for the St. Anthony area if the icebergs had come early. Alcock says it’s possible they would pass through before the tourist season starts.
Instead, they’re simply showing up right on time.
“To see them now, that’s what we want to see,” he said. “Because a lot of those icebergs are going to ground in this area and they could be here for months before they break up and melt. The timing is good.”
Alcock projects an “on par” or “above average” season for tourism operators.
“If we could get 300 to 500 of those (bergs) to come to the shores, that would mean a good year,” he said.
He’s already getting lots of inquiries from tourists interested in booking a tour.
“We’re expecting to have a good year,” he said.
Keith Pilgrim of St. Anthony Bight is new to the tour business. He’s been running Iceberg Alley Boat Tours for the past two years.
He doesn’t think these icebergs will stick around but hopes more will continue to drift in from the North, into early summer.
“Anything that comes along got to come around this (area),” he told The Northern Pen. “This is the best place for icebergs.”
Pilgrim also runs a bed and breakfast, Yvonne’s Cottages, with his wife in St. Anthony Bight.
He says they’re getting more bookings earlier and later in the summer tourist season. Before, he says, most tourists would arrive in July and August. Now they’re starting to see more visitors in June and September.
“People are coming a bit earlier and staying a bit longer,” he said.
Having more icebergs around for the first couple months of the season should help attract more.
Both Alcock and Pilgrim recognize there are variables at play that makes it hard to predict just how many icebergs will drift past the area this summer.
Wind is one of the major factors.
Westerly winds could push icebergs away from the Great Northern Peninsula.
Furthermore, if there’s bad weather, tour operators simply cannot make trips to view the bergs.
But, for now, there’s reason for optimism.
Iceberg Festival ahead
The 11th annual Iceberg Festival on the Great Northern Peninsula is set for June 7 to 16 this year.
With food, music and activities for all ages, it promises to be a great way to celebrate the arrival of the bergs.
The festival also marks the beginning of the summer tourism season, welcoming visitors to tour local sites and attractions like the Grenfell Historic Properties in St. Anthony and the L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site.
There’s lots of entertainment at various locations through the 10-day festival, including Mummer’s Night in Gunner’s Cove; Tunes, Toutons and Tea at the Grenfell Interpretation Centre in St. Anthony, and a stroll and scoff at the Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve in Raleigh.
There’s food and drinks — everything from jiggs dinner to iceberg martinis.
And, of course, there are local companies offering tours and a change to get a close-up look at the giant bergs as they drift down from the north along the Labrador Current.
For a look at the complete schedule of events visit: http://theicebergfestival.ca/schedule/