Huge iceberg in 'Iceberg Alley', Newfoundland, becomes tourist attraction

A massive iceberg off the coast of Canada's Newfoundland is causing traffic jams as tourists rush to take photos of the ice mountain.

The 45-metre towering block has become an unexpected tourist attraction in the small town of Ferryland, an hour's drive from St John's. 

The region is not unused to icebergs - the area off the coast is known as "iceberg alley" - but the town's mayor,  Adrian Kavanagh, says it's the biggest one he has ever seen.

Iceberg drifts along Canada's east coast

A large iceberg visible from the shores of a small Canadian town called Ferryland on the Canadian east coast, has become an unwitting tourist attraction.

"It's a huge iceberg and it's in so close that people can get a good photograph of it," he told the Canadian Press.

"It's the biggest one I ever seen around here."

Although every iceberg is different, about 90 per cent of the berg is actually below the water line, according to the US Navigation Center of Excellence

Kavanagh believes it will be a great drawcard for tourists, who have already been flocking to the town.

More than 400 icebergs have drifted into the North Atlantic shipping lanes over the past week in an unusually large swarm for this early in the season, forcing vessels to slow to a crawl or take detours of hundreds of kilometres.

Experts are attributing it to uncommonly strong counter-clockwise winds that are drawing the icebergs south, and perhaps also global warming, which is accelerating the process by which chunks of the Greenland ice sheet break off and float away.

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As of Monday, there were about 450 icebergs near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, up from 37 a week earlier, according to the US Coast Guard's International Ice Patrol in New London, Connecticut. Those kinds of numbers are usually not seen until late May or early June. The average for this time of year is about 80.

In the waters close to where the Titanic went down in 1912, the icebergs are forcing ships to take precautions.

Instead of cutting straight across the ocean, trans-Atlantic vessels are taking detours that can add around 643 kilometres to the trip. That's a day and a half of added travel time for many large cargo ships.

Most icebergs entering the North Atlantic have "calved" off the Greenland ice sheet. Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, said it is possible climate change is leading to more icebergs in the shipping lanes, but wind patterns are also important.

In 2014, there were 1546 icebergs in the shipping lanes - the sixth most severe season on record since 1900, according to the patrol. There were 1165 icebergs in 2015 and 687 in 2016.

The International Ice Patrol was formed after the sinking of the Titanic to monitor iceberg danger in the North Atlantic and warn ships. It conducts reconnaissance flights that are used to produce charts.

In 104 years, no ship that has heeded the warnings has struck an iceberg, according to the ice patrol.

AP, Stuff.co.nz

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See also: The spectacular ice wall photos can't do justice

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