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Iceberg Day

"We’d rather have the iceberg than the ship,
although it meant the end of travel.
Although it stood stock-still like cloudy rock
and all the sea were moving marble.
We’d rather have the iceberg than the ship;
we’d rather own this breathing plain of snow
though the ship’s sails were laid upon the sea
as the snow lies undissolved upon the water.
O solemn, floating field,
are you aware an iceberg takes repose
with you, and when it wakes may pasture on your snows?"

~ The Imaginary Iceberg, Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)

Icebergs are the stuff of myth and legend, the most famous being the iceberg credited for the nautical disaster of the sinking of the HMS Titanic back on April 14-15, 1912. There are iceberg seasons and iceberg alleys where icebergs are born in both the northern and souther hemisphere and begin their journeys into the world's oceans. For the region along the east coast of North America from Greenland to Newfoundland, the ice season runs from about February 1 through July 3. That region, including the west coast of Greenland, is the birthplace of most of the icebergs that find their way to the main transatlantic shipping lanes between North America and Europe. Icebergs cover a huge spectrum of sizes, from the tiny “growlers” (less than 3 ft tall and 15 ft across, and “bergy bits” (up to the size of a small cottage) to very large icebergs that can be bigger than a Caribbean island! The word iceberg is a partial loan translation from the Dutch word ijsberg, literally meaning "ice mountain". Icebergs can contain up to 10% air bubbles by volume. These bubbles are released during melting, producing a fizzing sound that some call "Bergie Seltzer". Icebergs come in myriad hues and even multicolor patterns, sometimes resembling striped candy. Although physics predicts that icebergs should be bluish (since “pure ice”, free of contaminants, should absorb longer wavelengths resulting in indigos and blues, icebergs can also appear in shades of green, blue, yellow, or even black! 🧊

Icebergs developed their fearsome modern reputation after the RMS Titanic, a British passenger liner  sank in the North Atlantic Ocean in the early morning of 15 April 1912, after colliding with an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Southampton, UK, to New York City, US.  

Since 1912, reports made by witnesses of the RMS Titanic tragedy have stated that the ship hit a blue iceberg. 

Following the sinking and subsequent discovery of the Titanic, scientific research and forensic analysis have reconstructed the tragedy to ascertain the reliability of the statements made by the survivors. Reports released in the last decade of the 20th century have shown that a blue iceberg in the north Atlantic would have been easily detected. Alternative theories suggest that pack ice, rather than a blue iceberg, was responsible for sinking the ship

An iceberg or ice mountain is a large piece of freshwater ice that has broken off a glacier or an ice shelf and is floating freely in open water. It may subsequently become frozen into pack ice (one form of sea ice).  About 90% of an iceberg is below the surface of the water.

A blue iceberg is visible after the ice from above the water melts, causing the smooth portion of ice from below the water to overturn.  The rare blue ice is formed from the compression of pure snow, which then develops into glacial ice.  Older icebergs reveal vivid hues of green and blue, resulting from the high concentration of color, microorganisms, and compacted ice.   According to the new theory, green icebergs form from blue ones, coated by a thin layer of yellow-reddish ice caused by iron compounds trapped in the ice. 

One of the better known blue icebergs rests in the waters off Sermilik fjord near Greenland. It is described as an electric blue iceberg and is known to locals as "blue diamond."

This tartan designed by Carol A.L. Martin is inspired by the colours of icebergs floating in the ocean.

For more about the infamous iceberg that sank the titanic, click the picture.

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