ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Newfoundland's spectacular iceberg-viewing season continues to mean major hazards in North Atlantic shipping lanes.
About 673 icebergs have drifted into North Atlantic shipping lanes off the island's east coast so far this year, said Gabrielle McGrath, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard International Ice Patrol.
That's almost as many as the 687 counted during the whole ice season last year, ending in late September.
"There's definitely quite a lot of icebergs still up to the north," McGrath said Friday from her home base in New London, Conn., after surveillance flights this week over the stretch known as Iceberg Alley.
McGrath said it could still be a record season, but numbers are starting to come down and many bergs have melted.
She says a big question is whether winds will bring several more of the floating sculptures farther south from where they were seen earlier this week off northeastern Newfoundland.
Thick sea ice in the region and in the Strait of Belle Isle is affecting ferry travel and nearby fisheries.
One thing is certain: the mammoth slabs that originate from glaciers in Greenland still pose a serious danger for mariners, McGrath said.
"Even the smallest iceberg can do great damage to a vessel. I would recommend that the captains still heed our warnings as they transit across the Atlantic to ensure their safety from iceberg collision."
McGrath said she knows of no incidents involving vessels that have followed the patrol's advice.
"We've still maintained our perfect safety record through the season."
Regularly updated reports show how ships can detour farther south to avoid icebergs, often adding hundreds of kilometres to a trip.
The International Ice Patrol was formed after the Titanic sank off southeastern Newfoundland in 1912. It works with Canadian partners to track icebergs and warn captains at sea.
McGrath said the height of the icy season is typically around late May to early June.
The last year the number of icebergs in shipping lanes approached previous records was 2014, with a total of 1,546 — the sixth most severe season since records began in 1900.
Weather conditions can quickly move them.
There were just 37 icebergs observed in shipping lanes on March 27, but the number soared to 272 a few days later as a low-pressure system of strong counter-clockwise winds dramatically shifted hundreds of them farther south.
The Canadian Press