Iceberg Monitoring Service makes significant contribution to Newfoundland tourism industry

Iceberg sightseeing is a popular tourist attraction for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Polar View data help tourists plan their trips into “Iceberg Alley”.

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The economy of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador is heavily dependent on tourism. Tourism activity of non-resident and resident expenditures comes to more than 800 million Canadian dollars, and generates millions of dollars in tax revenue at all levels of government.

Newfoundland and Labrador is well-known as one of the best places in the world outside of the Polar Regions to see icebergs. Every year between May and September, between 400 and 800 icebergs of various shapes and sizes travel along the coast, attracting tourists from near and far interested in having a look at the floating mountains of ice that float by.

About 90% of the icebergs that drift past Newfoundland and Labrador break off from the glaciers of western Greenland during the annual spring thaw. While the exact number can vary from year to year, approximately 40,000 medium to large-sized icebergs break off from Greenland’s west coast and travel to the open waters of the Labrador Sea and the North Atlantic via the cold Labrador Current flowing south. Although only about 1-2% of these icebergs make it to the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador, this is more than enough to give this past of the world the nickname “Iceberg Alley.”

A major asset for the tourism industry

Polar View’s services make a significant contribution to the local tourism industry. In cooperation with Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), and the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation for Newfoundland and Labrador, and with the help of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Polar View partner organization C-CORE provides satellite data taken from Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites to make iceberg maps that appear on the project’s website, icebergfinder.com.

The website, which won acclaim at the First Annual Canadian e-Tourism Awards, is practical and easy for anyone to use. The entire coast of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador is shown on the site, with iceberg positions updated several times a week. Tourists use the website to plan their trips based on the latest iceberg sightings – whether they plan scenic drives along the coast of the province, or head out into the water on a scenic boat tour provided by one of the many tour operators in the region. With links to find accommodations and other tourist attractions in the province, icebergfinder.com is a convenient source of information for everything an iceberg tourist needs.

While the service relies principally on the use of satellite data provided by Polar View member C-CORE, it also makes use of the services of reliable locals who work in the tourism and hospitality industry. Known as Ambassadors, these iceberg spotters from all along the coast of the province plot icebergs on the website’s map, confirm iceberg sightings and their location, and report calving or cracking activity in the icebergs. Ambassadors also submit pictures of icebergs they take for the website. By combining both earth observation and in-site observations, icebergfinder.com is able to provide a highly accurate service.

Taking a scenic cruise

While they regularly contribute to the site, Ambassadors can obtain a lot of useful information from the site as well. Captain Perry Young, who operates Twillingate Adventure Tours on the Island of Newfoundland, regularly consults the satellite images posted on the website to see from which direction the icebergs are coming and how many there are. This helps him determine where they will be in a few days, which is a very useful asset for his boat tour business. The service helps bring Captain Young customers.

“A lot of the people who came and toured with me used icebergfinder.com to plan their trip,” says Captain Young. “I’ve had people come up to me and ask me to take them out to see icebergs they saw on the website.”

Captain Paul Alcock, another Ambassador and ship captain operating Discover Northland Tours on the Island of Newfoundland, recognises the service’s contribution to tour operators like himself and to the local tourism industry in general.

“The service helps attract tourists to the province, “he explained. “This past season a lot of people were saying, ‘I saw an iceberg in the area on icebergfinder.com and this is why I’m here.”

“Every year between May and September, between 400 and 800 icebergs of various shapes and sizes travel along the coast, attracting tourists from near and far interested in having a look at this unique and beautiful natural phenomenon.”

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