From glacier to growler

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'Iceberg Alley' filled with berg-centred stories

Catching site of killer whales near Battle Harbour was nice, a saltbox house in Tilting lovely, but for Stephen Bruneau and Kevin Redmond a new iceberg was prefered to all else.

Over five years, the two men travelled throughout Newfoundland, Labrador and Greenland collecting photographs of ice - glaciers to growlers - keeping notes and stories about their travels. They have organized the material for a new book "Iceberg Alley: A Journal of Nature's Most Awesome Migration," available now from Flanker Press.

Circling a large iceberg grounded Northeast of Battle Harbour Island. Submitted photo

Catching site of killer whales near Battle Harbour was nice, a saltbox house in Tilting lovely, but for Stephen Bruneau and Kevin Redmond a new iceberg was prefered to all else.

Over five years, the two men travelled throughout Newfoundland, Labrador and Greenland collecting photographs of ice - glaciers to growlers - keeping notes and stories about their travels. They have organized the material for a new book "Iceberg Alley: A Journal of Nature's Most Awesome Migration," available now from Flanker Press.

The book of photography and stories was pieced together over five years - a mix of day treks along the highway, to where an iceberg had been spotted from shore, to week-long expeditions to find ice reported in remote areas where few had traveled.

"Word of a phenomenal iceberg here or there was usually enough to scramble one or the other of us into action, and often, paid work and family vacations were surreptitiously influenced by iceberg reports," the pair said in a joint introduction to the book.

"Iceberg Alley" is not the first release for either of the two men. Bruneau's work surrounds the subject of ice and he is the author of "Icebergs of Newfoundland and Labrador."

"The first book is a field guide and it's meant to be sort of a handbook for tourists, tour boat operators, to give them information," he told The Telegram this week. "The most pressing thing, or the greatest need and interest (at the time) was actually for facts about icebergs because people didn't actually know very much. The science behind it, where they came from, that sort of stuff. But the great interest I've always had, as a picture book, couldn't really be served in that size venue. The first book really didn't do justice to the imagery."

Redmond, meanwhile, has been published as a writer and photographer. Among his previous book titles are "Landscapes and Legacies: Parks, Natural Areas and Historic Sites of Newfoundland and Labrador" and "A Guide to Sea Kayaking in Newfoundland and Labrador."

"I've done a lot of sea kayaking and canoeing. I've done a guidebook for both. I've spent a fair bit of time around icebergs that way," Redmond said.

It was Bruneau who proposed the idea of creating a new book together.

"I was just after finishing a big project and I was ready for something new, so the timing was perfect. Except there were no icebergs for the first two years," Redmond said, adding "no icebergs" was actually just very few icebergs, but an inconvenience nonetheless.

However, there was an upside to "no icebergs" Bruneau said. "(It) inadvertently gave this whole new dimension." He explained it forced the two writers to go to farther reaches than planned to find the stories and images they wanted.

The book tells of finds in Greenland, Battle Harbour, the Strait of Belle Isle, off St. Anthony, the Twillingate area, the Bonavista Peninsula, Logy Bay and past Signal Hill. The stories and reflections were not made in that geographical order, but placed so in the book to create a clear view of the so-called "iceberg alley" off of Newfoundland and Labrador.

"Our intention with it was to make it more than just icebergs. It's more about the experience of going there, being there," Redmond said. "Like when I went to Conche, the dirt road going into Conche ... when I went in, 10:30 in the morning, there was a senior citizen, a lady, watering down the road to keep the dust down."

Even so, the icebergs are the focus.

"There was one in Mary's Harbour, in the book it's called 'Feathers and Fissures.' Basically it's almost like feathers, with big troughs inbetween each feather," Redmond said. "It was a relatively smaller iceberg and we almost never went over to it, but something in my gut kind of said go have a look ... When we went along the back side of it, here were these feathers and fissures and I really wasn't sure what it was that caused it."

As for Bruneau, a trip to Ilulissat, Greenland - a town about 50 kilometres from the glacier sourcing some of the icebergs seen here each year - sticks out immediately in his mind.

"The most memorable of the experiences I had with icebergs was probably coming over the top of the hill in Ilulissat, Greenland and seeing for the first time from standing on the shore the biggest icebergs that I've ever seen," he said. Could he describe it? "Absolutely spellbinding."

Bruneau also chartered a helicopter and, along with his father Angus Bruneau, flew over the Ilulissat ice formation.

"We have a close relationship and we share an enthusiasm for the subject," Bruneau said of the father-son adventure. "We literally flew right over the ice cap where the snow falls. So, you know, you start with snow falling and you end with a growler in Freshwater Bay."

As for the subject of global warming and global ice, Bruneau said he prefers to avoid the topic whenever possible.

"Let me just say this, the numbers of icebergs that we get year-to-year has always been highly variable and now, with everybody's radar focused on the global warming thing, any time there is any deviation from one side or the other of what people believe is the norm, they believe the trend can be contributed to global warming," he said.

For their book, Bruneau and Redmond were more interested in what was in front of them.

"You never see the same berg again. This isn't a landscape you can take another picture of at some other time. The landscape is fleeting. It won't return, so every time it's different," Bruneau said.

If you are looking to create your own iceberg photos, the pair recommended using www.icebergfinder.com.

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Flanker Press, The Telegram

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Greenland, Battle Harbour Ilulissat Conche St. Anthony Twillingate Logy Bay Signal Hill Mary's Harbour Freshwater Bay

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