Titanic 100th Anniversary

The RMS TITANIC sank on April 15, 1912, after striking an iceberg near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland in the North Atlantic Ocean. The tremendous loss of life in this preventable tragedy led to the establishment, in 1914, of the first International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS),  the most important of all international treaties concerning the safety of merchant ships.

International Ice Patrol

The tragic sinking also prompted the maritime nations owning the majority of shipping transiting the North Atlantic to establish an iceberg patrol in the area. Since 1913, the United States Coast Guard has been tasked with the management and operation of the International Ice Patrol (IIP).


Photo of an iceberg.  Credit: Lucie Theriault.

Canadian Ice Service

The Government of Canada first initiated a sea ice information service in the 1940's. In 1983, Environment Canada began providing iceberg information along the Newfoundland and Labrador Coast, including the Strait of Belle Isle. This complemented the iceberg information provided by the United States’ based IIP over the Grand Banks. Canada's iceberg program included the development and operation of a specially equipped DeHavilland Dash-7 aircraft, used for dedicated flights to observe and report the positions, sizes and types of icebergs.

Photo of an iceberg.  Credit: Lucie Theriault.

The icebergs are sited visually whenever possible, but Side-Looking Airborne Radar (SLAR) is used when the visibility is reduced to accurately position the bergs. The iceberg information is then entered into the Iceberg Analysis and Prediction System (BAPS) that keeps track of their position.

Current and future improvements to the service include: using satellite imagery to detect icebergs and adding calving to the next iceberg model in the near future.

Icebergs on the East Coast

The number of icebergs over the Grand Banks varies considerably from year to year. The range can vary from 0 to 2000. About 800 icebergs drift south of 48 degrees latitude (30 year average). Some of the factors influencing the numbers and location of icebergs include – water currents, winds, and the amount of sea ice.

Some icebergs in recent years have been massive - the Petermann Glacier located along the northwestern coast of Greenland calved a 28 km2 ice island fragment (flat tabular iceberg) in July 2008 and a 280 km2 fragment in August 2010.

North American Ice Service

The IIP and the Canadian Ice Service (CIS) issue one daily iceberg analysis under the North American Ice Service (NAIS), a collaborative agreement to unify North American ice information and improve service to mariners. The iceberg analysis is published in a text bulletin and a graphical chart.

Iceberg analysis charts and bulletins

NAIS Daily Iceberg Analysis Chart

Daily Iceberg Analysis Chart

The daily iceberg analysis chart provides a snapshot of iceberg conditions in waters off Eastern North America south of 60° N. The charts are based on observations from dedicated aerial reconnaissance, ships, oil rigs and shore reports. The charts are continuously updated by numerical model predictions of iceberg drift and deterioration. This chart provides essential information for route planning for transatlantic shipping as well as for local shipping, fishing and the offshore hydrocarbon industry. Iceberg charts from 2004 to present, are kept in online archives, and are accessible to the general public.

The iceberg bulletin describes the known iceberg limit in Canada's East Coast waters as latitude and longitude coordinates of points, as well as general information on the number of icebergs within each marine area. Iceberg bulletins are used by mariners and shipping agencies requiring information on conditions that could affect marine safety. To view the latest iceberg bulletin, go to our Ice Conditions page, under the East Coast region.

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