Formerly the center of cod fishing, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador now sees its gloomy coastal villages invigorated by the hordes of amateur photographers who have come to immortalize these pieces of glacier ever more converging on the east of the province. Canada at the end of the winter.
This abundance of icebergs venturing towards the south has thus generated a new form of tourism linked to the acceleration of global warming.
"It's getting better from one year to the next, about 140 tourist buses come every season to the village, it's good for the economy," says former fisherman Barry Strickland, a 58-year-old reconverted fisherman. as a tour guide at King's Point in northern Newfoundland.
For the last four years, he has been organizing excursions around these thousand-year-old ice giants that can reach several tens of meters high and weigh hundreds of thousands of tons.
With the winds and currents, the ephemeral polar jewels complete a journey of several thousand kilometers to the south near the Canadian shores. In a few weeks, their fresh water, frozen well before the pollution of the Industrial Revolution, will return to the ocean.
Barry's small boat expeditions are often full during the high iceberg season, from May to July, and bring visitors from around the world to 600 in this village. They track the slightest movement of the colossal blocks of ice through an interactive satellite map put online by the provincial government.
– Melting ice –
"There is not much left to do for the inhabitants of these small, isolated port cities, so tourism is a big part of our economy," says Devon Chaulk, a souvenir shop employee in Elliston, a village in 300 inhabitants located on the path of the "iceberg corridor".
"I have lived here all my life, and the increase in tourism in the last 10, 15 years has been incredible," enthuses Mr. Chaulk, 28.
Last year, more than 500,000 tourists visited the province of Newfoundland, as much as its population, contributing nearly 570 million Canadian dollars (389 million euros) to the local economy. according to the estimates of the provincial government.
As a result, tourism has supplanted some of the lower income of the fishing industry, which was in crisis due to overexploitation of the ocean at the end of the twentieth century.
But behind this craze around icebergs hides a darker reality: the acceleration of global warming in the North, which promotes the appearance of icebergs but also makes their season more and more unpredictable, thus accentuating the precariousness of industries who benefit from it.
In Twillingate, a popular tourist destination for iceberg enthusiasts, visitors can not miss the opportunity to visit the small shop at Auk Island Winery, which produces wild berry liquors made from iceberg water.
– Risk for navigation –
"People come to see the icebergs, we see the variation in the number of tourists from one year to another depending on the number of icebergs in the area," said Elizabeth Gleason, employee of the shop.
"We have a good year, but last year we had almost none," she says, observing the precariousness of tourism based on unpredictable natural phenomena.
And for good reason: the Arctic is warming three times faster than the rest of the world. In June, Greenland experienced an unprecedented melting ice event at this time of year, and record temperatures were recorded near the North Pole in mid-July.
Over the years, icebergs are increasingly moving south, also creating a risk for commercial navigation in this major maritime route linking the Old Continent and North America. It was about 600 km off the coast of Newfoundland that the Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg in 1912.
But behind the song of the majestic swan of these ice colossi, some perceive a testimony screaming climatic disturbances at work.
"I had never seen an iceberg before, and I understood that some time ago, we did not see it here, it is a concrete image of global warming, to see icebergs in places where the waters are so hot, "says Laurent Lucazeau, 34-year-old French tourist, returning from an excursion at sea.
"It's something mysterious and impressive, but besides, knowing that they're not supposed to be there, it's even more questionable, it's a bit scary."