Occupation: Iceberg Hunter in Canada


Edward Kean, a Canadian iceberg hunter, carries the binoculars in his eyes and then rests them, delighted: he has just spotted his next catch, a white mass several tens of meters high that stands out from the horizon off the coast. Canadian island of Newfoundland.

"It's a very nice piece of ice … maybe I'm going to shoot him!" Exclaims Mr. Kean, who has taken advantage of the melting glaciers of Greenland to launch a juicy trade in water. icebergs.

Every morning, at the first light of dawn, the captain of the 60-year-old and overweight, water-loving vessel Green Waters, sails with his three sailors to harvest what has become his white gold: the ice from Greenland along the "iceberg corridor".

For more than 20 years, he has been extracting water and selling it to local traders who bottle it, mix it with alcohol or use it to make cosmetics.

With the acceleration of global warming in the Far North, which accentuates the dislocation of the icecap, business is doing well. But from iceberg to stalls, the days are long, and the harvest tedious.

With fifteen miles (24 km) to go up to the iceberg spotted by satellite, the ride is long. The crew kills time by exchanging pleasantries in a local slang, full-bodied English with Irish and Scottish sounds.

"Sometimes I have trouble understanding them," the captain laughs as he lives in Saint John, the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Race against time

Arrived at the foot of the colossal white wall sparkling in the mid-day sun, he takes out a rifle, carries it on his shoulder and launches a salvo, hoping for a piece of iceberg to come off.

One, two, three shots: the bangs resound, the air trembles, the crew holds their breath … But the ice does not give way. "Sometimes it works, sometimes no," he says, disappointed.

With the high iceberg season coming to an end, time is running out. "Arriving here, the icebergs are melting so quickly," says the captain, while explaining that once off the coast of Newfoundland, their hunt becomes a race against time.

"They will melt in a few weeks and return to nature anyway, so we do not harm the environment, we do not take anything, we use only the purest water we can find," he said. there.

Two young sailors board a motorboat. They survey the vicinity of the ice giant, touching it at times, to spot any floating pieces nearby.

Armed with a pole and a net, they laboriously wrap the precious icy nuggets, weighing one to two tons, and tie them to a hook carried by a crane installed on the boat.

The pieces of icebergs are hoisted on the deck, where the captain is waiting for them firmly, armed with an ax, with which he strikes relentlessly to reduce the ice to pieces. These are then stored in 1,000-liter tanks where they melt for several days.

Niche Market

In total, the crew will have collected nearly 800,000 liters of water between May and July, the high season of icebergs. Upon resale, local contractors will pay a dollar a liter to buy the precious water.

Iceberg water, reputed pure because frozen well before the atmospheric pollution of the Industrial Revolution, is now a marketing argument of choice for companies wishing to occupy a unique sector with high-end products.

"We are trying to target the niche market of healthy foods and products," says Edward Kean.

Dyna-Pro, the captain's client, fills well-designed glass bottles with iceberg water and sells them for 16 Canadian dollars (11 euros) each, a new niche product targeting a wealthy clientele and giving to the small business international ambitions.

"Today, with the iceberg water, we are probably bigger than we have ever been.We export our glass bottles abroad, in Europe, in Singapore, in Dubai, and we come to sign customers in the Middle East, "enthuses Kerry Chaulk, manager of the company.

Auk Island Winery, in the tourist village of Twillingate, produces wild berry liquor from iceberg water, selling from $ 10 to $ 90 ($ 7 to $ 60) a bottle.

– Warming symbol

"We use iceberg water because it is the clearest, cleanest water available on the planet, and it gives a very pure taste to everything associated with it," says Elizabeth Gleason, employee from the small shop.

"I appreciate all products made with iceberg water," says Melissa Axtman, an American tourist whose family is originally from Newfoundland. "The fact that locals are taking advantage of natural phenomena that bring tourism and sources of revenue to the province is a good thing."

"Thirty years ago, I had not seen a single iceberg, but times have changed," she tempers. "The prevalence of icebergs has good and bad sides".

In fact, the influx of icebergs off Newfoundland is one of the symptoms of accelerating climate change in the Arctic, which is warming three times faster than the rest of the world.

Despite the success of iceberg water with companies in the region, the crew of Green Waters remains small, and harvesting tools almost unchanged since the late twentieth century.

"No one wants to do this type of manual work," laments the captain, who is sometimes struggling to find new recruits in the long term.

"I hope we can continue in the years to come, but I'm 60, so the time is running out," he sighs melancholy.

02/08/2019 16:23:00 –
Bonavista (Canada) (AFP) –
© 2019 AFP

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