An unusually large swarm of icebergs has drifted into North Atlantic shipping lanes over the past week, forcing vessels to slow to a crawl or take massive detours. Experts tell the AP that unusually strong counter-clockwise winds are drawing the icebergs south, with the US Coast Guard's International Ice Patrol reporting that as of Monday, some 450 icebergs were floating near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, up from 37 a week earlier. The usual iceberg count in April is about 80; that number spikes in late May and early June. In the waters close to where the Titanic went down in 1912, the icebergs are forcing ships to take precautions. Instead of cutting straight across the ocean, trans-Atlantic vessels are taking detours that can add around 400 miles to the trip. That's a day and a half of added travel time for many large cargo ships.
One ship was pulled out of service for repairs after hitting a chunk of ice. Adding to the danger, three icebergs were discovered outside the boundaries of the area the Coast Guard had advised mariners to avoid, says Coast Guard Cmdr. Gabrielle McGrath. She says she's never seen such a drastic increase of icebergs and predicts an "extreme ice season"—the fourth consecutive one—with more than 600 icebergs in shipping lanes. In 2014, there were 1,546 icebergs in the shipping lanes, the sixth most severe season on record since 1900, according to the patrol. There were 1,165 icebergs in 2015 and 687 in 2016. The patrol was formed after the sinking of the Titanic to monitor iceberg danger in the North Atlantic and warn ships. It says that in 104 years, no ship that has heeded the warnings has struck an iceberg.