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Cecil Stockley, right, shows tourists the icebergs around Twilingate, Nfld., in 2002 - when the region's floating tourist attractions were more plentiful. Now, Capt. Stockley says his tour business is 'hurting, big time' because the icebergs have dwindled away.

Michael MacDonald/The Canadian Press

Twillingate dubs itself the iceberg capital of the world, and tourists flock to the northern Newfoundland town every year to watch the stately giants float by.

But so far this year the area has seen only one berg, and none in the peak tourist season which began last month. This drought follows heavy concentrations of icebergs each of the last two years, and is the lowest seen since 2006.

The local tourism association said the unexpected absence of icebergs hasn't hurt business. But some companies acknowledge they are suffering from a fickle Mother Nature and are hoping for more luck next year. All they can do is cross their fingers.

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"The years come and go and don't resemble one another," said Luc Desjardins, senior ice and iceberg forecaster with the Canadian Ice Service. "In order to have a good year, you have to have a perfect set of conditions fall into place at the right time."

The lack of icebergs is being noticed all down the East coast of Newfoundland. St. John's has yet to see one this year, according to the Port Authority manager of marine operations and security, Jeff McGrath.

In simplest terms, the unusual pattern this year is attributable to storms farther north that pushed icebergs towards land. There they ran aground until they'd melted enough to float free. Now smaller and moving south later in the year, these bergs were more likely to fall prey to warmer water.

"The entire season unfolded in a very weird fashion this year and prevented most of the icebergs that came from the northern waters to reach us in time," Mr. Desjardins said.

Although this year is an extreme example, the inevitability of annual fluctuations has left one long-time tourism operator in Twillingate worried that the town focuses too much of its appeal on just one attraction.

"It's not fair to the market," said Cecil Stockley, who has run Twillingate Island Boat Tours for 25 years. "You go to Egypt and you expect to see pyramids. You come to the iceberg capital of the world, you expect to see icebergs. So some years we have to explain to people that there aren't any."

Capt. Stockley said his tour business "is hurting, big time." Revenues are down 70 per cent, but he is still making some money bringing people on scenic and whale-watching cruises. He also has a theatre company and is taking a level-headed approach to his losses.

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"You have to learn to survive in the market," he said. "We have a commodity that this town feasts off. And it works most of the time. You need only one iceberg to make it work."

Fred Bridger, president of the Twillingate Islands Tourism Association, conceded he has heard "a little disappointment" from visitors, but said they have been seduced by the area's other charms.

That's good, because, for now, the closest visitors can get to an iceberg is by ordering a cold beverage.

"Last year I collected iceberg ice and put it in the freezer," said Mr. Bridger, who also runs the Paradise Bed and Breakfast in Twillingate. "What I've been doing is offering them some ice in their drinks."

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About the Author

Oliver Moore joined the Globe and Mail's web newsroom in 2000 as an editor and then moved into reporting. A native Torontonian, he served four years as Atlantic Bureau Chief and has worked also in Afghanistan, Grenada, France, Spain and the United States. More

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