Just what are growlers? Could it be any grump before 7:00 a.m.? Certainly. Could it be the mean dogs down the street? Definitely. Is it container for those who brew their own beer? Why yes. But when you are taking about the North Pole or South Pole region a growler is a chunk of very dense ice.
Icebergs form as pieces of glacial rivers break apart from the mass and float out to sea. This process is sometimes referred to as calving or birthing of the iceberg. As icebergs chip and melt away they formbergy bits and growlers. Growlers can be particularly dangerous because they are unstable and float lower in the water. They are hard to spot and that makes them easy to hit. They can do major damage to the hull of ship. Mariners do their best to avoid growlers and try not put their hulls to the test.
No one really knows who came up with the name growler. Most experts agree that the first mention in writing of the growler was in the log book of the Grace in 1912. On November 23rd RobertCushman, Murphy noted that the lookouts for bergs and growlers had been doubled at the bow.
Some attribute the name to the sound it makes as it scrapes the hull. Others say it can be heard growling as it is toss about in high seas. Others explain that when trapped air escapes as the iceberg melts it some times sounds like the growl of a bear. Any way it is explained ; it isn’t a very comforting sound. Chances are if the sound is present the ship may already be in trouble.
What do they look like? If there is no danger of collisions many of the growlers are very beautiful. They can be seen with hues of green, blue and black. There are many photographs of growlers and their beauty. They are normally about five meters across. Marty Essen describes them as large couches if ice, mostly submerged.
Like most wonders of nature along with beauty comes danger. As ships approach fishing areas and push the limits some come into contact with more growlers. It is also reported as the temperatures of the Antarctica rise the growlers have been more common. There are those that go seeking them with radar to study the density and learn about warming trends. Global warming seem to sending more growlers our way.
The US National Ice Center studies the movements of ice and reports to Mariners problems they may encounter and keep scientific data. This information should help us to better understand the changes taking place along our glacial shores.
So there you have it. One more growler you can chat about.