Nine-tenths of an iceberg is under water.

I know that, but is it true? In this case, it seems so.

Density also explains why most of an iceberg is found beneath the ocean’s surface. Because the densities of ice and sea water are so close in value, the ice floats “low” in the water. Remember that the density of ice is 0.92 g/mL, and the density of water is 1.0 g/mL (1.03 for salt water). This means that ice has nine-tenths, or 90 percent of water’s density – and so 90 percent of the iceberg is below the water’s surface. – All About Icebergs, in Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears

Once they got into density I admit that I started to skim-read, but I was still paying enough attention to see some humour in “Remember that the density of ice is 0.92 g/mL” (helpfully highlighted above in case you, too, were skimming) until I realized that the expectation wasn’t that I would accurately remember something from my long-gone school days: They had just covered this point two paragraphs up.

Because water expands as it freezes, ice takes up more space (has a greater volume) than the liquid water does. But the amount of matter hasn’t changed – it is just spread out over a larger space. This means that the density of ice (0.92 g/mL) is less than that of liquid water (1.0 g/mL). And because ice’s density is lower than that of water, ice floats in water.

All right then. Nine-tenths of an iceberg is under water. Where is it? I mean, does an iceberg extend down into the water for a distance that is nine times its height-above-water? Now that, of course, depends on the shape of the iceberg. While some look like part of the ice pack, just floating freely . . .

. . . many look like wee mountains. Here, for example, are some ice-bergs we saw in (wait for it) Ice-land a few years ago.

A little closer to home, this has been a good year for icebergs off Newfoundland.

In this case it’s clear that the bits above the water are the spiky bits of a mostly blocky bit of ice. It nicely illustrates why icebergs are such hazards to navigation: You can bump into them a long way back from the part that you can see.

As it is with icebergs, maybe it is also so with people as individuals. Our public personas might be just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Maybe our sensitivities extend down–and out–in an unpredictable profile whose edges only come clear when someone bumps into them.

And as it is with icebergs, maybe it is also so with people in communities. Despite the way we look, all stand-alone and individual like, maybe we, too, are really part of one block.

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14 Responses to Nine-Tenths

  1. Ken from Kenora says:

    The Mackey photo is the coolest one of an iceberg I’ve ever seen. The rest of the post is out of my depth.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Ken – 🙂 I love that Mackey photo, too. Oh, to have a drone. And to be able to operate it.

  2. Jim Taylor says:

    A parable. Yes, indeed, a parable, even if Jesus never saw an iceberg, and never talked about one.

    By some coincidence (if there are such things) Diana Butler-Bass’s mailing today also deals with parables. She makes the point: “Jesus’s stories are called parables. They are not rules, commands, or doctrine. Instead, they are open-ended tales that invite us to struggle with their meaning, to wonder, to see the world from unexpected angles.”

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – 🙂 So much easier (in some ways) to be told what to do, or what to think.

  3. Mary Gibson says:

    Learned something new today (thank you!). I can shut down for the rest of the day….

  4. I like your metaphor of iceberg appearance for personality appearance. I think it extends to our concepts of ourselves, too. The subconscious accounts for so much that is not obvious to the individual and that provides a bumping ground for others as well. The unexpected variations in colour in the photos is fascinating.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Ah. An interesting extension. For sure my sub(un?)conscious knows things that I don’t know and solves problems I can’t solve.

  5. Barbara Carlson says:

    Lovely colours!! Those things are epic. But a “good year” for icebergs is perhaps not the best way to see it — climate crisis and all that. But, hey, it’s a spectacular show while it lasts.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – The colours are amazing, aren’t they? The Icelandic ones were super strong, especially considering it was a grey, overcast day.

  6. Lorna P Shapiro says:

    Lovely analogies… Thanks.

  7. Tom Watson says:

    When we lived in St. John’s, Newfoundland, we went down the southern shore on a picnic on July 16. A huge iceberg floated by. Whoda thunk it…in mid–July.

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