Iceberg hunters from N.L. star in new TV show

Three men from the Northern Peninsula get famous while braving risky waters to collect chunks of icebergs.
The Richards say harvesting chunks of icebergs is risky business. (CBC)

While most sea captains avoid icebergs, three men from the Northern Peninsula seek them out — and are becoming somewhat famous in the process.

Brothers Whyman and Dale Richards of St. Anthony and Whyman's son, Travis, star in Iceberg Hunters, a reality television show on the Weather Channel in the U.S. that follows the trio as they bravely net chunks of ice to sell to a water-bottling facility.

Sometimes pieces are already loose and can be gathered by dipping a net. Otherwise, they use a rifle to break the icebergs apart.

"Not all the times [that] it works," said Dale Richards, 48. "But most of the time it'll do 'er."

It's a risky operation. About 90 per cent of an iceberg's mass is hidden below the water's surface, so approaching them is dangerous. Slabs of ice can fall off at any time, with a force powerful enough to destroy a boat.

Travis Richards, 33, left St. Anthony for Toronto, before returning to Newfoundland to work as an interior designer in St. John's.

His job onboard is quite a change from his city life.

"I’m actually controlling the height on the net that we use to bring these pieces aboard," he said. "These pieces of ice are four and five hundred pounds, so you need some control on the height of the net when you’re lifting pieces of ice that size."

His father said Travis is handling the task well.

"He did alright for someone just getting started," said Whyman, with a chuckle. He captains the Cape Richards, the 38-foot craft he and his brother built by hand.

"Safety is a big thing," said Whyman, 54. "You need eyes everywhere — watching the ropes and winch and ice flinging around. It’s not always smooth on the waters, and those pieces of ice can be swinging around pretty heavy."

"You have to be very careful."

That's not always easy when a camera crew is tagging along to capture the action.

"I wasn’t too fond of it at first," admits Dale Richards. "Like eight to 10 hours a day with a camera in your face and a mic attached to you — I didn’t know what to think at first. But after a while, they blend in pretty good."

Wyman Richards says that was a challenge for him as well.

"It’s not a show, you’re not making a movie," he said. "Just to be yourself while they want to film what we do — very difficult with so [many] cameras on the go."

For Travis Richards, seeing the show was the hardest part.

"The saying that a camera adds 10 pounds is very, very true," admitted Travis, with a laugh. "I actually went on a major diet after I watched the first clip."

Only one show has been broadcast so far, with the second episode hitting the airwaves Tuesday.

The Richards hope the program will eventually be seen on Canadian stations, too.

"If things go well, and we hope they do, they may be back and we may see more episodes next fall," said Travis Richards.