Mysterious Iceberg off St. Johns’s

Archival moment  June 24, 1905  “Our Lady of the Fjords”

On June 24, 1905, T.B. Hayward a St. John’s photographer pointed his camera in the direction of a mysterious iceberg off the narrows of St. John’s, and snapped a picture of what is likely the oldest known photograph believed to be a depiction of a supernatural Catholic presence.

The photograph in question depicts what many people believe is a clear picture of a wondrous iceberg showing the figure of the Virgin Mary in the narrows off St. John;s.  How similar to a statue the original iceberg looked is unknown.  The photographer (T.B. Hayward) was really a painter of Newfoundland scenes, particularly marine scenes.  His method was to photograph a scene and then paint the photograph.

The Catholic Archbishop in St. John’s, Michael Francis Howley, was saw the iceberg from the steps of the Basilica Cathedral, was so impressed by the extraordinary iceberg that he wrote an article published in The Tablet, the Catholic Diocesan newspaper for Boston describing the iceberg as the “Crystal Lady.”  He also endorsed the sale of postcards and photographs that were produced by Hayward for mass production.

Archbishop Howley perceived the iceberg to be a sacred sign, so moved by the sight that he composed a sonnet of the frozen statue entitled “Our Lady of the Fjords”  In the sonnet he refers to the glistening ice figure as a “shimmering shrine” – our bright Atlantic Lourdes.  The sonnet was published in the Newfoundland Quarterly in 1905.

Our Lady of the Fjords                                                                                                                        Archbishop Michael Francis Howley

Hail Crystal Virgin, from the frozen Fjords                                                                                       Where far-off Greenland’s gelid glaciers gleen                                                                                O’er Oceans bosom soaring, cool, serene                                                                                         Not famed Carrara’s purest vein affords                                                                                            Such sparkling brilliance, as mid countless hordes                                                                        Of spotless glistening bergs thou reignest Queen                                                                               In all the glory of thy opal sheen                                                                                                         A Shimmering Shrine, Our bright Atlantic Lourdes,                                                                        We hail thee, dual patront, with acclaim                                                                                          Thou standest guardian o’er our island home.                                                                                Today, four cycles since, our rock-bound strand.                                                                             First Cabot saw: and gave the Baptist’s name:                                                                                Today we clothe with Pallium from Rome                                                                                         The first Archbishop of our Newfoundland!

Contemporary Newfoundland author Wayne Johnson says his father grew up in a house blessed by water from this iceberg, which they called the “Virgin Berg.”  Johnson wrote about the iceberg in his book Baltimore’s Mansion.


Miraculous Timing of this wondrous iceberg, this Marian apparition, appearing in the St. John’s Narrows was quite significant:

June  24 is the Feast of St. John the Baptist on the Christian Catholic calendar.  On June 24, 1497 John Cabot “discovered” Newfoundland.  It is the feast day of the patron saint of the Roman Catholic Basilica Cathedral and the Anglican Cathedral in St. John’s and the namesake for the capital city, St. John’s

This entry was posted in Archival Moments and tagged Anglican Cathedral Basilica, Crystal Lady, Howley, iceberg, John the Baptist, St. John’s T.B. Hayward, Virgin Mary on June 23, 2018           by Larry Dohey