Flying from London to Ottawa last week, I saw this formation on the sea (somewhere near Goose Bay, I think). Can anyone tell me what it is?

The sea

Here's the approximate location of the plane when the photo was taken:

Plane location

  • 1
    Looks like waves to me. Can it be close to a coast?
    – Willeke
    Commented Jul 3, 2016 at 17:19
  • @DavidRicherby I've updated the image. Commented Jul 3, 2016 at 17:42
  • 1
    It looks like a front to me.
    – Berwyn
    Commented Jul 3, 2016 at 18:04
  • 2
    @phoog Icebergs, fishing boats, marks on the window, ... (I guess the asker can confirm that it's not marks on the window but they might not have thought to mention it since they're thinking about a different part of the photo.) A more exact location could be found by entering the flight number into flightradar24 or a similar site -- that would need to be done asap, since the sites don't display flights more than a week or so old. Commented Jul 3, 2016 at 18:48
  • 1
    @DavidRicherby Didn't know about this! I found the flight and added an image showing where the plane was when the photo was taken. Commented Jul 3, 2016 at 19:52

2 Answers 2


Measured very crudely on the image, and compared to how large the wingtip of a 767 ought to appear from a window, it would appear that the length of the red dashed line on the image is between 50% and 100% of the altitude the picture is taken from. That means the true size of the small white smears that make up the formation is in the range of tens of meters.

That seems too large to be breaking waves and too small to be clouds, but it could be ice floes. The National Snow and Ice Data Center has a daily updated map of the extent of Arctic sea ice, and on the currently shown July 2 map (which I can't link to directly) there seems to be a patch of ice left off the coast of Labrador, in roughly the spot marked on the Flightradar24 screenshot. It could well have stretched further into the ocean a week ago.

  • 3
    here's a picture with the ice a bit closer to the coast.
    – Jonas
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 5:44
  • As soon as I saw the chart I knew what it was.
    – Joshua
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 21:38

Ice, 'burgy bits' I think is the term. Basically, once the pack ice breaks up, and the glacial icebergs smash into each other, the smaller pieces keep on floating in the Labrador current down the east coast of Nfld. The current keeps the structure, and gives the 'hard edge', and this stuff flows south until it melts. Locals, don't hammer me for Burgy bits, I know there is some technical component to being identified that way, but from 40K feet, it is hard to tell the relative size.

Ice, ice is your answer. Welcome to the north Atlantic in the late spring!

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