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  • Cecilia Clark

Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland, Canada: August 11 - 16, 2023

Updated: Jan 16

Bonne Bay

Looking toward Winter House Brook Canyon in Tablelands, Gros Morne National Park

To depart from Fogo Island, we took a ferry back to Farewell on the main island of Newfoundland. A driver from Fogo Island Inn took us back almost to Gander where we met up with the second part of our Newfoundland tour. Karen English of Linkup Tours became our new guide/driver for the remaining few days of our vacation.

After a several hours drive, we arrived at Tablelands within Gros Morne National Park. About 500 million years ago and after a series of tectonic events, the earth's mantle pushed its way to surface. Eighty-four percent of the earth is mantle, and usually the mantle is at least 5 to 50 km (3-31 miles) below the earth's surface so you wouldn't expect to be able to walk on it. Tablelands is one of the few places in the world where walking on the mantle is possible. We took a short walk to see more.

The color is due to the oxidation of iron in the exposed mantle. The concentration of iron in the earth's mantle also magnetized the earth and made compasses work. The mantle rock is called Peridotite and it is very heavy. In addition to the iron, peridotite has magnesium, nickel, cobalt and chromium making it poisonous to many plants.

On this short hike, Karen pointed out several carnivorous plants such as the purple pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea).

After a wonderful fish dinner, Karen dropped us off at our lodging on Bonne Bay. The next morning Dan and I strolled around Woody Point while we waited for a boat taxi to take us across Bonne Bay to Norris Point.

Woody Point Lighthouse (1919) and views of Bonne Bay

The boat taxi took us to Norris Point Cat Stop where Karen met us to continue our drive north to Western Brook Pond for a boat tour to see "a spectacular glacier-carved land-locked fjord, waterfalls, billion year-old cliffs." From the parking area it is a 3 km (almost 2 miles) walk to get to the boat at Western Brook Pond.

The Bog along the Western Brook Trail

We arrived a little earlier than our 3:00 pm reservation and watched the weather deteriorate so much so that the last boat we watched leave soon returned because it was too rainy and foggy to see the fjord. We walked 3 km (almost 2 miles) back to the car. We were all cold and wet. Karen dropped us at Nettie's Harbour Inn near Norris Point. We thawed out with a hot bath.

After the fire alarm sounded at 6:00 am (apparently because someone took a shower without closing their bathroom door) Dan and I wandered the landscape surrounding the Inn. It looked like a nice place to linger pending better weather.

Karen picked us up and we continued northward for 4.5 hours to L'anse aux Meadows Viking Settlement (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). The settlement is at the northernmost tip of the Great Northern Peninsula.

We watched an interesting movie and strolled the grounds of the re-created Viking settlement. The original timber and sod settlement was established more than 1,000 years ago. The re-created settlement is populated by costumed Viking re-enactors. Two female re-enactors were sitting in one of the sections of the long house. I told them I was surprised to see women as the movie hadn't mentioned that women were part of the settlement. The women told me that women did travel with the men and their purpose was to keep the men alive. The male re-enactor is playing the Lyre.

We didn't have much time to linger at the Viking Settlement as we needed to catch a boat transfer to Quirpon Island at 3:30 pm. I was looking forward to being in one place for more than overnight and no long drives.

We made it to the boat dock in plenty of time. The Zodiac boat and Quirpon (pronounced Kar-poon) Lighthouse buildings are owned by Karen's brother Ed English.

Quirpon Island and Light Station at Cape Bauld

We had a room in one of the outer structures. While there were several rooms, we were the only guests for our two nights.

After dinner in the main house we did some whale watching from shore. We were fortunate to see four humpback whales that evening. I've seen whales from boats but never peered down at them from a rocky cliff.

After breakfast, Ed English took us on a circle the island boat tour. It was windy and the sea was rough, but we saw more humpback whales feeding next to the rocks. One appeared to be a calf.

On foot Dan and I explored the inland walking on a spongy "heath" although Newfoundlanders wouldn't be using that English word to describe the spongy land. The bakeapples were ripe and plentiful and part of that dense mat of low vegetation. We could hear the exhalation blow of the humpback whales that were always near the rocks.

The next morning after breakfast, Ed English delivered us back to the dock and Karen began the drive south. We have another chance to see the fjord at Western Brook Pond if we can get there in time.

It rained most of the way south, but at the parking area for Western Brook Pond, the rain stopped. It seemed that we had just made it in time for our boat tour. We quickly walked the 3 km (almost 2 miles) trail to the boat dock. The weather seemed decent enough. We boarded the boat along with the Prime Minister of Newfoundland and his family.

Western Brook Pond, part of Gros Morne National Park, is an inland fjord with 650m (2,132 ft) high cliffs and a ravine of pristine water 165m (541 ft) deep. During the last Ice Age, glaciers sculpted the valley creating river valleys. The weight of the glaciers depressed the land and pushed the lowlands below sea level. When the ice melted, sea water flooded the U-shaped valley and Western Brook became a fjord. Once the ice melted, the land rose and cut Western Brook fjord off from the sea. Fresh water replaced the sea water and the fjord became a deep lake or as Newfoundlanders would say, a pond. In Newfoundland, any fresh-water body is a pond. The landscape in the fjord was lovely and quite mystical with the low clouds and several waterfalls. The tallest waterfall in Eastern North America is Pissing Mare Falls (350m/1148 ft) and the tallest peak (600m/1968 ft) in Western Brook Pond is taller than the CN building.

As soon as we got to the car, it began to rain. Karen dropped us off at Nettie's Harbour Inn for our last night.

Our last morning Karen took us to an Insectarium located very near the Deer lake Airport from where our flight home left. The Insectarium has done a great job with their exhibits of butterflies and other insects like the 3-story leaf cutter ant colony and the bee exhibit. The Insectarium is a great place to dawdle.

Both of our Air Canada flights were on time and we arrived home at a reasonable hour to ridiculously hot temperatures for 10:00 pm.


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