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In search of icebergs along the Great Northern Peninsula

27 Jan 2012 by Kate Jewer in Icebergs , Whale Watching and Parks
Region: Western

One Friday morning this past August we started our journey to the Great Northern Peninsula in search of what everyone was talking about, the icebergs that broke off of the Petermann Glacier in August, 2010. Iceberg season on the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland typically begins in late May however it was closer to the end of July before icebergs began to arrive this year. These late arrivals were due to the 280 square kilometre ice island that broke off of the Petermann Glacier near Greenland last August. The late arrival was not the only surprise this year, the sheer size and large number of bergs was also quite astonishing. Reports indicated that over seventy-five icebergs could be seen in the St Anthony area and that’s what we were setting out to see.

Leaving from Corner Brook we decided to stop at some of the different park sites and natural formations along the way.  

Our first stop was the Rocky Harbour Visitor’s Centre, Gros Morne National Park to pick up our Viking Trail Park Passes for the weekend and then to Java Jacks Restaurant for their famous monster cookies.

Next we stopped at the Gros Morne NP Broom Point Fishing Exhibit, approximately 40km from Rocky Harbour where we were greeted by the friendly interpreter who informed us that we had just missed the tour. Being on a very tight time schedule we could not wait around for the next tour (30 minutes later) he was kind enough to take us on our own tour of the restored cabin and fish store. From 1941 until 1975 three Mudge families lived and fished at this site. The interpreter told us stories about the fishery during those days and demonstrated how they would clean and can the fish (very neat).

 

Broom Point Fishing Exhibit

 

The two bedrooms & washing machine in the cabin where the three Mudge families lived

Fish store & Cabin, Broom Point

 The third stop was at the Arches Provincial Park a phenomenal natural rock formation made of ancient limestone only a short drive from Broom Point (approx 20km).

Then it was back in the car for a 2 ½ hour drive to our next stop, the Thrombolites in Flowers Cove. Taking a short stroll along the Marjorie Bridge and walking trail took us to these rock like formations that were formed when micro-organisms photosynthesised millions of years ago. The only other place these formations can be found is in Western Australia, pretty cool!

Rocks or living things?

We arrived at Pistolet Bay Provincial Park (located on Route 437, Raleigh) around 4pm. This is where we would be spending out first night. After setting up our tent and cooking supper we still had a little time to explore the nearby area of Cape Onion and Ship Cove.

Cape Onion

Clothes hanging out to dry

Replica of the lighthouse on Quirpon Island

 The next morning we headed to L’Anse Aux Meadows a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site for a self guided tour. This site is the first known European settlement in the New World. We walked along the trail of the replica as well as the original site, watched the black smith interpreter make a nail the way the Vikings had done many years ago and watched a brief video in the visitors centre. After learning so much about this place in university I was very excited to finally see it in person. Photos do not do it justice, this place is amazing!

After leaving the L’Anse Aux Meadows site we did not need to go far to find the icebergs we were searching for. They were everywhere big, small and in many different shapes!

The Northern Peninsula was a photographer’s paradise as these icebergs are very photogenic with their streaks of bright blue, cascading waterfalls and their pinnacle, wedge and tabular shapes.

We were spending our second night on Quirpon Island located on the shores of “Iceberg Alley” on the northernmost tip of Newfoundland. During the boat ride to the island we had the opportunity to experience these bergs up close and personal. During our ride we were also surprised by three humpback whales one of which we were lucky enough to see breech 20 feet from the boat.

Quirpon Island

Once arriving to Quirpond Island we had to take a short hike to the lighthouse inn where we were pleasantly greeted by the friendly staff Madonna and Doris. After settling our things away in our room we came back downstairs to meet the other 7 guests we would be sharing the inn with for the night. Shortly after, a delicious dinner of fresh pan fried cod, mashed potatoes and corn was served.

After dinner a few of us decided to explore the island and watch for whales in the whale watching hut, a very relaxing experience. We didn’t see the whales again that night but we were very lucky to hear an iceberg calve. When an iceberg calves (breaks) it sounds very similar to a loud clap of thunder and can be heard from quite a distance.

Whale watching hut

Quirpon Lighthouse

The next morning after an early breakfast we had approximately one hour to explore the island a little more before catching the boat back to reality.

Walking back down to catch the boat

Our captain holding a bergy bit

seal on an ice pan