Saturday, July 15, 2017

The whales of St. Vincent's


I am back from a whirlwind trip to the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland. In 1998 I travelled up the west coast of Newfoundland, visited Gros More, l'Anse aux Meadows, and Red Bay in Labrador. It was a great trip but Newfoundland is a big place and I did not get to St. John's then because that would have doubled the driving time and I was nearing my deadline for returning home. I always intended to go back and I thought that after moving to the east coast of Canada (I was living on the west coast in 1998) that it would just happen. But it didn't, I had to make it happen. Funny about that.

Anyway, a fellow blogger has an Airbnb on the Irish Loop just outside of St John's which she plans to give up this year so it seemed like Now or Never. I would have driven with Hapi, but with another road trip in mind for later in the summer it seemed like all that extra driving (and time!) was not on. So I flew, leaving Hapi behind with a friend.

It was truly a whirlwind visit, I basically skimmed what was on offer and probably wore out my host. The highlights were long chats, whales and an archaeological dig on the Irish Loop. We did a drive-through of St. John's and while I would have liked to have seen more, I realized I didn't have the energy for it and was just going to have to make a mental note of 'what to do and see if I ever have the chance of coming back here'.

On the same day we visited Signal Hill, Cape Spear, and Petty Harbour. I saw a humpback whale doing backflips below the lighthouse at Cape Spear: it leaped into the air and fell backward with flippers spread like wings several times. I have no idea what it was trying to do, it could have been just for the sheer joy of being there. I also saw icebergs at both Signal Hill and Cape Spear.

Signal Hill
Petty Harbour
Every summer humpback whales migrate from the Caribbean north to Newfoundland (they come to Nova Scotia as well). They don't eat at all on their trip so they arrive hungry, when the capelin are spawning off of the Avalon Peninsula coast, in particular at certain beaches. Just down the coast from where I was staying is St. Vincent's beach, a popular spawning site for the capelin and feeding site for the whales. My host took me there twice in hopes of spotting the whales. It was very foggy both days and we saw nothing the first time but the whales arrived the second time. The conditions were very poor for taking photos but I tried.




It was a truly amazing sight. At least half a dozen whales, I couldn't count, leaping about and swimming back and forth not a hundred meters from the shore. They seemed to be working in groups, I saw three whales surfacing simultaneously several times, they were in a formation that looked like a giant three-petalled whale-head flower.

Colony of Avalon archaeological dig at Ferryland
The Colony of Avalon was one of the first permanent settlements in North America, in an area of Newfoundland that was frequently visited by European fishermen even before Christopher Columbus set sail. It is being reconstructed at the town of Ferryland (the name is a transliteration of the old Portuguese name).

I could go on and on, it was a dense and intense visit to an amazing place. I only hope I did not wear out my friend and host who guided the visit.

2 comments:

Wisewebwoman said...

I always love seeing my adopted province through the eyes of others.

I wish I'd had more stamina Annie. It is sadly lacking in my life at the moment. I tire so easily and am so frustrated. (Former Type A, lol)

XO
WWW

Annie said...

We packed a lot in, I'm not surprised you felt tired! I was pretty tired too.