It’s 220 miles from Gros Morne to the end of the Northern Peninsula. That’s a typical driving day for me. I try not to go much more than 200 miles in stretch, but since I’m not towing, that should be a breeze. Except for the breeze. I don’t account for the strong, gusting crosswinds that blow in from the ocean at gale force, nor do I account for the road surface that looks like swiss cheese. By the time I reach St. Anthony, the northernmost town on the peninsula, I feel like I have wrestled an angry elephant.
I have been including more “From the road” shots for a couple of reasons…one, I am driving more than usual, but two, I think some might want to see what Newfoundland roads are like.
Hwy 430, also known as “The Viking Trail” runs primarily along the west coast of the Northern Peninsula.
I am so anxious to see icebergs that I almost swerve off the road with excitement when I see this in front of me…but turns out to be only patches of snow on the side of the hill.
I am excited to finally reach St. Anthony, which the locals pronounce “Suh-NANT-ny” (For readers who may not know, Anthony is my last name.)
St. Anthony is not the quaint, charmed little fishing village I had pictured. I expected a kinship with this town, given that we share names. But it looks bleak, boring, and industrial. I have booked a tour at 8:30am tomorrow morning in hopes of seeing some icebergs, so I need a place to overnight. I pull into the Food Lion, absolutely starving. Too exhausted from the drive to cook, I look for somewhere to eat, but there’s nothing I can find but Tim Horton’s. I’m crestfallen, as I’ve been looking forward to reaching this point since I crossed the ferry, but here I am parked in the Food Lion parking lot surrounded by the infrastructure it takes to support all the little other quaint fishing villages along the coast; the hospital, automotive stores, marine haul-out yard and repair shops.
I get a message from Ed and Marti telling me they can’t see the ocean for the icebergs back in Twillingate, the opposite end of “Iceberg Alley.” Ed tells me “Don’t miss Lightkeepers. Marti and I ate there several times.” I do a quick check on Google Maps to see it’s only 3 miles away, and text Ed back to say “I’m going there NOW!”
In just three short miles, my mood goes from glum to gleeful. I’ve gone from the outhouse to the penthouse as I crest the top of the hill at Fishing Point to find everything I’ve been seeking. There on the top of this hill, I can see not only a busy restaurant, but there is a lighthouse, maps to trails all over the point, icebergs out at sea, and the perfect boondocking spot to sit and watch the sun set and the near full moon rise over the ocean!
At the end of the road is the little peninsula of “Fishing Point” with a restaurant, gift shop, hiking trails, and a tiny but functioning lighthouse.
Fox Point Lighthouse. There have been many lights on this location dating back to 1912, but this light was erected in the early 1960’s. (Note iceberg, finally, on the horizon!)
The Lightkeeper’s house has been converted to the best restaurant in town, “Lightkeepers.”
It is here that I finally see my first iceberg of the trip. In fact, from Fishing Point, I can see half a dozen!
Not only is this where I see my first iceberg, it’s also where I sample my first Iceberg Beer,”Made with 20,000 year old iceberg ice.” It’s refreshing, but a little light for my taste.
Since this is a little municipal park, there is lots of parking. I ask the restaurant if people park here overnight, and she says “Sure, make yourself at home!”
Moonrise over Fishing Point Cove.
The tall ship Lord Nelson is in port. There are several of them circumnavigating the Maritimes this summer to commemorate Canada’s 150th Anniversary.
He sails right past Fishing Point.
I can hardly sleep at the anticipation of my iceberg tour come morning. I think others on board think it’s a Whale Watching Tour, but I am calling it an Iceberg Tour. 😉 Once we are on board, our interpretive guide, Steve, tells us we hope to make it out to the “big one” today, the largest iceberg they have seen this year at over 100 ft tall. He tells us it was 4.5 miles offshore yesterday, but overnight it has drifted further to 6 miles, which is just on the edge of their range for tours. “We’re going to try to get you out there, but it all depends on which direction the whales are sighted. If we are lucky, we’ll encounter whales on our direct path to the big iceberg. If not, we’ll follow the whales and get as close to the iceberg as time allows.” This makes me tense.
I have booked an Iceberg Tour with Northland Discovery Boat Tours.
We are headed out past the Fox Point Lighthouse, hopefully to that big chuck of ice on the horizon. From here, it’s six nautical miles away.
This is a terrible zoom photo, trying to take a picture five miles away, but that fuzzy spot to the right of the iceberg is the Lord Nelson Tall Ship, for scale. (I don’t often wish for a big zoom camera, but this time I do!)
We pass other smaller icebergs on the way to the “big one. Typically seven eighths of an iceberg is beneath the surface.”
It’s not long until we see the first whale spout. I am relieved that they seem to be directly in between us and the iceberg, so we won’t have to veer too far off course. We get the ubiquitous “tale shot” as the whales dive deeper. It will be 8-10 minutes before they submerge again. Steve, our interpreter and the captain have a conversation to determine if we have time to wait, or move on to the ice. We’ll wait. I stare nervously at the giant iceberg, still surely a good four miles away. More blow spouts. Another tale shot. Never in my life did I think I could be this impatient while watching whales. But I can see the clock ticking on our two and a half hour tour, and that iceberg is a long way away.
Next, it’s a couple of Minke whales, the smallest of the species. We veer off course to follow these for a while. Humpbacks, Minkes, yadda yadda yadda….I CAME FOR THE ICE!
First whale sighting. A humpback.
The famous “tale shot.”
This one’s a Minke, the second smallest baleen whale behind the pygmy whale.
Steve, our interpreter is telling us about feeding habits of whales. If you can see the two small fish in the dark square on the left of his information board, those are “caplin,” a very important part of the humpback diet. When the caplin start running, the whales follow. (Click to enlarge photo.)
Steve passes around a sample chunk of baleen. Instead of teeth, whales feed through these keratin (think “fingernail”) plates by scooping in fish, then squeezing the water out through the plates, leaving their food caught on the baleen like a giant colander.
Finally, we start steaming full speed ahead toward the massive, shimmering blue-white structure as big as an eight story office building. Details of the fantastic sculpture become defined the closer we get. We will be circling it counter-clockwise, so I make my way to the port side railing. I am lost in thought, back on the edge of that Zodiac in Antarctica, staring up in awe at Mother Nature’s masterpiece overhead. It’s one of those moments of narrow focus when I am unaware of everything else that’s taking place around me, as I study this piece of artfully chiseled 15,000 year old ice as if Michelangelo had just left on the last boat out.
Our guide spent a summer in Greenland, so his narration is captivating. He tells about how the ice is breaking loose from the ice pack in Greenland, taking two years to drift with the Labrador Current to the start of Newfoundland’s “Iceberg Alley.”
Okay, enough about whales. Let’s get on to the iceberg!
At this point, our interpreter Steve tells us we have time to circle it. I am thrilled!
Note the blue ice underneath the “beak” structure, like its nose has been running. ;-)
As the boat moves around the iceberg, the scenery changes rapidly.
I am so captivated by these structures changed by the wind and water.
This “fin” is my favorite part of what looked like just a big block of ice from the shore.
Steve, our interpreter tells us that the grooves are from riding the ocean currents from Greenland.
I think this end looks like the Maple Leaf from our host country’s flag. Oh! Canada!
I am in love with icebergs since my trip to Antarctica in 2009, so there are a lot of photos. ;-)
Many small “bergy bits” surround the big guy.
This is known as the “debris field” showing recent calving.
Steve brings on board a large chunk of 15,000 year old ice for us all to taste.
At the end of the boat tour, Steve asks if anyone wants any “souvenirs” of the ice. I am the only one with a freezer. ;-)
I brought an inch of bourbon across the border in hopes I would have this opportunity, so later that night, I chip some 15,000 old ice for my cocktail. Something about the sharp angles of this ice and knowing its origin makes this the best Manhattan I’ve ever tasted. (Said Sharon Stone in the movie Basic Instinct when asked what she had against ice cubes, she replied, “I like rough edges.”)
Once back at the dock, I bargain with myself that I can enjoy lunch at Lightkeepers again if I will put in the 475 steps to the top of the hill, followed by the 5 mile loop back into town. It’s a stimulating hike up over the hill, into town and back to the Winnie. As I walk, I reflect on the great sense of peace and satisfaction knowing that my “iceberg stalking” has finally paid off….just before I run out of road.
Afternoon hike around Fishing Point.
One would think it was cold with ice on the trail, but it’s a beautiful day.
I scramble down to the waters edge and watch this iceberg bob for a good while. On the right is a small channel where I can hear waves rushing up over the surface of the ice as if it were Caribbean water on a white sand beach. This is mesmerizing.
From this higher vantage point, you can see the wave-worn channel.
“Daredevil Trail?” Really? Dare me…
Below, you can see the 476 steps to the top of the hill, with the town of St. Anthony in the background.
From this vantage point, you get a sense of the size of the iceberg. Just to the left of the buildings out on the point was my boondock spot last night.
My apres-hike treat. This orange topping is called “Bakeapple” (also known as a Cloud Berry) and is a Newfoundland Labrador specialty. It looks like a giant raspberry, but tastes like an apricot. I had to try it in its native form, Bakeapple Cheesecake, solely for research purposes.