Exploring the Arctic Land of the Caribou
Explore the coastline of Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada on this amazing adventure.
This expedition starts with a flight from Copenhagen to Narsarsuaq, a settlement in the Kujallew Muncipaluty in Southern Greenland. Its immediate surroundings in Tunulliarfik Fjord hold incredible significance to Greenland’s history. The land where Narsarsuaq now stands earned Greenland its name.
The Norse Vikings settled in this vicinity many centuries ago and gave Narsarsuaq a name that hints that an Arctic forest covered the large plain. Taking tales of verdant nature in a deep fjord home to their Nordic brethren, the Vikings called this country Greenland. On arrival in Narsarsuaq your transfer to MS Spitsbergen is awaiting you.
Ivittuut is an abandoned mining town near Cape Desolation in southwestern Greenland. It is located in the modern Sermersooq municipality on the ruins of the former Norse Middle Settlement. Ivittuut means “the grassy place” in Greenlandic; and is situated in one of Greenland’s most beautiful areas, the Arsuk fjord complex. Take an individual walk at the old mining settlement Ivittuut and enjoy the nice view on the surrounding landscape. This is also a place where one is likely to observe the musk ox, the largest land mannal in Greenland.
Leaving Greenland behind we set out to cross the Labrador Sea, the arm of the North Atlantic Ocean located between Greenland and the Labrador Peninsula. On board our expedition team will give lectures and talks on subjects related to our voyage, you can mingle with fellow travellers and do not forget to step out onto the open decks to feel the wind and salty air. Our onboard expedition photographer will show you the basics of expedition photography. Maybe birds and mammals are around or you simply “hit” the right light conditions for the perfect photo.
The Torngat Mountains National Park protects one of the most spectacular mountain- and coastal areas of Canada. In wide parts of the park the mountains are higher than 1500 meters and have an age up to 3.9 Billion years. The whole landscape was over formed by the last ice age. Deep fjord systems rising up to 900 meters directly out of the sea make the park rough and wild. The highest mountains are without any vegetation but in the river valleys you can find an enormous variation of tundra vegetation. Moose, Caribous, foxes, wolves, Black bears and even the Polar bear are native to the park.
The name Torngat comes from the Inuit word for ghost. For the Inuit the mountains are the place where the ghosts are living. Archeological sites out of 7000 years witness the importance of this region for the Inuit which still have their hunting areas in the Torngat Mountains.
We will spend three days sailing along the coast of Labrador and exploring this area. Places we might visit during these days are Rigolet Hopedale and Nain. Rigolet is a remote, coastal Inuit settlement with ca. 300 inhabitants, established in 1735 by the French-Canadian trader Louis Fornel.
The community has no road connection to anywhere, but it is all year around reachable by ship and in winter time also by snow mobiles. The settlement is the southernmost officinal recognized Inuit community and overseen by the Nunatsiavut government.
Rigolet lies in the so called “combat zone” of the forest. The boreal forest has here its northern most distribution, only some krummholz or knee timber are able to grow here before the vegetation changes only some kilometers further north into the tundra. Minke and Humpback whales are commonly observed in nearby waters.
Nain is a community alive with traditions and has a strong Inuit identity. It is the most northern and largest community in Nunatsiavut. Founded in 1771 by Moravian Missionaries, Nain was an important outpost for the missionizing efforts of the Moravians. Beautiful artifacts and buildings built by Moravians remain in the community to this day. Nain is surrounded by an ancient geology and an ancient history.
Hopedale, originally known by its Inuktitut name Arvertok, which translates into “the place of whales” and remaned to Hopedale by Morovian Missionaries arriving from Germany in 1782. An incredible legacy of structures and artifacts from the Moravians remains in Hopedale.
Battle Harbour is another National Historic Site we will visit on our trip. The town was known as the “Capital of Labrador” in the 18th and 19th century. It got its importance by the mercantile salt fishery in this region. The city became so central that Dr. Wilfried Grenfell opened here with the help of the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen the first hospital in Labrador. The old fishing houses and converting plants are nicely reconstructed and became a visitor magnet.
In the Interpretation Centre you get best information about the processing technology at the peak time of the cod fishery. After the cod disappeared as a result of overfishing the town lost its importance.
Today Battle Harbour changed to a summer settlement based on tourism. Battle harbor has been also quite important for the Polar research as a “Gateway to the Arctic”. Peary gave a press conference in town in 1909. He talked about his expedition to the North Pole in the Loft over the salt store in Battle Harbour.
Do you still belong to the old fashioned people that believe that Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492? You can be sure that you will know it better after your visit of L´Anse aux Meadows. The archeologists Anne and Helge Ingstad found the old Viking settlement by following evidence they got by a close reading of the Viking sagas.
In 1960 they came to L´Anse au Meadows and started the excavation of an old Viking settlement, later with the support of the Canadian Park Service. The find provided archeological evidence of the existence of a Viking settlement around 1000. The settlement was carefully developed and can be visited today. The original foundations of the old houses are covered with grass again, but there are three reconstructions of the old grass houses with historic based home furnishings which can be visited. L´Anse aux Meadows became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
Today we will be focused on the whaling time in North America. The Basque whale hunters have been the first who caught the whales so far in the north. They spotted the Strait of Belle Isle, a waterway that separates the Labrador Peninsula from the island of Newfoundland already in 1540. The strait was famous for the Northern Right whales and the Greenland whales which were caught in this area and processed directly in bases a shore.
2500 whalers on 50 ships came in peak times for around 8 months for whale hunting. The Basques chose Red Bay due to the deep sea in the bay. The main whaling base has been on Saddle Island just in the opposite site of the settlement Red Bay. Up to 1000 people were working temporary on Saddle Island in the whaling industry.
In the Visitor Center of the Red Bay National Historic Site you can learn with the help of an interesting exhibition about the Basque whaling time in the area. With a small boat you can reach Saddle Island where you can inspect the original places.
The Gros Morne National Park belongs to the highlights of a Newfoundland trip. The landscape with its deep valleys, steep cliffs, sandy beaches and the spectacular fjord system is over formed by the last ice age. A ride through the endless forests, lush swamps and tundra vegetation in the higher regions will be unforgettable. Moose, caribous, foxes, black bears, ptarmigans and eagles are very common in the National Park at Newfoundland´s west coast.
The Gros Morne National Park became a UNESCO World Heritage Site as its geology is more or less unique in the world. The Tablelands - 600 m high Plateau Mountains in the south of the park - have been lifted by colliding continents. They became one of the best examples of ancient rock formations exposed from the earth interior and are an amazing geological display window for the demonstration of the plate tectonic. It seems to be valid that Gros Morne National Park is to Geology what the Galapagos are to Biology.
The yellow Table Mountains are rich on peridotite, a mineral that prevents the growing of nice vegetation. The vegetation free landscape gives you the feeling as if you would travel on the moon and stands just in the opposite to the amazing nice forest region of the northern part of the National Park. The Discovery Centre in Woody Point explains in an excellent exhibition this exceptional geological phenomena and of course the Park´s brilliant Flora and Fauna.
Our expedition team will hold lectures and workshops and share of their knowledge and experience There will also be gathering with the expedition team to summarize the voyage so far, and present the plan for the following days.
There might also be a chance to look behind the scenes and partake in our guest expedition staff program. We head out into the Gulf of St.L awrence, a huge body of water at the mouth of the St. Lawrence river. It fringes the shores of half the provinces of Canada and is more of a semi enclosed sea than simply a river mouth. This large, roughly triangular area is connected to the Atlantic by the Strait of Belle Isle at the northeast and Cabot Strait at the southeast corners.
The average depth is barely 150 meters. A huge amount of freshwater is emptied into the Gulf and much of the runoff is entrained in the Gaspé Current, flowing along the south shore of the estuary. Deep inflow of Atlantic water through Cabot Strait compensated for the net outflow of surface waters. Winter cooling forms an ice cover obstructing navigation for about three months each winter.
The gulf has provided a historically important marine fishery for nomadic Indian tribes, who came seasonally to fish. French explorer Jaques Cartier came 1534 on the first documented voyage to the gulf, but was likely preceded in the area by Basque fishermen.
Cartier however, named the shores of the St. Lawrence river the “Country of Canadas”, after an indigenous word meaning “village” or “settlement”, thus ending up naming the world’s second largest country. Today the gulf with the St. Lawrence river and St. Lawrence Seaway, forms an economically important transportation corridor to the heartland of industrial North America.
Saint Pierre and Miquelon is a self-governing territorial overseas collectivity of France just south of Newfoundland, next to the Grand Banks, an amazing important fishing ground as the result of the mixture of the cold Labrador Current and the warm Gulf Stream. After the fishing industry lost its importance as the cod has been nearly distinguished the tourism is the new economical hope.
Even though the Basque have been the first European settlers on the islands the French culture dominates today. Far away from the Motherland France you find especially in St Pierre the typical French way of life with nice bistros and cafeterias. Wine, cheese, baguette, foie gras, chocolates, pastries, nearly everything you combine with France you can find especially in town.
But the archipelago of St. Pierre au Miquelon has another importance too. So is the very small island Grand Columbier, with its steep cliffs, rocky outcrops and the hilly grounds on top for example an important bird island with more than 100,000 breeding pairs of Leach´s Storm petrels.
Welcome to St. John´s, one of the oldest cities of the North American Continent. Some even say it is the oldest city. For sure it is today the capital of the Canadian province Labrador and Newfoundland. The sailing through “The Narrows” into the well protected harbor of St. John´s is already a great experience.
John Cabot discovered the sheltered bay in 1497 and recommended this place for a settlement especially for European cod fishermen. The cod fishery has been for hundreds of years the most important economy for this region. Several nations fought for the predominance in this area. Since 1583 St. John´s belongs to the British Crown. You pass an important place of interest on starboard side when you enter St. John´s harbor through the narrows, the Signal Hill, a Canadian National Historic Site.
The Signal Hill has been important to defense the harbor of St. John´s from the 17th century until World War II. At the Cabot Tower on Signal Hill Guglielmo Marconi received the world’s first transatlantic wireless signal in 1901.
You find several museums on the Signal Hill which give you a good prepared exhibition about Labrador´s, Newfoundland´s and especially St. John´s history; and the view over the city from the Signal Hill is magnificent. As a huge fire destroyed nearly the whole city of St. John´s in 1892 you will not find so many historic sites in town. But you should not miss the Roman-Catholic Basilica of John the Baptist from 1855 and the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, both built in a Neo Gothic style.
In the harbor you do not recognize anymore the importance of the fishery in former times. Today the harbor has more value for the offshore oil and gas production. Cape Spear, the eastern most point of the American Continent, lays only some miles in South of St. John´s. It is an amazing feeling to stand at the cliffs and to look over the waves of the Atlantic, to smell the sea and to see perhaps whales, quite common at this coast.
Woody Point - Journey to the centre of the EarthExcursion North America (3 hours) From 74 €
Woody Point - Lookout Hills HikeExcursion North America (4 hours) From 87 €
L'Anse aux Meadows - Doctor to the North and the Grenfell LegacyExcursion North America (4 hours) From 137 €
L'Anse aux Meadows - Explore the North Coast by boatExcursion North America (4 hours) From 124 €
L'Anse aux Meadows - Viking ExperienceExcursion North America (2 hours)
St. Pierre - Community TourExcursion North America (1,5 hours) From 75 €
St. Pierre - Ile aux Marins Walking TourExcursion North America (2 hours) From 99 €
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