Daily Expedition Reports

Daily reports from our days in the field

  • Twillingate, Newfoundland

    The Mayor of Twillingate braved the somewhat inclement weather this morning to welcome us ashore at this sleepy coastal settlement which dates back to the early 18th century. Back then both French and English fishermen came across from Europe to work the rich waters of the area. The communities here have had a close connection to, and affinity with, the sea by which their textured culture has to a large degree been shaped. The first visit on our agenda was to the Prime Berth Fishing Heritage Museum. Here we were treated to a personalised guided tour by Dave, the owner of the facility, who gave us a firsthand account of the everyday life of a coastal fisherman in these waters. We had a demonstration of splitting and salting cod fish. Plus, the intricacies and nuances of tying hooks on lines, placing lobster and crab pots and much more were explained. The museum itself consists of a number of timber-built huts which are jam-packed with an incredible, eclectic mix of artefacts related to working the sea. On one of the wharfs the skeleton of a whale is displayed while at every turn some new wonder catches the eye, making it on top of everything else, a photographers’ paradise. A contingent of energetic guests went for a hike along a section of coast in the vicinity of Long Point Lighthouse. Read More

    • Sep 21, 2016
    • National Geographic Explorer in Canada
  • L’Anse aux Meadows and St. Anthony, Newfoundland

    This morning we awoke to another brilliant Newfoundland day and after a hearty breakfast we transferred ashore via our Zodiacs to the famous UNESCO World Heritage site of L’Anse aux Meadows. On the dock we were greeted by Wayne the Gregarious Viking who ushered us onto our buses which whisked us away to our first stop of the day, Norstead—a recreation of a traditional Norse village. Read More

    • Sep 20, 2016
    • National Geographic Explorer in Canada
  • Gros Morne

    Imagine if you will, the collision of continents, the earth itself moving beneath you as one continent swallows another. Fiery eruptions, catastrophic earthquakes, and the sea around you churning with tidal waves the size of which are indescribable. Then, in an about face, the massive continents began to separate again, creating the present day Atlantic Ocean. Such was the scene at the area of Newfoundland we visited today. Of course, all of this took a mere hundreds of millions of years, so the drama I described might have been a bit more, shall we say, low key. The continents did collide, and the sea floor did get pushed to the surface to create the mountains known as the Tablelands, and the landforms separated again causing the Atlantic Ocean to form, but if you had lived long enough to witness the whole thing you might not have noticed the change for some time. There is a reason the term “geologic time scale” means a very long time. We may not have been thinking about all that had happened here so many years ago, but, by the time we finish our day this place of remarkable beauty would mean so much more to us. Read More

    • Sep 19, 2016
    • National Geographic Explorer in Canada
  • Îles de la Madeleine, Quebec, Canada

    Today we added yet another layer to our experiences here in The Maritime Provinces of Canada by visiting the archipelago of Îles de la Madeleine, or Magdalen Islands. Situated in the middle of The Gulf of St. Lawrence this seemingly improbable string of islands harbors a rich history, first explored in 1524 and later settled in 1765. The early Amerindian cultures for thousands of years had come to these islands to harvest walrus, seals and other sea life. Though we're clearly in Canada it doesn't take long to notice that these islands are French, and more specifically Acadian French. In the middle 1700s British control of this region resulted in the forced removal of a majority of the French occupants of Acadia.  Resettling as far south as Louisiana, these French subjects would eventually return and reestablish themselves in Quebec, Nova Scotia, and here on the Magdalen Islands. The waters around here have long been the source of bounty, from the abundant cod fishery of the past to today’s healthy lobster harvest. Read More

    • Sep 18, 2016
    • National Geographic Explorer in Canada
  • Fortress of Louisbourg & Baddeck, Nova Scotia

    Having struck the weather lottery, we awoke to our second day of pure sunshine, certainly a gift in a land legendary for its fog. With much to do, our guests left early to board the provided transport, quickly finding themselves within the historic landscape of the Fortress of Louisbourg. With a grand effort of budget and skill, the fortress’ historic quality has not only been preserved, but rebuilt. Providing a window into the way of life that earlier colonial times endured, complete with their staff members dressed in the garb of the day. We were told the value of cocoa, how it was transported, and even allowed to sample the delicacy of their version of hot chocolate. Gardeners and soldiers waxed poetic about what their duties would have been, including a most thorough demonstration of the rifles function, loading procedure and errant accuracy. Next up was the historic town of Baddeck, which boasts the Alexander Graham Bell museum. Read More

    • Sep 17, 2016
    • National Geographic Explorer in Canada
  • St. Pierre Video

    We departed St. John’s, Newfoundland last night, and by sunrise we were southwest of the Avalon Peninsula. In this region of frequent fog, we had clear weather and gentle seas–ideal conditions for spotting marine mammals. And indeed, naturalists spotted a blow–a large baleen whale! As our expedition leader Sue made morning announcements, she shared the exciting news–a blue whale was swimming near the ship. First we saw the tall blow, then the long, slender gray-blue back. After four breaths, the whale would disappear beneath the waves for ten minutes. About half a mile away, another whale surfaced–darker coloring and taller dorsal fin identified it as a fin whale. They likely were feeding; they were in a patch of water that was slightly brownish. Could there be a dense patch of krill is in this area where the sea floor drops off? Before coffee…before tea…we were privileged to observe the two largest species on the planet. We met featured speakers and naturalists for our week’s voyage, and had briefings about life aboard the ship. Read More

    • Sep 16, 2016
    • National Geographic Explorer in Canada
  • Twillingate

    This morning we explored one of the largest seaports on Newfoundland’s northeast coast, Twillingate. Early French fishermen thought it resembled the Toulinguet Islands near Brest, France. The name stuck, but was anglicized to Twillingate. The harbor is lovely with many white houses perched on rocky low hills around its edge. Twillingate’s mayor welcomed each of us as we arrived ashore, then buses brought us to several interesting sites. Read More

    • Sep 14, 2016
    • National Geographic Explorer in Canada
  • Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland

    Established in 1973, Gros Morne is Atlantic Canada's second largest National Park at nearly 2,000 km². It harbors some of this region’s finest natural jewels, so much so it obtained UNESCO World Heritage status in 1987.  The park is bisected by Bonne Bay's two arms, and from the view at Woody Point one can clearly see the distinctive geologic formation known as The Tablelands. This feature holds a high rank in terms of significance, as it is the location that helped confirm the theory of plate tectonics. Comprised of rock from the Earth's mantle and sandwiched in between the two ancient continental crusts this red-orange flat-topped peak sticks out like a sore thumb. This entire landscape has been sculpted by glaciers for over three million years and its geologic history spans over a half billion years.    Our morning here focused on the geology and natural history of this beautiful park. Read More

    • Sep 12, 2016
    • National Geographic Explorer in Canada
  • Iles de la Madeleine

    This morning we awoke as we were pulling into the harbor at Cap Aux Meules, or Grindstone in English, the main island in a group of islands known in French as the Iles de la Madeleine. This small group of islands sits in the middle of the Gulf of St Lawrence. The islands, affectionately known as the “Maggies” are the top of a shoal, or an underwater plateau. Looking at the map, you might think of them as a fish-hook shaped landmass, which is fitting because for many years, the main industry of the islands was fishing of various sorts, now the economy is derived from fishing, a salt mine, and ever growing tourism, from people attracted to the wonderful beaches, and warm water of the Gulf of St Lawrence. The islands were originally settled by Acadians who were forced to leave Nova Scotia when the English evicted all of the French population from their territory in the mid 1700s. Read More

    • Sep 11, 2016
    • National Geographic Explorer in Canada
  • Fortress of Louisbourg & Baddeck, Nova Scotia Video

    We awoke to the blessing of an unusually sunny day for the Canadian Maritimes. Not wasting a moment, our guests boarded the provided transport to quickly find themselves within the historic landscape of the Fortress of Louisbourg. With a grand effort to upkeep its historic quality, the fortress provided a window into the way of life that earlier colonial times endured, complete with their staff members dressed in the garb of the day. We were told the value of cocoa, how it was transported, and even allowed to sample the delicacy of their version of hot chocolate. Gardeners and soldiers waxed poetic about what their duties would have been, including a most thorough demonstration of the rifles function, loading procedure, and errant accuracy. Next up was the historic town of Baddeck, which boasts the Alexander Graham Bell museum. Read More

    • Sep 10, 2016
    • National Geographic Explorer in Canada

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Robert MacNeil,
Journalist

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