Inquisitive travelers on a Canadian maritime adventure cruise will be captivated by pristine natural beauty and spellbound by the seafaring legends connected to these historic shorelines. A complex human history dates back nearly 9,000 years, with evidence of aboriginal cultures.
These early settlers, known as Maritime Archaic Indians, migrated to southeastern Labrador. Around 4,000 years ago, the Arctic-adapted Paleo-Eskimos arrived in northern Labrador and eventually made their way to the island of Newfoundland. The latest aboriginal group to arrive in Labrador was the Thule people who migrated from the Bering Strait almost 1,000 years ago. Ancestors of the Thule are today’s Inuit.
On a Canadian maritime cruise you learn about Newfoundland’s rich and complex history. In 1949, Newfoundland and Labrador became a Canadian province, previously having been a British colony with the nickname, “Grand Cod Fishery of the Universe.” Culturally speaking St. John’s, Newfoundland’s capital is a haven for musicians, dancers, craftspeople, artists, and writers. The remarkable natural beauty provides inspiration to those living on the eastern edge of Canada.
One of Canada’s most notable archaeological sites is L’Anse aux Meadows, located on the northernmost tip of Newfoundland and named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978. It is considered the most famous Viking settlement in North America outside of Greenland. Nineteenth-century French-speaking fishermen named the area L’Anse aux Méduses, which means “Jellyfish Cove.” It is believed that the name today, L’Anse aux Meadows, is an English distortion of the original French which likely occurred due to the open meadows filling the landscape. Today’s explorers learn Norse legends and hear tales of 10th century Vikings. They study artifacts up close and imagine what life was like for the seafaring people who bravely sailed uncharted seas to make their home in the New World.
On the west coast of Newfoundland is another World Heritage site—Gros Morne National Park. Gros Morne Mountain, formed 1.2 billion years ago, is part of the Long Range Mountains, a distant range of the Appalachians. Geology buffs will delight in seeing an excellent illustration of continental drift, where oceanic crust and mantle rock are visible. Spruce and balsam fir forests line the coast. Due to storms and fierce winds, these coastal trees have been stunted and contorted. The locals call these battered trees “tuckamores.”
Wildlife abounds for Canadian maritime travelers. You will see moose and caribou and with luck, black bear and red fox. If you venture to St. Paul’s inlet, harbor seals can be observed and there is always a lookout for whales. Within the park, there are several hiking trails along the coast and interior. The park is a haven for many bird species, both in the bogs and interior forests. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987, Gros Morne offers a stellar example of plate tectonics and has provided important information on the geological evolutionary process. Not to mention that it is outstandingly beautiful.
Canadian maritime travelers should also explore Iles de la Madeleine, an archipelago in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and part of the province of Quebec. French-speaking Acadians moved to the islands in 1755. Today’s Acadians still fly the Acadian flag and consider themselves both Acadian and Quebecois. Hear the harrowing tale of 1910 when residents, cut off from the mainland due to pack ice, wrote an urgent letter for help and sent it adrift inside a molasses barrel. The barrel reached Cape Bretton Island and the government sent an icebreaker with aid. Adventure seekers enjoy biking, camping, kayaking, and windsurfing during warmer months.
At Baddeck, Cape Bretton Island in Nova Scotia, learn about one of the more famous residents, Alexander Graham Bell. Bell built a summer home here and a laboratory where he conducted some of his most important work. Walk the Cabot Trail and in the fall, hear the Celtic Colors festival, which features hundreds of Celtic musicians from around the world.
A Canadian cruise combines a tantalizing mix of human history with dramatic natural beauty. See whales and puffins as you ply the seas along these storied coastlines. Photographers will appreciate the magical light and everyone will enjoy meeting the welcoming local people with a rich seafaring history.
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