Couple more from Newfoundland…

On our last day in Newfoundland, there was a heavy rainfall warning in effect. But, not wanting to sit around all day we decided to brave the elements and head north a bit to Elliston where we had learned that there was a Puffin sanctuary on a small island just offshore but still within photo range (it couldn’t have been more than 70 feet from it’s closest point to shore). We got there and the forecast deluge was in full swing. Torrential is the word I’m looking for. Gauging how wet were going to get,  Cindy decided she wanted to see the puffins precisely bad enough to leave the shelter of the car. We both had rain coats and I had brought the rain enclosure for my camera gear,  so I hoped I might get at least one shot without getting too wet. Our pants were soaked in moments. But, we gamely trudged up the rocky hill and out towards the cliff that overlooked “Puffin Island”. I quickly set up my tripod and fired off a few pictures with no real expectation they were any good (I needed a little bigger lens for shooting birds at that distance). On our way back, we noticed some information signs informing visitors that Elliston was the “Root Cellar Capital of the World”. With no way to effectively dig into the ground, settlers had to build there own root cellars above ground in order to store food to survive the long, harsh winters of Newfoundland. These things are centuries old and many are still in use. There are at least 150 in the area, seemingly scattered haphazardly everywhere, most no where near any houses. Anyway, I got a picture of one because they reminded me of Hobbit holes.

 

Puffins (Elliston Sanctuary)

Puffins (Elliston Sanctuary)

Root Cellar in Elliston

Root Cellar in Elliston

Céad mille fáilte (A hundred thousand welcomes) in Newfoundland

Cindy and I decided to go to Newfoundland for a short vacation this past week. In what has become customary for our vacations, it rained almost the whole time. But, I’m not going to dwell on that because there is no point in belaboring the fact that despite being huge fans of Mother Nature she doesn’t seem to reciprocate those feelings. Actually, on this particular trip, I can’t claim that M.N. treated us too badly since we went to view the wildlife and she definitely provided an unrivaled show in that department.

The morning after we arrived we picked up our rental car and headed to the historic town of Trinity, which is about a two and half hour drive north of St. John’s. This town that has been around since the 16th century maintains a population of less than two hundred people. In typical Newfoundland style, everyone is exceedingly friendly. Within minutes of checking into our B&B we felt like we were visiting family. In fact, within an hour of arriving and getting settled, Robert, owner and operator of Trinity Eco-Tours, asked us if we wanted to go out for a tour on the water with him to see if we could find some whales. Of course we agreed, not only because it was basically a free tour, but the weather was actually half decent and the next few days, when our actual booked tours were to take place, forecast rain. On this evening we saw several Minke whales which, at a mere 24 feet in length, look like miniature Blue or Fin whales. We also, had several North Atlantic White Sided dolphins playing alongside our Zodiac and in our wake. Unfortunately for me, they were so fast that it was all but impossible to get a good picture of them. As Robert took us along the spectacularly rugged Newfoundland coast we found a small bay that seemed to be the residence of many Bald Eagles all waiting patiently for the arrival of the massive schools of Capelin that sustain most of the aquatic wildlife in the region.

Juvenile Bald Eagle

Juvenile Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Newfoundland Coastline and Minke Whale

Newfoundland Coastline and Minke Whale

Nesting Black Guillemots

Nesting Black Guillemots

Newfoundland's rugged coastline

Newfoundland’s rugged coastline

Puffins

Puffins

Puffins

Puffins

Sadly, we did not see any sign of the Humpbacks that we had come to see, but Robert was encouraged when he did see Capelin in the shallow areas. Traditionally, Capelin arrived in large numbers around the beginning of July, and the Humpbacks would be close behind. I feared that we were a week too early to see Humpbacks and both Cindy and I resigned ourselves to not seeing any.

It rained the next morning, and since Robert did not have any other bookings that morning or early afternoon, postponed our scheduled tour until 1pm. The rain mostly stopped as we headed out. It was cool at around 6⁰C and it looked like every color except for our bright red survival suits had leached out of the world. We soon found several Minkes again, and Robert shut the engines down to watch them for a few minutes. It was during that time that we all heard a loud, bass groan that seemed to come through the rigid hull of the Zodiac. We all tensely scanned the area because Robert said that it was not the Minkes making that noise. A few minutes later we saw the huge tail of a Humpback several hundred meters out further onto Trinity Bay. As we raced out towards that area, Cindy started seeing spray from many Humpbacks on the horizon through her binoculars. A few minutes later Robert cut engines and waited, commenting that he knew we were in around 700 feet of water but his depth finder was reading only 17 feet. We were in the middle of a huge school of Capelin. The Humpbacks would be coming to us; we just needed to be patient.

We were not disappointed.

Within minutes we were surrounded on all sides by twenty to thirty feeding Humpbacks along with at least one calf who was curious enough to spy-hop a few times to get a better look at us. Even Robert, our veteran guide, was excited at the spectacle, saying that witnessing such a large concentration of Humpbacks was a once in a lifetime experience for most people. Along with the large number of whales around us we could see countless more spray signs on the horizon.  I was having trouble deciding where to point my camera. You could not have removed the smiles from our faces with a belt sander. There is nothing quite like having a 50 foot, 30 tonne creature surface right beside your boat to make you feel very, very small. There was definite comfort in knowing how gentle and docile these giants are. It was with great regret that Robert said we had to head back since he had to pick up a film crew who were scouting locations for a documentary on Eagles.

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

Northern Gannet

Northern Gannet

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

Humpback Calf Spy-hopping

Humpback Calf Spy-hopping

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

Humpback Calf Spy-hopping

Humpback Calf Spy-hopping

It was a lucky that Robert took us out on that first night because the next day there was a rainfall warning in effect and we would not have been able to go out on our next scheduled tour. It did not even matter to us because of the experience we had the day before. So, while the weather did not fully cooperate, the wildlife certainly did. It is with profuse gratitude that we thank Robert, Darlene, Gerald and Kent of Trinity Eco-Tours for their very great hospitality and generosity. They went out of their way to introduce us to fresh scallops and crab legs, which I’m pleased to say was nothing like I expected and I actually enjoyed. They also kept us entertained in the evenings with good conversation, some excellent guitar playing from Robert and perhaps a few generously poured libations were enjoyed.

All in all, it was a good vacation and it was a little sad to leave such great people.