Day 2 |
Aug 16, 2008

Newfoundland, Canada

By Dr. Brent Stephenson, Ornithologist

Co-ordinates: 47 degrees 18.0’ N and 53 degrees 59.0’ W

Weather: Overcast in morning giving way to sunshine and cloudy periods in the afternoon

Awaking to a clearing morning, we were glad that the sea had abated slightly, and it was a much smoother ride aboard the Prince Albert II as we headed along the southern coast of Newfoundland and in towards Argentia.  Despite good viewing conditions whale sightings were brief, with one or two blows being sighted, but their origins remaining hidden.  Several small pods of dolphins passed the ship, but failed to stick around long enough for announcements to be made.  However, birds were a little more obliging, with Northern gannets being seen in small numbers, and Atlantic puffins, common guillemots (murres as they are known in North America), and both red-necked and red phalaropes being seen.

After breakfast, Susan Langley presented a lecture on ‘Viking Vessels: Long Boats and Long Voyages’.  She discussed the prolific trade and settlement these Norsemen undertook, outlining their skilled seamanship and documenting their voyages.

Following this, our Expedition Leader Robin West conducted a mandatory Zodiac briefing, giving information on these rubber craft that are the secret to success for any expedition ship.  Designed by the British and perfected by the French, these inflatables allow us to cruise and land in places rigid hulled boats wouldn’t dream of going, so we were all excited at the prospect of our first landings tomorrow.

Those of us who are first time guests aboard a Silversea vessel were then welcomed to the Silversea family in a ‘First Timers Cocktail Party’ held in the Observation Lounge and hosted by Assistant Expedition Leader Esther Bruns and Captain Paul Heslop.  We sipped champagne cocktails and nibbled on hors d’oeuvres as we glided into Placentia Bay.

After lunch, the ship docked alongside the wharf at Argentia, and we were soon aboard the coaches and heading for Castle Hill, placed near the town of Placentia.  The Placentia area attracted Basque fishermen as early as the 16th century.  Large quantities of cod fish, highly prized in Europe, brought fishermen in droves.  The French government founded the colony of "Plaisance" in 1662.  However, Castle Hill is today listed as a National Historic Site and features the remains of the French and English fortifications built in the 17th and 18th centuries.  During this time both French and British forces fought sporadically for control of Newfoundland.  We were given a guided tour of the area, and had spectacular views out over Placentia and the surrounding harbour.  There was also enough time to explore the museum as well as listen to the music being played as part of a local music festival.

Back onboard the Prince Albert II, we left port a little ahead of time, cruising westwards towards the Ramea Islands.  We relaxed for a while before donning our glad rags for the Captain’s Welcome Cocktail Party, hosted by Captain Heslop in The Theatre, and a sumptuous dinner in The Restaurant.