Voyage Journal 7811 Day 4

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Day 4 - August 18, 2008 - Battle Harbor, Labrador, Canada

By Juan Carlos Restrepo

Temperature: 210 C 70F
Weather: Partly cloudy
Pressure: 1002.4 hPa
Wind: 6 knots, 11 km/h SW wind
Latitude: 490 30’ 38’’N
Longitude: 0570 53’ 10’’W

This morning we woke up to find ourselves bathed in sunlight and a fresh breeze, a welcome change from the previous days. The weather conditions have improved, and the timing could not have been better because Gros Morne National Park (GMNP) definitely deserves to be seen under fair weather. 

This beautiful park in the west coast of Newfoundland was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its geological importance.  GMNP is one of the few places in the world where an ophiolite sequence is exposed.  Rocks from the upper mantle and the overlying oceanic crust formed at a mid-ocean spreading ridge are found here, along with other impressive geological formations that tell the story of supercontinents being ripped apart, and new oceans being formed and closed shut again by movement of the tectonic plates.  In GMNP the theory of continental drift and plate tectonics can be proved.  Furthermore, the glaciation history of the park is also interesting.  The long Range Ice Sheet carved deep fjords 15,000 years ago.  The disappearance of the ice led to the flooding of the valley, forming a fjord that later on was cut away from the ocean by the land rebounding when no longer under the weight of the ice sheet.  The Western Brook Pond used to be then, a fjord, but today it is a fresh water lake.

At 8:30 am, a group of about 55 guests disembarked for a nature walk that would take us by coach from Norris Point, past Sally Beach, to Western Brook Pond.  From there we walked in two separate groups led by national park guides and Expedition Staff from the Prince Albert II.  A 6 km roundtrip took us across a marsh (over boardwalks at places) that delivered great plant and animal life, as well as fine views of the fjord and clean fresh air. 

Following the disembarkation of the hikers, two more groups came ashore and went on a bus tour that started off at the Visitor Center where a movie on the park was shown and interpretative displays were seen.  Then, back on to the coach to visit the lighthouse where we had a great view of the sea (as one gets at most lighthouses) and could take a short walk through a woodland down to the shoreline. The lighthouse is now automated but previously the townsfolk had to donate kerosene for the running of the light. The building that housed the lighthouse keeper has been converted into a small interpretative center on the social history of the community. Then the tour moved on past Sally’s Cove (population 15) to the Western Brook Pond Lookout, which afforded magnificent views of the mountains in the background of a wide low lying marsh. 

We were all back on board at 1:30 just in time for lunch.  At 3:00 pm, Dr. Brent Stephenson delivered his lecture “Birding 101, an Introduction to Tweetie-Birds and the Weird People That Watch Them”.  Tea was served at 4pm, and at 5pm our environmentalist Claudia Holgate gave her talk “Weather and Climate of the North Atlantic”, where she gave a brief overview of global climate and a more detailed look at the climate systems in the Newfoundland area. The highlight of the talk was the animated model illustrating all the major climate systems. At 6:45 pm we got together in The Theatre for the day’s recap and briefing for tomorrow’s events in St Pierre.

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