Surprises, most good

2009/06/29

IMG_0089This is a land of mystery and surprise!

The days are so much longer than we expected — there’s still light in the sky at 10:30 p.m. local time and there are birds singing like mad things and plenty of light at 4:20 a.m.

As Phil says, when it’s light that early, you’re always sleeping in even if we get up at 6!

Last night we had my euchre dinner at Lightkeeper’s Cafe.  We play cards every day at the studio and I won the last tournament.  Good thing, since I don’t think I’ve won a game since!  Anyway, loser treats the winner to a special meal and I chose Lightkeeper’s.    We’d been in several times since we arrived last Friday but last evening was the first time there was a clear sky and no fog… and now we know why the Atlantic off this jut of land is called Iceberg Alley.   We could see four or five as we dined, all but two moving across our view as we ate.   Two are stuck!   One – the largest with about 100 feet out of the water and about 200 feet long — we met personally yesterday.

And that was one surprise.   Seasickness.  After a lifetime of nodding familiarity with boats of all sizes, suddenly, within five minutes of leaving the shore on the tour boat Gaffer III, I was nauseous.   Now, I thought seasickness meant you were queasy or  vomited.   Oh no.  I had chills in spite of the fact it was a warm, clear day and I was sweating like a stevedore.  And the other stuff, too – and too dizzy to walk.  The worst of it didn’t hit for about half an hour so I did get a good look at the whales.

And what whales they were!  Giant humpbacks, incredibly majestic and awfully playful.   They were within yards of the boat, surfacing, blowing and diving beneath the boat and surfacing on the other side, then round again.  I can’t believe we were that close to these wonderful creatures.  Best, you could see them when they were beneath the water, particularly the shimmery white of their fins.  

We had seen whales off the shore but, of course, at a distance. 

From the boat, it was as though they had come to play.  

Some wag ran around shouting “We’re going to need a bigger boat.”, the famous line from Jaws.  It was pretty daunting if you weren’t keeping your eye on the captain.   Since he was unconcerned — and delighted at finding this little group of co-operative whales — so was I.  At least about the proximity.

On the GafferIII

That said, I kept my eyes shut some part of the time because it relieved the seasickness.   After about half an hour with the whales, we steamed off to see the icebergs up close.  

That’s when I really became ill and went into the cabin where the captain sat.   It’s meant for passengers in bad weather, so there was lots of room to find the corner of a bench and close my eyes.  Another hour and a half of trip seemed like a nightmare at that point and while Phil did what he could, I kept encouraging him to get out and see the sights.  He did but he kept coming back to check on me so I felt awfully guilty about spoiling the tour.  He was, as always, gracious and sweet. 

We arrived at the huge iceberg and it was splendid…. crisply white with blue furrows where water had melted and re-frozen.   I looked as much as I could manage because, after all, this was what we’d come for!  And Phil took some great pictures.

The interpreter — a very entertaining and knowledgeable guide, the captain’s son with a degree in biology — told us this giant was aground in 360 feet of water.  He said it would melt in a couple of months.  Indeed, I didn’t see it, but while we were there, a huge shelf split off into the sea to the oohs and ahs of the passengers.  Apparently 1,000 icebergs per season parade by St. Anthony!  At this late date, from the shore we could see, at various times, four or five, spaced about a mile apart.

Phil and I had already seen whales in St. Andrew’s and while we travelled from Vancouver to Victoria on the ferry but this was a whole other experience — and not because of the seasickness!  First of all, you could hear the exhaling whoosh of the spouts of water when the whales “blew” which was amazing.   But more, I heard them making other noises.   It sounded just like the chatter I’ve heard on television programs about dolphins.   Was it them?  I think so but research will tell.  Dolphins are, after all, just small whales.  Or whales are just big dolphins!

At Lightkeeper’s, Phil had his first experience with crab legs and it was fun to eat these fresh steamed “sea spiders” as he called them.   He also order an appetizer of Baccalao, or salt cod and potato cakes.  I had a bite and was instantly taken back to childhood — my grandmother made a version of these.  I don’t know how it was spelled but it was pronouced back-a-LAH.   Close!

As always in these small tourist destinations, you see the same people through the week… people we saw at L’Anse Aux Meadows were on the boat the next day and at the same restaurant — one of two in town!-  last night.

I love St. Anthony and hope we enjoy Rocky Harbour as much.

Meanwhile, tomorrow it’s back up to the northern tip to check out more of the local colour.   Only 10,000 people in this northern penninsula of Nfld but enough scenery for 10 million.  

As is always the case when I’m on the east side of the country, I’m checking out real estate prices and trying to convince Phil to pack in Ontario so we can move out here and start a miniature golf course.

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