Western Brook Pond, Newfoundland – Slap me! Am I dreaming?
We were just entering the Fjord when the sound of cameras began to fire rapidly. People are in marvel at the near vertical rock walls that reach almost 2000 ft into the sky – waterfalls leaping over their edges, disappearing into a veil of mist well before ever reaching the water far below.
I know what your thinking, he must be in Norway. Nope not exactly. If the title wasn’t enough of a dead giveaway, I am on the West Coast of Newfoundland, in Gros Morne National Park to be precise. Here in the park lies the Western Brook Pond. First, before we move on any further I must explain something to you if you are not familiar with Newfoundland and it’s unique lingo.
Newfoundlanders are a funny bunch – let me elaborate on this. When I think of a pond I can’t help but envision a small body of water that is home to a family of ducks in the summer months and during the winter months is froze over, thick with cool ice and surrounded by decaying bulrushes and cattails. Here you would find enthusiastic young Canadian kids putting on their scarves, toques and mittens and lacing up their skates with hockey stick in hand, practicing with passion in their eyes hoping to become the next great NHL star.
Also in Newfoundland an ugly stick is not some dirty old stick that you toss into the campfire, but rather an actual musical instrument made from a broom stick, bottle caps, a tin can and other peculiar noise making household items.
So, don’t be fooled by the name, this is no pond, this is a glacier carved Fjord with a body of water that stretches 16km through massive granite walls which are part of the Long Range Mountains of Newfoundland and in part are the Northen most section of the Appalachian Mountains. The water snaking through the Fjord is said to be some of the purest water found anywhere in the world.
It was an absolute glorious day – sunny, 28 degrees and clear blue skies, which in my experience is not common enough in Newfoundland. We were aboard a boat with 70 or so other people and I sat beside a couple from Toronto. The gentleman next to me tells me his name – wait for it – Jack Dawson. Yes, you read that right. I am on a boat with a man named Jack Dawson in Newfoundland. As you may or may not know, Newfoundland was the closet piece of land to the sinking of the infamous ship, the “Titanic”. Nova Scotia was a close second and being the major port harbour on Canada’s east coast, they sent out 3 ships to assist with the disaster – what was thought to be a rescue mission at the time.
Locally run tour company, Bon Tours were conducting this Fjord boat tour and in fact are the only licensed company to do so, in order to keep marine traffic to a minimum and help preserve the natural surroundings of the area as they have been for thousands of years.
Jack and I shared many stories of travel with one another. Jack being a Scotsman and myself being a first generation Scot we had an immediate bond and many topics to discuss. The landscape around us had an ancient feel and one can only imagine the force and time it took to shape and transform this geological feature as you see it today. Hanging valleys can be seen as a result from ancient glaciers which have long since receded and left this remarkable site.
Just then the guides point out a face in the rock walls that has been named the “Tin Man”, resembling the character from OZ. I over hear some people chatting about only man could have carved such a feature – NO my friend that is the work of Mother Nature showcasing her artistic skills – Amazing.
Not even realizing with all the excitement and surrounding scenery we came to the end of the Fjord, where one of tallest waterfalls in Eastern North America plunges from the cliffs. Pissing Mare Falls drops 1148 ft to the forest and waters below. Who comes up with these names? they deserve an award. The falls marked the end of the Fjord and it was pretty evident that glaciers once ruled this land. The V-shaped valley at one time would have been completely covered in ice and the glacier would stretch far down the reaches of the Fjord towards the sea. Not only would the landscape be different from what you see today but also the wildlife that it supported. Wildlife from the tundra region would have roamed freely in search of food, fighting against the unrelenting winds coming off the Atlantic and sweeping across the flood plain towards the Fjord. Some of those sub-arctic animals can still be found today in parts of Newfoundland including the Arctic Fox and Arctic Hare, Caribou and even the odd Polar Bear which swims over from Labrador for a visit.
On our way back Bon Tours showcased the local musical talent by playing songs from Great Big Sea and Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers. The rockstars within decide to shine as the crowd began to slap their knees, stomp their feet and sing along with the uplifting traditional music, even though most pf the people didn’t really know the words of the songs.
We arrive back at the boat launch with many smiling faces from our experience. The crowd piled off the boat and people began to mingle with the folks waiting to board for their tour. Everyone seem to be beaming with life and their was a great energy filling the salty sea air. I extended my hand out to Jack for a friendly hand shake and farewell when…….
Jack slaps me square in the kisser, hard and loud enough to draw attention from a number of people in the crowd.
“What the #$%@ was that for?” I ask. Steam coming from my ears.
He smiles, following a chuckle.
“Sorry I just got really excited” and proceeds to give me a genuine hug.
Wow, being slapped in the face by a man named Jack Dawson in a Fjord – now that was well worth the ticket price.