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Entries about icebergs

Bull Head Lighthouse, Bay Bulls

Moving on down the Southern shore of the Avalon, the next lighthouse is Bull Head in Bay Bulls. We visited Bay Bulls on our first full day in Newfoundland, June 9, 2006, after our stop at Cape Spear.

We were there for a boat cruise with O’Brien’s. It was surprisingly comfortable on the boat for late spring on the North Atlantic. We first sailed past the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, home to largest Atlantic Puffin colony in North America (260,000 pairs). The four islands are a nesting ground for approximately 4 million seabirds. We saw lots of birds, but only had a quick glimpse of a whale.

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The following year we came back with my mother-in-law on Canada Day (July 1). We again took the O’Brien’s tour and again did not see any whales, but there was an iceberg, and it came with some great lighting. I refer to magical moments in my main travel blog. That was one such moment. I lined it up in my viewfinder and knew I had a good one.

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On the way back I took my first photograph of the Bullhead Lighthouse.

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On our third trip to the area we went a little further down the road to a town called Mobile. My wife’s cousins were visiting. I thought I should be a good host and take them out on a whale watching trip. Someone told me about the boat trips from Mobile and that they use smaller boats. It sounded great to me.

The weather was gorgeous, not a cloud in the sky. The kiosk for the boat is on the main highway. Cousin insisted on paying. We turned down the road to the boat launch, and suddenly we were in a bank of fog. But the plan seemed to be that the boat would still go out. I could not understand how we would ever see anything. The man mentioned that they had a seen a whale the other day. I thought, “You saw a whale? The other day? That’s it?”

A small group of us boarded the little boat. We started to pull away. Then we came to a sudden stop. The tow line had gotten wound around the propeller. We were only about 10 metres from the dock, so no one was too concerned. The owner was summoned, we were pulled back to the dock and told that we could get our money back or come back in the afternoon. Our visitors literally jumped for joy. They hate little boats but were too polite to tell us. We drove out of the fog, got our refund, had a nice lunch along the way, and saw lots of whales at Cape Spear without leaving dry land.

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Our last boat trip was in June 2016. We had visitors again, including my mother-in-law and a couple of my wife’s old schoolmates. They were keen to take the boat. This time we tried another tour company, Gatherall’s. We did not see that many puffins, but after bouncing around for awhile they brought us next to a humpback.

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On the way back I took another photograph of the lighthouse.

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I had warned my group about the optional “screeching in” ceremony. In my opinion the custom of being screeched in is a silly tourist thing. Tourists are asked to kiss a codfish (usually not fresh, so either frozen or a stuffed toy) and drink some of the local rum product, screech. My group took my advice and did not book the ceremony. They were quite happy when they witnessed the hapless tourists going through the ceremony on the boat, especially since Gatherall’s has a couple of strange variations. They have the tourists dip their shoes in a bucket of water (so a wet shoe for the afternoon). They then pour the screech down the poor folks’ throats. When you visit Newfoundland, skip the kissing the cod part, but try to go out fishing, jig yourself some nice fresh cod, and eat the cod while drinking some screech. Or just go to a restaurant and order some cod and a shot of screech.

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The two boat operations, O’Brien’s and Gatherall’s, are quite similar. The Gatherall’s boat is a big larger, so perhaps a little more stable, but the singing is better on O’Brien’s.

I have hiked to the lighthouse two times. They were on consecutive weekends back in 2013. The East Coast Trail Association (the wonderful group that looks after our fantastic network of hiking trails along the coast) has an annual fund-raising hike. That year it was run out of Bay Bulls. Our friends wanted to hike the trail in advance and asked us to go along. It was a beautiful late spring day, sunny all the way from Pouch Cove to Bay Bulls. We started walking and were soon in the fog. It persisted all the way to the lighthouse and all the way back. Once we got in the car, it was sunny again.

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It was raining the day of the actual hike. The forecast was for more of the same. I thought we should skip it, but the group was keen to go. Thinking that the day would be too messy for photographs, I decided to leave my camera at home. The clouds went away. I took a couple of photographs with my phone, but in those days, I was a bit of a snob and did not consider a phone worthy of photography, so thought that I would save my lighthouse photograph for my next trip. I have never made it back. But I did have a photo of us in front of the lighthouse, taken by another friend. In this year of staycation, I intend to finally get back there for a good photograph (assuming the weather cooperates).

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About the lighthouse, it was first lit in 1908.

Posted by Bob Brink 16:17 Archived in Canada Tagged lighthouses whales canada icebergs newfoundland Comments (8)

Long Point Lighthouse, Twillingate

From Bonavista, we are now heading west to my next lighthouse in Twillingate. We need an overnight stop along the way.

Welcome to Salvage, a picturesque fishing community at the end of the Eastport Peninsula. At the time of our visit in 2009, I was not aware that there is a lighthouse visible from the walking trail in Salvage. One day I need to go back and take that photo. We were pleased to find a nice sandy beach on our way back to Eastport.

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Further along we pass the town of Gambo, the hometown of Newfoundland and Labrador’s first Premier, Joey Smallwood. Joey might have been small, standing only 5 ft, 5 inches, but he was stands large in Newfoundland’s history. He was a key player in getting Newfoundland into confederation with Canada in 1949 and then served as premier for 23 years. You can imagine that he must have had many supporters in order to get elected 6 times with large majorities of both the popular vote and seat counts. He also had more than a few detractors. There is still some bitterness regarding Newfoundland losing its independence.

One year we stopped in Gambo and visited the museum dedicated to Joey. One thing that impressed me were the 3D photos of Joey. He loved them. This is an election version I found online.

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There is a scenic overlook of Gambo on the TransCanada highway, past the turnoff for the town. One constant at the parking lot is the chip wagon, a place to get French fries on the go. There is a nice view. We have never tried the chips.

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By the way, do not expect fine cuisine along the way. I do recommend the fried ice cream at Monty’s Place at the gas plaza near Whitbourne, which is way back on the Avalon, about an hour out of St. John’s. The main menu is full of what one could call typical Newfoundland restaurant fare such as fried cod, fish & chips, fish fingers, and roast beef sandwiches. Just think of gravy.

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The turnoff for Twillingate is in Gander. In my Brigus Point post I mentioned Newfoundland’s role in early transatlantic aviation with early air adventurers using the island as a base for their historic flights across the ocean. For many decades Gander played a serious role in both military and civilian aviation. It was an important air post during World War II when over 10,000 Canadian, British, and American military personnel were based there. After the war, the Gander International Airport was used for refueling for international flights between Europe and North America.

That traffic declined with the advent of modern jets, but in the early 1980’s eastern bloc airlines still used the airport. The airport was a stop on flights to Cuba, so asylum seekers would book their Cuban holidays and then force their way off the planes in Gander.

After the September 11 attacks in 2001, 38 civilian and 4 military US bound flights were ordered to land at the airport after the US closed its airspace, stranding more than 6,600 passengers and crew. The people of the small town sprung into action, providing the needed food and shelter, as well as entertainment, and most important of all, a warm Newfoundland welcome. A Broadway play, “Come from Away”, commemorates the town’s great hospitality on that occasion.

There is a memorial site just east of the town for Arrow Air Flight 1285, which crashed on December 12, 1985, with the loss of 256 lives. The plane was carrying US armed forces returning from a 6-month peacekeeping mission in the Sinai.

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Twillingate is 1.5 hours north of Gander. Like many places in Newfoundland, its name comes from an original French name, “Toulinquet”, given by French fishermen.

We chose Twillingate for our stop on our way back to Pouch Cove in June 2008. The town has declared itself the Iceberg Capital of the World. We were pleased to see a large iceberg and just after checking into our B&B walked up a hill to have a better look. We would have considered a boat tour, but the weather turned rather cloudy and then quite rainy over the next couple of days.

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We visited the town’s museum where we learned about the polar bear that had visited off an ice floe. He is now stuffed. One night we took in a musical performance by a local group, The Split Peas, a group of seven women singers who have been putting on a weekly performance for over twenty years.

Twillingate is on a small island which is connected by causeways. There are several small fishing communities on the island. With its sheltered harbour and once rich fishing grounds, Twillingate was once a major fishing centre. There is still some activity, but nothing like the first half of the twentieth century.

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There is also a great lighthouse, the Long Point Lighthouse, which was completed in 1876. There was an earthquake on November 18, 1929, that caused a tsunami on the Burin Peninsula. The earthquake actually caused cracks in Twillingate’s lighthouse, several hundred kilometres from the offshore epicenter. The lighthouse was then encased in a foot of reinforced concrete. The view could have been fantastic from the lighthouse but not on the day that we visited.

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Posted by Bob Brink 15:06 Archived in Canada Tagged lighthouses canada icebergs newfoundland twillingate Comments (2)

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