Newfoundland/Labrador Day 18: Off the Road and On the Water
Some days on the road stand out above others, even when you’re not actually on the road. Today was one of those days. I went to another museum this morning and it was interesting, but that’s not what made the day special.
Today I checked off “kayaking among icebergs” on my bucket list. What a blast! I went to one of the local kayak/zodiac boat tour operators and was the only one there so I had a one-on-one guided tour by Mitch, a 20-something kid who was guiding for the summer while he figured out what he wanted to do with his life. Nice kid and pretty laid back.
I got suited up in the appropriate kayaking gear and we headed out of the harbor and onto the open seas where the icebergs were. The wind was up a little when we got outside the harbor, but not enough to turn us back so we continued to paddle out to the bergs. They’re amazing from the shore but unbelievably awesome from up close. The colors, the texture, the constantly changing shape as you circle around them made for a great on-the-water experience.
I knew going out that we wouldn’t get right next to them because they can break or flip at any time and would easily swamp our little kayaks. We generally stayed about 20 yards away, maybe a little further from the bigger ones.
Each iceberg, as one circles around it, becomes dozens of different icebergs as the light reflects differently and the shape constantly changes as you change perspective.
I gave Mitch my (old) camera to take pictures for posterity and to remind everyone what you can do when you’re retired. We paddled out to one of the bigger ones that was pretty well out to sea, with the plan of coming back toward shore (with the wind at our backs) and seeing some of the others. One of the bigger ones was streaked with brown/red stripes that I’m pretty sure were the result of volcanic eruptions from Iceland a few years ago, though it could have been any airborne dust that settled on the Greenland glaciers as they were forming.
As we positioned ourselves between two large bergs to take a picture, we heard an explosion-like sound behind us and knew what it was. It was an iceberg breaking up. We turned to see which one and about 4 seconds later the berg closest to us lost about 1/3 of its surface mass as the ice came crashing down into the water. It set the kayaks rocking some: exciting but not dangerous. But if we had been right next to the berg as it broke up, it would have been a serious situation. Mitch, who’s been guiding in Twillingate for only two weeks, said he’d seen another break up last week but from a distance. He said he’d never been this close to one and said it was as exciting for him as it was for me.
The wind continued to pick up and we headed back for the harbor, picking up a small piece of 15,000 year-old ice for me to cool my Jack with for the next couple of days.
The iceberg kayaking was one of the adventures I had really hoped to have on this trip, and today’s experience was better than I expected. Being up close to these massive ice cubes was cool, but the break up was something special.
I’m going to hear some local Newfie music tonight but probably won’t add to this blog when I get back because it will be late. I may, though, as I sip my iceberg-chilled Jack.
Watch out for falling ice and I’ll do the same.
11 p.m. Addition: I just returned from a first-rate musical performance by a local singer and her two guitar accompanists. It was an order of magnitude better than the dinner theatre entertainment last night. She has a great voice and a very wide repertoire: Blues, folk, traditional, bluegrass, country and her original songs which were as good as any of the others. Bought a CD that will keep me entertained on the road. (I found a link to a YouTube video of her singing lead on a song she wrote for a group of women–The Split Peas–that she sings with. Click here if you’re interested in hearing her.)
Now I’m going to close the evening with a sip of Jack over 15,000 year-old ice. Life is good.