National Geographic Explorer sailed into the Bay of Islands this morning, an extensive inlet on the west coast of Newfoundland that earned its name from the many islands that dot its waters. We began the day with a Zodiac cruise along the shores of Lark Harbour, a small fishing community opposite the Blow Me Down Provincial Park. Mountains made of glaciated rock jutted out of the water impressively, and we spotted several eagles, including one large fledgling that had yet to develop the species’ distinctive white head and tail. We also spotted kingfishers and cormorants flying along the waves.
The rest of the day was spent leisurely cruising past striking landscapes, including a sneak preview of the rust-colored ancient rocks of the Tablelands in Gros Morne National Park, which we are visiting tomorrow. Naturalist Serguei Ponomarenko offered a lecture on these and other rocks that we can expect to see during our trip around Newfoundland and Labrador. Hailey Shchepanik discussed the many shipwrecks found under the waters of Red Bay, Labrador, once the site of a Basque whaling village.
Of course, no day can pass on the ship without some kind of special culinary treat, and today the hotel department did not disappoint when they announced grilled sausages on the sun deck. The wild boar sausages proved to be the most popular, with pork and cheese and Italian spices following close behind.
During recap, cultural specialist Ossie Michelin reminded us about the unique role Newfoundlanders played on September 11, 2001 and the days that followed. On this day twenty-two years ago, thirty-eight planes were forced to land in Gander, a small city with a large runway left over from its days as a refueling site during the early years of cross-Atlantic flights. The hospitality showed by locals to the thousands of stranded travelers rejuvenated their faith in the ultimate goodness of humanity in the wake of those terrible terrorist attacks. The events inspired a number of books as well as the acclaimed Broadway musical “Come From Away.” Over two decades later, many of the “come from aways,” which is what Newfoundlanders call people not from here, who experienced those chaotic days return to Gander on this day to visit and reconnect with the friends they made on “The Rock.”