Wednesday, August 15, 2012

it's a what?


'What the hell was that?' came to both our lips this morning as we walked alongside the Eastern Passage part of our park walk. What we'd both seen was a group of large seabirds diving head first into the deep channel from high in the air. Even to a city girl like me it was obvious they were out there fishing and that these were no ordinary seagulls. Seagulls will skim the waves or sometimes dive like ducks from the surface but you never see them do anything so rash as powering straight down like WWII kamikazes. Although the flock wasn't as large as this one, the birds provided enough entertainment that we sat on a rock and watched them until they flew further out to sea. Once I got home it didn't take much google time to discover they were gannets - white birds with yellow heads, black wing tips, and an eighty inch wingspan. They aren't seen around here very often but they do nest in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Although Halifax really isn't a very big city when compared to places like Toronto, Boston, or London, in these parts it's the biggest urban area to be found for hundreds of miles (or kilometers as many people here describe distance). In the US you can go for long road trips through some pretty desolate reaches but so long as you stay on the main highways you know there'll be one of those food and fuel signs not too far away. That's not at all necessarily true on this side of the border. Canada is huge and only very well populated close to its southern edge. Things can get pretty wild once you venture away from the populous areas.


Our unexpected sight of gannets made me think again just how neat it would be to visit Newfoundland and Labrador. Up to now we haven't made any trips out of town that didn't allow us time enough to get home by the end of the day. Once we've moved (in just about a month) and settled in, perhaps we'll plan that trip for next summer. Apparently it takes 5 hours to drive from here to North Sydney on Cape Breton Island. Goodness knows it would be tempting enough to stay there for a while but the plan would be to go to Newfoundland - a six hour ferry ride to Argentia on the eastern shore. From there I haven't yet begun to imagine - never mind plan but thousands of gannets and kiitiwakes nest at a place called Cape St. Mary. Viewing the birds requires standing at the edge of a cliff (the local rule is to beware of fog and slippery grass) where you can watch them flying back and forth from their 300 foot tall nesting rock.


It sounds pretty nice, doesn't it? Yet on a scale of 1 to 10 when it comes to hiking and camping, we'd be at level minus 1. Walking is good - hiking requires much extra effort. At least we know that much. Then there's that ferry:



If you're interested in seeing a 10 minute video I found made by someone who spent two weeks traveling in Newfoundland you can see it here (it picks up after the first 90 sec). Ever since I read the book 'Shipping News' by E. Annie Proulx I've wanted to see the place myself. The movie got worse reviews than it deserved but watching it is still a pleasant way to spend a few hours.

When we go I hope Crow will be here to accompany us. He'd love cliff diving. Me, not so much.

Are there any places you dream of seeing?


21 comments:

Life As I Know It Now said...

Wow, nice to see the birds doing their thing I bet. As for where I'd wanting to go, I want to see the Redwood Forest really badly. I want to see Giant Trees!!! Take care dear susan!

Gina Duarte said...

Cape Breton is one of the most beautiful and unspoiled places I've visited. It's been too long since we've traveled to Nova Scotia. We miss it very much. It is such a task to get there from here. At one time there was a ferry you could take from Maine but it was discontinued. The last time we went, we had to drive forever to New Brunswick to catch the ferry and drove and drove some more to get to Cetreville, which is only an hour north of Halifax. You and Numb moved only a couple of months after our visit, I believe.

I remember imagining having you and Numb come visit us in the stone cottage we rented, staying overnight and then waking up early to drink our coffee and walk on the beach. Perhaps one day, I hope. :-)

I loved, loved the novel The Shipping News also. I love the way Annie Proulx plays with words and the rhythm of her prose. I think that novel is one of the best contemporary novels I've ever read. As for the movie, I loved Judy Dentch and Kevin Spacey in their roles but I not only not like the acting of Julianne Moore much, she was also a disappointing Wavy, whom I pictured as being a stocky, earthy woman, not a physically fragile and ethereal one. It was a hard novel to adapt to the screen.

Wow! What a wild ride on the Newfoundland ferry! You'd better damn well have some really strong sea legs!

I want to go to Brasil. We've talked of it...

marja-leena said...

Amazing birds, how lucky you were to see them!

I have always wanted to see Quebec and the Maritimes. We are thinking of doing so sometime in the next few years, maybe fly to Toronto and rent a small motorhome, toodle around a few weeks, watch the fall colours, see the great tides, go to L'Anse Aux Meadows in Newfoundland, visit some friends in Halifax....

I loved The Shipping News too! Enjoyed the movie too, though not as much as the book.

Randal Graves said...

So much awesome here. I must go darkthroning in Canadastan someday, and though yay! seas!, having a wimpy estomac, I'm a bit wary of flopping ferries.

susan said...

I was lucky enough to see the Redwood Forest of northern California. It was like being in a cathedral but even more holy if you know what I mean. I hope you get to travel there.

susan said...

Yes, we were stunned to learn the ferry from Yarmouth to Portland, ME made its last run within weeks of our arrival here. Apparently the NDP provincial government didn't want to fund the extra security required by the US and so cancelled the service. We felt bad for ourselves not being able to make a smooth trip to 95 and for the people here and there whose lifestyles were shattered. In a sane world we should be able to take a ferry all the way to Boston and back. I do hope we can meet some day either here or in your Happy Valley - or maybe even a trip to a Boston museum with dinner afterwards.

I loved the Shipping News novel and would agree about it being among the very best of contemporary literature. I agree with your take on the movie but the setting in Newfoundland was rare enough that I forgave the casting mistake and the plot changes. Judy Dench was wonderful.

From what I can understand the usual ferry ride is much less exciting than this. Jer said that ride would be the beginning and end of his adventure.

Japan would be nice too :-)

susan said...

They were back again today too so we were lucky twice.

I saw pictures of L'Anse Aux Meadows when I was looking for information about the parks there. A Norse community in North America long before Columbus isn't common knowledge further south. Of course, they were long gone by the time all the other action took place so I guess it's no wonder.

You'd love to see this area and the trip from Ontario to the Maritimes along the Trans Canada highway is an amazing drive. Naturally, we'd love to show you some of the sights of Halifax and we do have a couple of favorite restaurants..

I'm glad to know you also enjoyed both versions of the Shipping News.

susan said...

I don't think that's usual for the ferry to Newfoundland but the video did amuse moi. Darkthroning in Canadastan would be great fun for you and you know you have some friends here too.

linda said...

this boat is certainly enough to make one swear off them after watching this. i have watched deadliest catch about crab fishers on the bering sea and they don't catch that much air!!! yikes... i am scared of the ocean so never will i be on one anyway.

the birds are cool. i have seen them on tv but of course, never in rl. oh well... if i were to say ONE place, it would be paris. yes, i know, so perfectly ordinary a dream but it is the museums, galleries and plain old history i am after. son was there and insists i must go. but once there, i'm staying-if there ever-for at least a month because i must then go south and paint ... it's a tradition i think. or not. :) xxx

linda said...

if i could have done it before it was gone, Llasa... sadly it is no more. xxx

susan said...

From what I've come to understand the ferry to Newfoundland is usually a much calmer trip than this one had. Then again, it is year round and people go back and forth in winter storms too.. Yikes.

Yeah, I've seen some pretty amazing films about birds too (do you remember Winged Migration?) What was amazing was to see the gannets in real life - right there on an ordinary day. It was amazing.

I'm glad I got to spend 3 months in Paris in the mid-60's. At one point I went to the Louvre every day for nearly a month. Then came the afternoon I found myself alone in a basement gallery with Michelangelo's Slaves. I was so overwhelmed I decided afterwards I'd probably had enough for the time being. The time being has been a long time but I never forgot.
xoxo

susan said...

I read Alexandra David Neel's books some years ago and was stunned by what she did - just about the first westerner to ever get to Lhasa. I think she was 50 when she set out. There's a French website about her life. No, it is no more and that is very sad.

linda said...

what an amazing experience this must have been! I do remember winged migration. it is always surprising for me to see birds I do not expect to be here. recently it is the white hawk...she is a beautiful creature and faster than the wind....xxx

susan said...

The great benefit of paying is attention is being shown how many details there are in creation. Where I once just saw seagulls now I've learned there are many different types. How wonderful you have a white hawk visiting your neighborhood.

marja-leena said...

Susan, I just picked up my August issue of National Geographic magazine to read in a cool place in the garden. Lo! there's a fabulous article and photos of gannets.

I'd love to be shown around Halifax by you, thanks! Fingers crossed that we make the trip one day - we are not big travellers and less so the past few years.

Rob-bear said...

Oh, yes; there are so many types of gulls, and other sea birds like Puffins, and Auks, and Kittiwakes, and Murres, and Guillemots and lots more.

Rob-bear said...

As soon as I saw those birds i knew they were Gannets. Strange birds they are.

We went to Cape St. Mary's, when we were in Newfoundland a few years ago. The fog was thick, and the grass slippery. But the birds were making this huge racket, so they were fairly easy to find. Each seemed to have a few square centimetres of space, but they seemed to know where they were, even if they were jostling each other around.

Francis Hunt said...

Taking the post-boat along the Norwegian coast and out to the Lofoten islands. I did it once over thirty years ago and it's a journey I'd love to repeat. In midsummer, when the sun never sets ...

susan said...

That was a wonderful coincidence. It makes me happy you got to see more pictures that may tempt you to come and visit this other coast. We'd be delighted to show you around.

susan said...

If you went to Cape St. Mary's it's no surprise you recognized the gannets right away. I envy you having been there and I'm very glad you suffered no accidents in the fog.

susan said...

Oh, that does sound like a fine dream, Francis.