From Corner Brook we headed up the Northern Peninsular through the Grose Morne National Park and toward L'Anse aux Meadows. We were told that there were approximately 5 moose for every man woman and child in Newfoundland but at this stage we had only seen a few. Moose are not indigenous to Newfoundland. There were 4 introduced in 1904 and this has lead to the estimated 150,000 that roam the country side today. With a human population of approximately 520,000 people in Newfoundland Labrador the above statistic doesn't quite stack up. Maybe the legend has grown from 1 moose to every 5 people? However through the Grose Morne National Park our visual tally increased dramatically. There is argument that Grose Morne National Park has the highest density of moose anywhere.
Within the Park are some incredible fjords gouged out by glacial activity. Because of their great depth and the amount of freshwater entering the seawater environment the fjords have developed a distinctive biodiversity.
Shortly after leaving the National Park boundary Bill spotted 3 caribou grazing around a small lake. Wow, we had travelled all through the barren lands and here were some way north of where we expected to see them. The terrain they seemed to prefer was certainly the open treeless type country. The caribou were still sporting their white winter coat. Further along more caribou where sited and snow covered peaks to 600m came right down to the Strait of Belle Isle at St John Bay. Amazingly rugged terrain.
Residents winter wood supplies were stacked along side the road. This wood is cut out of the forest in the winter and dragged out with snowmobiles to the roadside for collection when things thaw and dry out. It is then cut, split and stacked for the next winter. Timber is traditionally collected during the frozen winter because it is easier to slide the fallen trees on the ice and it also keeps them cleaner of sand and dirt making it easier on saws when cutting up the trees.
Literally thousands of lobster pots were also neatly stacked along the roadside, for what reason I am not sure. There was plenty to be seen being used in the Strait as you drove along, particularly when close to the many small settlements located in nearly every cove, bay and inlet.
The further north we travelled up the peninsular many of the lakes were still covered in ice and snow persisted in sheltered areas. Also the sun was rising earlier and setting later. As we looked across the Strait of Belle Isle we could see the snow covered peaks in Labrador.
We made our way out to L'Anse aux Meadows, at the northern point of Newfoundland, where Norse Vikings had settled circa 1000AD almost 500 years before Columbus had discovered the Dominican Republic and Haiti. A sod house, typical of the period, has been constructed on site although it was not open when we were there. There was still a couple of feet of snow around the house. But you could still look over the remains of the original buildings, eight wood and sod buildings, which had been excavated in the 1960's by Norwegian explorer Helge Ingstad. He had determined there must be a settlement west of Greenland after reading Norse sagas. Norse sagas are written versions of older oral traditions. Two Icelandic sagas, commonly called the Saga of the Greenlandersand the Saga of Eric the Red, describe the experiences of Norse Greenlanders who discovered and attempted to settle land to the west of Greenland, identified by them as Vinland. The sagas suggest that the Vinland settlement failed because of conflicts within the Norse community, as well as between the Norse and the native people they encountered. When Ingstad was told of Indian mounds being at L'Anse aux Meadows he instigated an archaeological dig led by archaeologist Anne Stine Ingstad (Helge Ingstad's wife) and verified it was a Norse settlement.
That night we stayed in St Anthony, a town of approximately 2,500 - 3,000 inhabitants. Historically, settlement occurred in the early 16th century when French and Basque fishermen used the well protected harbour. When explorer Jacques Cartier came across the settlement in 1534 it was already known as St Anthony Haven. The next morning we visited the Grenfell Interpretive Centre, a exhibition recounting the historic and sometimes dramatic life of Sir Wilfred Grenfell. A truly inspirational man who came to Newfoundland Labrador, in 1892, as a doctor and spent his life travelling by dog sled, and boat to give medical assistance to the 30,000 residents who had no access to medical help or facilities before he arrived. He built hospitals and nursing stations as well as fitting out hospital ships to travel the coastal regions. He also understood that a lot of the medical problems of the people were due to malnutrition because of poverty and poor diet and so he organised fishing co-operatives along the coast to raise the earning capacity of the fishermen as well as teaching the people to grow vegetables and establishing plant conservatories to provide seed and advice to families. All this he accomplished by raising money from rich benefactors in England, Europe and America. Truly a remarkable man.
From St Anthony we headed for St Barbe to catch the ferry to Labrador and battle the horrendous road conditions of almost 1,000km of gravel road from Red Bay to Labrador City. Or so we were told. And guess what trotted across the road right in front of us outside the entrance to the St Anthony's airport? Yep, another caribou.