In the afternoon board your vessel, the One Ocean Navigator/Ioffe and set sail from Saint-Pierre along the coastline of Newfoundland. Saint-Pierre and its accompanying island of Miquelon are the last bastions of the former French empire, called New France that covered large parts of eastern North America. They have served France well as an access point to the Grand Banks fishery and also as a hub for rum-runners during the prohibition era in the United States.
Sail along the French shore of western Newfoundland, stopping at the Port Au Port Peninsula to explore the French history of fishing on this coast. With over 500 years of history on the coast of Newfoundland, French fishermen have played a large role in the development of this part of Newfoundland. Visit the small town of Port Au Port or continue your exploration of the coast and stop at another scenic spot.
Sail into majestic Bonne Bay, in the heart of Gros Morne National Park. Cliff’s soar up out of the bay on your starboard side covered in a green velvet of tuckamore – windswept spruce sculpted by the ocean breeze. Your destination will be the town of Woody Point where you will be welcomed ashore by a delegation from the community. With a few shops and pubs along the shore road, Woody Point is also your jumping off point for a hike up to the Discovery Centr – Gros Morne National Parks interpretation center. From there various hikes will be guided out into the Tablelands (UNESCO world heritage geologic feature) and the Lookoff for a view over much of the park. Keep your eyes peeled for moose as you hike in the park and take time to look down for some of the orchids of the boreal bog and the pitcher plant.
Arrive at L’Anse aux Meadows, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and go ashore in your sturdy Zodiacs, landing on the beach, reminiscent of the ancient Norsemen. L’Anse aux Meadows is a corruption of the original French L’Anse au Meduse meaning Jellyfish Creek. This is where Norseman, Leif Erikson, is thought to have founded “Vinland” in 1000 AD. As you explore the reconstructed sod huts and Norse ruins with the site’s archaeologist, see evidence that the Vikings discovered North America five hundred years before Columbus arrived.
During the afternoon, set sail for the coast of Labrador and cross the Strait of Belle Isle to arrive at Battle Harbour, one of the first British-based settlements in the east and home to the Church of St. James the Apostle, built in 1852. Explore the restored fishing, whaling, commercial and religious buildings of this remote community, amid the backdrop of breathtaking coastal views. On the way across the Strait be on the lookout for Humpback and Minke whales, along with seals and many species of pelagic birds. Dr. Wilfred Grenfell built one of the first hospitals in Labrador in Battle Harbour in 1893, with one doctor and one nurse on staff. Further along the coast arrive at Hawkes Harbour in the late afternoon for a visit to an abandoned whaling station built in 1933 and operated by the Newfoundland Whaling Co. Ltd.
Today make your way along the wild and ruggedly beautiful coast of Labrador with some cliffs rising as sheer rock walls over 1500 metres. While sailing be watching from the bridge and upper decks of the Ioffe looking for Humpback, Minke whales, White-beaked Dolphins and perhaps Orcas. You will pass the site of the proposed new Mealy Mountains National Park. The Park represents 39 distinct Canadian ecosystems and has been home to Labrador Innu, Inuit, Métis, descendents of European settlers and Quebec Innu. Plan to explore Porcupine Strand, a spectacular length of beach on the Atlantic Coast. This long line of sand glints in the sunshine, sweeping in a graceful arc for over 40 kilometers. Signs of human habitation have been found here dating back some 7,000 years.
The ancient rocks of the Canadian Shield cradling the hamlet of Hopedale, population approximately 620, will greet you as you rise this morning. After breakfast, go ashore by Zodiac visit the Hopedale Moravian Mission – built in 1782 and said to be the oldest building east of Quebec. Here learn about the influence of the Moravian missionaries on the Inuit people of Northern Labrador. Hope to visit the local museum and perhaps buy a carving or two from the local Inuit as you explore the town.
Today hope to visit Hebron, once the northernmost settlement in Labrador. The Moravian missionaries established Hebron in 1831. The Mission was closed and the Inuit families relocated in 1959 but the buildings still stand today. Designated as a National Historic Site in 1976, the buildings stand as a testament to the influence of Moravian missionaries in the very remote stretches of the coast of Labrador. Buddy and Jenny are the Nunatsiavut Government ambassadors who will welcome you to this site and share the history of the site with you.
Sail into Saglek Fjord, the southern gateway to the Torngat Mountains National Park Reserve, established in 2005. The Torngat Mountains National Park Reserve covers 9,600 square kilometres in Northern Labrador, bordering Quebec on one side and the Labrador coast on the other. It is home to Canada’s highest mountains east of the Rockies, breathtaking fjords and stunning barren land viewscapes The Inuktitut word Torngait, means “place of spirits” and the Torngat Mountains have been home to Inuit and their predecessors for over 7500 years. The mountain peaks along the border with Quebec are the highest in mainland Canada east of the Rockies, and are dotted with remnant glaciers. Polar bears hunt seals along the coast, and both the Torngat Mountains and George River caribou herds cross paths as they migrate to and from their calving grounds. Today, Inuit continue to use this area for hunting, fishing, and travelling throughout the year. Go ashore and explore the area. Wildflowers are spectacular when in bloom and bears feast on the aptly named Bearberry and Crowberries, among the sedges and grasses, on the raised beaches along the shores of the fiords.
Near Nachvak, the Torngats are a particularly beautiful range. It means “the place where the spirits live” and surely no one will disturb them in this eerie place. According to Inuit legend the area was once home to a form of giant Brown Bear that was even bigger than a Polar Bear and would attack humans on sight. Nachvak Fjord is exceptionally beautiful. This deep and narrow Fjord is 22 kilometres long and all sorts of animals congregate in the fjord including whales, seals, Walrus, Arctic Fox and Polar bear. There are also great concentrations of sea birds including puffins and murres. Enjoy this abundance of wildlife and striking scenery by ship and Zodiac.
As you sail up the final stretch of coastal Labrador, make note of Martin Bay, the site of the German automated weather station established in secrecy in October 1943 by a German U-Boat. This station remained undiscovered until the late 1970’s when a German historian came across a reference to it in the German naval archives. The equipment was collected by the Canadian Coast Guard in the early 1980’s and is on permanent display in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. Later in the day, visit the Button Islands before sailing into southern Davis Strait. Named after Thomas Button who explored the area in 1612, the islands are in the middle of the upwelling of nutrients of the edge of the continental shelf. These nutrients attract thousands of seabirds and other marine mammals.
Today sail across the mouth of Frobisher Bay to visit Monumental Island, a small, steep-sided island off the Southeast coast of Baffin Island. Here be looking for the Polar bears and walrus that live around this island in an uneasy truce. While Polar bears have been known to attack and kill young Walrus, they are no match for a fully-grown male walrus, especially in the water. This will be your last Zodiac cruise and tonight, on board the ship, enjoy the sumptuous fare at the captain’s dinner. During the night the ship will negotiate the narrow channels of Frobisher Bay on the way to our disembarkation point, Iqaluit, the capital city of Nunavut.
Disembark by Zodiac and, after a short tour of Iqaluit (if time and tides permit), then transfer to the airport in time for the flight home.