Red Bay was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013. It provides the world’s earliest, most complete and best preserved testimony to the whaler’s work and life of the 16th century. Several thousand Basque whalers would spend the summers here harvesting bowhead and right whales, the oil of which was shipped back to Europe for use in lighting and manufacturing.
There is not much of a town; a dozen or so buildings in total. The area was only ‘settled’ in the last 150 years. The year-round population is about 120. If a cruise ship comes to town the population expands by about 200 per cent.
We woke at 6:30 and opened the drapes to discover thick fog. Red Bay is a tender port. Obviously such a small community would not have a cruise terminal. We were on land and getting in our school bus by 9. We passed by a substantial iceberg still stuck in the bay. We will see more of them as we approach Greenland but it was pretty neat. Remember that 90% of the berg is underwater so no matter how large the top you can see may be it is much, much larger below.
Our tour took us on a drive along the coastal road– which, incidentally is the only road – to the Point Amour Lighthouse, bouncing regularly over the pot holes. It really brought John and I back to our time driving in Newfoundland last year. Our bus driver (she is a regular school bus driver) did the same as John would do and drove on the other side of the road to try avoid the worst of them.
We did a rolling stop on a little bridge to get a photo of ‘the small waterfall’ on the Pinware River. Well, the rapid anyway. Not really what we would call a waterfall but it was a nice view. Traffic is so light in Labrador there is no risk of holding up other vehicles if you stop in the middle of a bridge to let a bunch of tourists take photos. During our entire 40 minute drive we saw 4 cars and one gravel truck.
The only other stop on our way to the lighthouse was at the L’Anse Amour Burial Mound where a Maritime Archaic child was buried 7500 years ago. It is just a pile of rocks but it is an important historical point of interest; showing just how long people have been harvesting the fish from the ocean in these parts.
We reached our destination at the Point Amour Lighthouse, the tallest in Atlantic Canada and the second tallest ever built in Canada (the tallest is in Quebec somewhere). Johnny, our guide, told us we had one hour and 15 minutes to explore the gift shop, climb the 132 steps to the top of the lighthouse, or walk the foot path along the shore. Naturally, we climbed the lighthouse. My schedule will always include climbing up whatever is high. I love to see the ground or water from above.
It is hard to see, but rocks under the water along the shore look like paving stones in a yard. We returned to Red Bay with only two photo stops. The first was made so that Johnny, our very funny and excellent guide, could run over to a flag pole and take down the Labrador flag so that all the people on the bus could get a good look at it.
The second was at an overlook of the Pinware River.
John and I had hoped to find at least one geocache during our stop here but the nearest one showing on the GPS was almost half a kilometer back through town and when we got to the site it had a second set of co-ordinates to follow which would have taken us even further away from the pier. The last tender left the dock at 2:30 and it was getting close to 2 o’clock by then so we walked back and caught a tender back to the ship. The fog was still so thick we were almost upon the ship before it was visible; one moment there was a solid white wall and the next there was a ghostly-looking ship skulking out of the mist.
Notice that the stone path around the information plaques at the Parks Canada Information Center is in the shape of a whale.
A foggy day, but a good one. We had a good bus driver, a great guide, and explored some new land and history – some of the best things about travelling.
I spotted this star fish as I was going down the gangplank to get on the tender. He’s a pretty big one.