Warren traveler finds ‘history’

In June, Bill Abell of Warren visited Newfoundland and Labrador more than 1,000 years after Vikings, the first Europeans to come to our continent, visited the same area. Abell joined the more than 500,000 tourists who every year go to that Canadian province.

In 1992, Newfoundland and Labrador were united into a province. It is a place “where nature’s forces meet in a dramatic contest of rock and water.” The landscape is magnificent, and remote coastal communities are captivating, according to the itinerary from Road Scholar Tours of Boston, which Abell told me was what initially captured his interest.

His tour started with a visit to Gros Morne National Park, Canada’s second largest. The park began to satisfy the three reasons that Abell decided to take his trip: “History, Geology and Scenery.”

At the Discovery Centre, the group met with a park expert to learn about the forces of nature that shaped the land and people of Newfoundland. They walked through a lunar-like landscape, where they saw the effects of plate tectonics and ancient glaciation. He learned that it was here that geologists proved the theory of plate tectonics.

“Earth’s outer layer is made up of seven large moving pieces called plates that move about 2 to 4 inches a year above a layer of partially melted rock called the mantle,” he said.

This is one of the few places on earth where the mantle is revealed.

Next, the group boarded a ferry for a ride across a large lake to a fjord carved out of sheer rock by receding glaciers 470 million years ago where he saw waterfalls cascading over 3000 foot high fjord walls.

Another day, the group boarded a ferry for the two-hour crossing from Newfoundland to Labrador over the Strait of Belle Isle. They saw icebergs for the first time. Every June the local people celebrate the coming of spring with an Iceberg Festival.

At Point Amour, Abell climbed to the top of the tallest lighthouse on Canada’s Atlantic Ocean coastline.

The tour continued to Battle Harbour, a “great place,” according to Abell. On a bare, rugged rock of an island, the group stayed in restored historic houses and enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere of a remote 1775 village while learning its history. The Marconi Station there is where Commander Robert E. Peary announced to the world that he had reached the North Pole.

In lectures and tours, the group learned about the Grand Banks Fishing Ban of 1992. The cod fishing industry had been the chief employment of more than 35,000 people in the province, most of whom lost their jobs. Overfishing by European fishermen, as well as Canadians, and using factory trawlers that caught and processed in one day as many fish as one local fisherman could catch in a season had reduced the cod supply by estimated 99 percent.

Lobster, snow crab and clam fishing increased after the bottom-feeder cod were no longer there to feed upon them, which provided some relief for the unemployed.

At Red Bay, a World Heritage site, Abell learned about the Basque whaling industry dating back to the 1500s. The Basques from northwestern Spain built the first industrial complex of the New World. Their production of whale oil lit the lamps of Europe in the late Middle Ages.

Thrombolites were the most ancient of all life forms the group saw in N.L. At Flowers Cove, they walked on a beach covered with what looked like flat, round, lobed stones. They were actually 2.45 billion-year-old microbial colonies that formed calcium carbonate structures releasing oxygen into the atmosphere, thus making life on earth possible, according to scientists.

At L’Anse-aux-Meadows, another World Heritage Site, Abell saw a reenactment of life in a Viking community on the site of the only authenticated Viking settlement in North America, 1,000 years ago.

Abell said on this whole tour, he experienced history and geology coming alive amid breathtaking scenery.

Contact Thomas at bthomass@aol.com.