The adventure begins in the seaside community of Sydney, Cape Breton where we board our expedition vessel, the Akademik Ioffe.
Located on the edge of the Grand Banks hundreds of kilometres from the coast, Sable Island has a storied history as a graveyard of ships. Sporadically inhabited by sealers, shipwreck survivors and salvagers, the island is now home to fewer than six year-round inhabitants and a herd of Sable Island ponies. Transitioning to National Park status, Sable Island?s future plans are currently uncertain. A sandbar some 40 kilometres long and a little over a kilometer wide, Sable Island fills a unique bio-geoclimatic role. It can be one of the foggiest, windiest and loneliest places in Canada but also one of the warmest and most temperate. Whether we are able to land at Sable Island or explore its coast by zodiac and ship, we join a limited number of people able to experience this island.
A small island located just a few miles off shore Bird Island is home to a colony of puffins and razorbills. We may visit the nearby town of Englishtown where we will plan to pick up fresh-caught lobster to serve aboard the ship for dinner. Cape Breton has a wonderful Celtic music culture and we will take time to learn about this culture as we explore the coast.
Sculpted out of sandstone, these islands jut out of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and are home to a unique fishing culture. With beautifully maintained waterfront houses and boats, flowing grassy plains and sculpted sandstone shorelines, these islands are a delight to visit. In addition to the fishing and sealing culture, we will experience a wide diversity of bird life as we travel the shore. Beaches and lagoons provide ample viewing opportunities for numerous shorebirds.
We will drop the anchor between the town of Perce and the island, and visit Ile Bonaventure by Zodiac. One of the largest northern gannet colonies in North America, Ile Bonaventure is protected under provincial park status in Quebec. We will visit the colony reveling in the close up views of these majestic seabirds
Day 6 - 7
We will take two days to visit Anticosti Island, spending as much time exploring the coastal waters as we will onshore. Positioned at the mouth of the St Lawrence River where the river water mixes with Arctic waters from the Strait of Belle Isle and the more temperate Atlantic waters, this is a region rich in marine wildlife. Baleen whales such as the Humpback, Minke and Blue whale as well as Grey seals and Harp seals abound. In addition we will look for eagles along the beach and gannets fishing the waters. This is an area rich in wildlife and our onboard naturalists will be spotting and identifying the various creatures around us.
We sail into majestic Bonne Bay, in the heart of Gros Morne National Park. The cliffs soar up out of the bay on our starboard side covered in a green velvet of tuckamore ? windswept spruce sculpted by the ocean breeze. Our destination will be the town of Woody Point where we will be welcomed ashore by a delegation from the community. With a few shops and pubs along the shore road, Woody Point is also our jumping off point for a hike up to the Discovery Centre ? Gros Morne National Park Interpretation Centre. From there various guided hikes will take us into the Tablelands (UNESCO World Heritage geologic feature) and to the look-out for a view over much of the park. We'll keep ourr eyes peeled for moose as we hike in the park and take time to look down for some of the orchids in the boreal bog and the pitcher plant.
A small out port community perched on the shores of a beautiful fjord on the south coast of Newfoundland, Francois (pronounced Frans-way) is a community steeped in the traditions of the sea. With no road access, the town can become very isolated during the winter and storm season. We will be welcomed ashore by members of the community and perhaps, if we hit it off, we will be welcomed to a dance at the community hall.
Our voyage ends in this French enclave within North America. Walking down the streets of Saint-Pierre is just like taking a jaunt into Europe. We have just enough time to visit the town before leaving for our homeward journeys.