Newfoundland, Part 4, Conclusion

First of all, we boarded ship with about 30 other passengers at O’Brien’s Boat Tours for a two-hour ride on the Atlantic in search for whales and puffins. Back at St. Johns, the manager at our boarding house had told us, “You’ve seen more of Newfoundland than a lot of Newfoundlanders have.” Really? Well, if so, we were bound to see a little more.

ruins at St. Johns

Our boating guide, O’Brien, was a 40-year veteran of the business, a jolly Irish singer and musician who, when not joking around or singing some traditional Irish song, was an excellent source of information on the fish and birds and mammals of the North Atlantic.

bird-covered isle

I had never seen so many birds in one location. We approached a rocky isle considered to be the summer home for the second largest puffin colony in the world. “There’s probably two million puffins nesting there and flying all around us. If you haven’t seen a puffin yet, I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do to help you!”

a few puffins

I heard another voice proclaim, “It’s like in the movie, The Birds!” But no– those puffins, murres, gulls, and fulmars flying all around us weren’t an evil omen. They were an event. Perfect shadows of interior life, as well as real lives of the North Atlantic waters.

from a shipwreck

Farther out on the misted ocean we began to see the spouts of feeding humpback whales. Water fountained from the wild, and then a breaching giant, and there– a diving cetacean with its tail straight up in air!

As if the whales were not enough, hungry dolphins began to school adjacent to our idled boat. The dolphins leapt into the air, slamming their bodies to the surface of the waves in efforts to corral their prey, the small fish known as capelin. Even O’Brien was amazed. “In my 40 years of guiding, I don’t think I’ve seen such dolphin energy!”

As we motored back to shore, our navigator cut the engine and O’Brien had us gather around. Now what? Well, Alyssa had secretly bought a special ceremony. We hardly qualified for honorary induction into Newfoundlander citizenship, but O’Brien announced to everyone that the three Americans were about to be “Screeched-In,” like it or not.

Thankfully there wasn’t any cod aboard for the traditional lip-kiss with a fish, or a rubber puffin with a butt to smooch. But there were yellow fishermen hats to wear, and there were plastic cups for highly potent screech (symbolic of the rotgut liquor that islanders once obtained from Jamaica, in quantity rather than quality, in trade for their barrels of local fish). And there was an oath of loyalty to the province that each of us repeated, line for line, with difficult Cockney accent, followed by hearing out O’Brien’s warning: the rum is bad; gulp it quickly with one swallow!

Then, screech it to the world! “Is you a Newfoundlander?”

“Yes b’y!”

Each of us then worthy of a signed certificate.

And the big surprise? The swill wasn’t bad at all. In fact, it was smooth and rich and not too sweet. Like travel through a wonderful land.

the Finish!

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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20 Responses to Newfoundland, Part 4, Conclusion

  1. Steve Vaughn says:

    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful trip.

  2. tiostib says:

    Glad to hear things went so well. You had everything an excellent adventure can offer, good people, good times, and a few good surprises. Thanks for sharing!

  3. loydtruss says:

    Thanks for giving us a view of what a tranquil and peaceful area of the world looks like—-enjoyed all the posts —thanks for sharing

    • Bill,
      Thanks for reading & pointing out the peacefulness & tranquility of the place. I hadn’t really thought of that prior to this, but yeah, in a world of hunger, war & restlessness, Canadian lands & waters can offer something special for the wayward soul.

  4. Dale W Houseknecht says:

    Hi Walt nice pics ! What’s the price of gas up there ? At the boarder going in Canada anything with covid testing 72 hours before I heard that ended . Your friend Dale

    • Thanks Dale. We don’t remember the price of gas up there, although given the number of times we filled up, we should have. It was all in metric & Canadian dollars so kind of tricky to evaluate, but probably comparable to local prices. Covid testing requirements have lifted, I think, but check online at…arriveCAN to learn what you can do in advance of the trip. Just in case.

  5. Hi. Where will your next adventure be?

    • Hi Neil, we’ve got a couple of ideas for the next year or so, but don’t want to jinx them by being specific at this point. Some mundane matters may be adventuresome, too.

  6. Regarding the first sentence – as long as it wasn’t a ‘three hour tour’ which references ‘Gilligan’s Island’ ;). Quite the ruins at St. Johns. When I see an old foundation I wonder who was there and what they did while they were there. Looks like it could be a pretty formidable place to live for sure. You guys ‘rocked’ the yellow fishermen hats as the onlookers seemed impressed! Seriously it looked like a good time and I know you enjoyed the trip. It’s great to have shared it with your family – and the rest of us. Thanks for that! UB

    • UB, the ruins at St. Johns– from the French occupation in the 18th century, if I remember right. Foundations like that are always inviting…As for our “rocking,” it was probably more rolling with the current but, yeah, I’ll take it! Fun, in any case, and certainly different from “Gilligan’s Island.” Thanks for staying with each post & sharing your reflections!

  7. Brent says:

    Sorry I’m late on these–too much weekend work. But, what a cool place! If I’m seeing correctly, this installment alone includes Viking ruins (right?), a millions-strong cluster of cute birds, highly unusual cetacean activity, and an induction ritual. I can only assume this means that, should shit really hit the fan in the U.S., you’ll be welcomed to Newfoundland as full citizens!

    • Actually, we didn’t have time to visit the Viking ruins, which are located in the far north of the island, so I think that the ruins pictured here, on the outskirts of St. Johns, belong to the French settlement at the time of war with Britain in the 1700s. But yes, on all other accounts, including if the shit really hits the old Yankee fan! Thanks Brent. Hope the work from the weekend wasn’t too much of a sweat.

  8. plaidcamper says:

    What a wonderful trip, Walt! Colourful through and through, and you’ve got a handy citizenship should there be a need…
    Thanks for sharing all you did from this – really enjoyed it!

  9. Jet Eliot says:

    Oh, Walt, I so enjoyed your Newfoundland series. This last part had me chuckling at the “Screeched In” celebration and photo, so sweet; marveling at the bird colonies; and enjoying the scenery with great appreciation. We don’t often see a gannet like your camera captured (what a wing span!) and I really enjoyed that too. Thanks so much for taking the time to share this incredible adventure with us.

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