Journey to the mantle of the earth

Selfie with pitcher plant at the Tablelands.
  • Today, it’s Newfoundland. We are docking at a small city (20,000 population) called Corner Brook, on the west side of the island. It is in the Long Range Mountains, which are part of the Appalachian Range. We came down a fjord to get to the port. Our destination for the day is the Gros Morne National Park.
    • Gros Morne National Park was established in 1973 and is a UNESCO world heritage site. At 697 sq miles, it is the second largest national park in Atlantic Canada. The park takes its name from Newfoundland’s second-highest mountain peak (at 2,644 ft). Its French meaning is “large mountain standing alone,” or more literally “great sombre.” Gros Morne is the eroded remnants of a mountain range formed 1.2 billion years ago. The park provides a rare example of the process of continental drift, where deep ocean crust and the rocks of the earth’s mantle lie exposed.
    • Our specific destination within the park is the Tablelands, which is the area with the exposed mantle. It was about a two hour bus ride to get there, and then we had the opportunity to learn more about the park at the Discovery Center. We also had the chance to take a couple of silly photos.
    Brad with fabric pitcher plant, the national plant of Canada, and Sue with papier-mâché moose.
    The view outside the Discovery Center.
    • We then took a park ranger, Marcia, on board and headed for the Tablelands. She guided us on a short walk and told us the “secrets” of the area. The biggest secret is that “it isn’t supposed to be here” … because it is the earth’s mantle. It got plopped in this spot when some of the tectonic plates shifted 500 million years ago. This is, according to Marcia, one of very few places where you can see the earth’s mantle in the world, and the one that is most accessible … you can get out of your car and stand on mantle in just a few steps.

    • You can see that the landscape is pretty desolate. The orangish rock is called peridotite, and it is what is the earth’s mantle. It contains a lot of heavy metals, making it toxic to most plants and animals, so not much grows here.

      Marcia gave us some info about the plant life in addition to the geological information. We learned about the gray wool moss, which looks to a sheep herder like it could have been a dead sheep if you look from a distance. It is amazingly resilient. We also saw a round from a tree trunk that was 125 years old … it was about 1-1/2 inches in diameter!! The trees that grow here are natural bonsai … they grow very slowly and don’t grow very big, due to the harsh conditions. In addition to the soils having toxins, there are also harsh winters, with many feet of snow to cover everything.
    Some of the plant life at the Tablelands. Also, top middle is serpentinite, another rock in the area.
      After we left the park, we went to Woody Point for some lunch at a little (the only?) restaurant, called the Old Loft. We had two choices. I opted for the moose stew, and Brad went for the pan fried fish with chips (fries).
    • When we got back to the ship, we opted not to go into the town of Corner Brook. We only had about an hour until “all aboard”, and the town is relatively new, so not much to draw us but the Walmart (you’d be surprised what a draw that is for cruise passengers!!). Instead, we headed down to the Wheelhouse Bar … but it wasn’t actually open. Apparently, while in port, only one bar can be open per deck. We were, however, able to get Peter, our favorite Serbian waiter, to secure us a beer and 24 karat margarita before dinner.

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