We arrived at Saguenay early, with fog covering much of the area. The forecast was for a warm and beautiful day, and that turned out to be correct. It was glorious.
Neither of us slept well, so we got up extra early and watched the approach into port. We had a warm welcome from the town. They had entertainment out, but we were able to enjoy it only for a couple of minutes before boarding our bus.
Saguenay is a relatively new city that was created by combining several other cities. The name Saguenay is a First Nations word, but about 98% of the population speaks French. There about 145,000 people that live in the city.
Our main journey for the day was a zodiac tour around the Saguenay Fjord in the maritime park. First thing to know is … what is a fjord? There are two qualities that define one. First, it has to be connected to the ocean. Second, it has to have been made by glaciers. The one we toured today is 103 kilometers long, with a maximum depth of 270 meters, surrounded by cliffs that reach 460 meters. The fjord has ocean water at the bottom, with all the kinds of sea creatures you would expect, and the top of the fjord is fresh water. I don’t really understand why the sea water and fresh water don’t mix together to make a fjord cocktail, but so it is.
We took a school bus to the park. Apparently, we do that because the European tourists want to ride in a school bus, as they don’t have them in their countries. It was about an hour ride.
When we got to the park, we were met by Simon, our guide. We walked down a lovely trail, and knew it was going to be a good day because we were immediately met by wildlife … a moose! (Oops, I got that off by one letter … it was actually a mouse. Haha. Simon said we have to get up earlier to see the moose. They leave to go to their secret moose clubs when the people arrive at the park.)
Simon took us out to the dock where the zodiac was parked, and fixed us up with jackets/PFDs. It was a warm day, so they were kind of hot, but necessary safety equipment.
We toured around the fjord for about 1-1/2 hours, viewing the spectacular scenery, learning about the geology and looking for seals.
One of the things we saw while out on the cruise was the Statue of Norte-Dame du Saguenay. You can see her in the photo below … looks like small white spot. It is actually huge and has an interesting story.
The story begins with Charles Napoleon Robitaille, a salesman who traveled the roads in and around Quebec. During the winter of 1878 while trying to cross the frozen Saguenay River, the ice broke under the weight of his horse and sleigh. Pulled beneath the surface of the icy waters, Charles was alone and completely helpless. Knowing he was dying, he implored the Virgin Mary to save him. He miraculously survived, and managed to escape from the river with his life. He knew the Virgin had assisted him, and so to honor Mary, he promised her a gift. But what with one thing and another, he didn’t get around to meeting his promise. Then he fell quite ill. The local priest came around and asked him what he might have done to bring this sickness upon himself. Then he remembered the promise to the Virgin. He envisioned a large statue in the heights overlooking the mouth of the river, and the priest commissioned the work. Charles recovered and the statute was built. The finished statue is 35 feet high, and weighs 3 tons. Sculpted of solid white pine, it was then sheathed in lead to protect the statue from the harsh weather. Hauling such a huge statue into place was a difficult task in the late nineteenth century. After being constructed, it was broken down into 14 separate pieces and then hoisted into place to be put together again.
We found three harbor seals. Not much else. The peregrine falcon is the park bird symbol, but we didn’t see any of those either. Too soon, the tour was over and we headed back to the port. We spent the afternoon walking around the lovely town, enjoying the splendid weather and some gelato, and then some beer and a strawberry sling.
We couldn’t resist sitting on a nice shady park bench beneath a sculpture that looks like two giant push pins. With that, we headed back on board for our 6PM sailing. Tomorrow, Quebec City!