BBC, PRI and WGBH Geo Quiz

The following is a website transcript from a radio interview for 12,000,000 listeners to BBC World and Public Radio International:


Make your way to the Great Northern Peninsula for today’s Geo Quiz. We’re looking for the name of an island today that forms part of a Canadian province.

The western side of the island is called The Great Northern Peninsula.

At the very northern tip of the peninsula there’s a tiny island called Quirpon Island. It looks out on the Strait of Belle Isle. A waterway that’s popular with Orcas and humpbacks and photographer Peter Potterfield:

“When I got to Quirpon Island it was just astounding it’s the only place I had to worry about my photographic gear getting splashed by whales. You get that close to them because the whales get so close to the island.”

We’ll hear more about Quirpon Island and the Great Northern Peninsula, but first take a crack at naming this island in the North Atlantic.

The answer’s coming up…


Time now to retrace our steps to reach the Great Northern Peninsula. It puts us on the coast of Newfoundland, part of the Canadian province of ‘Newfoundland and Labrador’, the answer to our Geo Quiz.

Peter Potterfield recently spent some time hiking there. He’s researching new trails for the next edition of his book: Classic Hikes of The World. Potterfield’s starting point was Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park:

(Peter Potterfield) “I just finished a 4-day hike, doing a 25 mile route without any trails at all, you are forced to use a map and a compass the entire way, we didn’t see a soul on the trail. Can you imagine, 25 miles, but we did see a moose and fox and at one of our campsite, we had a mother ptarmigan hen with 4 chicks and they were running all around the campsite during the night, it’s a beautiful place here. But each trip has a surprise for me when I’m looking for a great hike, and the local Newfoundlander who helped me out and helped me get where I needed to go a guy named Ed English suggested we go up to Quirpon island, this is the extreme tip of Newfoundland, in fact you can look over to Labrador. Ed has a lighthouse inn up there and its a spectacular place and its a functioning navigational aid. The light still flashes every 15 seconds, but what’s really amazing is to wake up to the sound of humpbacks, and orcas. it’s a fabulous experience and I’ll let Ed describe what makes it so special.”

(Ed English) “It turns out we have a unique spot because the fish supply, the food that whales want is just incredible there. There’s a little narrow strip of water that separates Newfoundland from the rest of North America and all the fish that want to go back and forth between the North Atlantic and the big Gulf of St Lawrence all have to go past our doorstep so it’s essentially a never ending conveyor belt of food. That draws in the whales and then we’re lucky because right at the lighthouse rocks its about 200 feet deep so you can literally sit with your feet dangling in the water, looking down through your toes and see humpback whales driving the fish in against the cliffs under your feet and then just surfacing. You can reach out and touch them quite frequently.”

That narrow strip of water is called the Strait of Belle Isle. From high up in the lighthouse, Ed English says the view is breathtaking:

(Ed English) “Water. It really does feel like the ends of the earth out there…the sun sets over Labrador, so you can see the sunset off to the left as you’re facing north. If you’re standing at our helipad and you look due west, you’re looking at the Viking site over at Lancing Meadows. It’s the only Viking site in North America they were there 500 years before Columbus and lived there for a few years. Its a UNESCO World Heritage Site, very important, archaeologically. If you look to your right as you’re facing north all you see is clear ocean and if you could see far enough you’d be looking at Ireland.”

There are often as many as 50 icebergs in sight. They float down from Greenland and Baffin Island on the Labrador Current.

(Ed English) “The icebergs just come down and smash into the rocks, they’re huge, as big as mountains, so you can imagine a beautiful day, it’s hot, and all of sudden, you’re out walking and you come around the corner – there’s an ice mountain and its just an amazing sight to see, constantly changing because its always rolling around and breaking apart. (Potterfield) If I were to succinctly describe the last 8 days in Newfoundland, I would provide a photograph of the wild terrain up on the Arctic plateau that you’ve got to find your way across for 20 miles using map and compass, that’s got to be seen to be believed, a picture of the big moose, the caribou, and a picture of the whales frolicking beyond the lighthouse up on Quirpon Island, I think that pretty much says it all!”

William Gray