More often than not Newfoundland feels like an island that has floated away from the rest of the world- like a lily pad whose tendrils have been cut. If I’d grown up surrounded by craggy coastlines and clapboard houses, I can imagine a compulsion to get out and explore the manmade arrogance of the big cities of the world. But for anyone else, Newfoundland’s ruggedness if bliss. In a matter of days I find myself thinking through ways I could successfully maroon myself forever.
None more so than on Quirpon Island, a deserted island bar a lighthouse and lighthouses keeper’s cottages hospitably run, but not owned, by a former fisherman Hubert and his wife Doris. To get there Hubert kits us out in lifejackets- and waterproofs if it looks a bit blowy- and we motor boat out in two boats into the ocean.
The lighthouse is in sight when the engine suddenly cuts. Hubert has spotted dolphins. We shriek with childlike abandon as dolphins leap out of the water around us. When we finally reach the island and catch up with the others-having raced up a rocky scrub laced with crackerberries, blackberries, blueberries and partridge berries- we are nothing short of high on experience.
From the top of the lighthouse I later watch a drippy sun melt and take over the sky. On a cool, clear night you’re highly likely to see the Northern Lights from Quirpon. It’s also the most fantastic spot from which to spot icebergs and whales, with Quirpon Island located at the tip of Iceberg Alley- through which icebergs drift down as far as St. John’s
Icebergs disappear with the summer, but I determine to catch sunrise, and as much time as possible for whales. I stumble out around 6.30am, my pyjamas betraying themselves from under my clothes. But being bathed in golden light from this benevolent god is worth every bit of sleep prematurely rubbed out of bleary eyes.
I sit at the end of the whale watching platform for an hour or so with my thoughts and a calm ocean. And find my lips whispering thanks for such a place. And then a fellow traveler- who has joined me-is eagerly pointing far off, at whales breaking the surface of the sea.