After leaving the Jersey Cove ferry landing, we proceeded north on Highway 312, joining the Cabot Trail at the Barachois River bridge just south of St Anns Bay United Church, where the aforementioned Red Island Trail begins. Our first stop was Little River, from which Jim Steele took this superb photo of Cape Smokey last year. I was in hopes of seeing this view with my own eyes, but, alas, it was not to be: even at this significantly closer distance, Cape Smokey remained hidden by haze and blowing snow. For the winds here were as cold and as fierce as they were at the Jersey Cove landing: notice the wind’s effects in the water in all of the photos on this page. The one photo of the highlands directly behind Little River that I attempted came out far too hazy and indistinct to merit presentation here.
Photo #1 looks across the Little River Wharf to the southeast. Cape Dauphin is right of centre across St Anns Bay and the massif (with the distinct point of Cape Dauphin Mountain quite noticeable here) runs from there to the right of the photo. The shore to the left is Boularderie Island; the coast running east towards Sydney and Glace Bay is mostly hidden behind the breakwater. A significant amount of haze rises over St Anns Bay, softening details not already obscured by the distance. Even though the wharf was deserted and forlorn this day, it will not be long before it will become a hive of activity as preparations for lobster fishing get underway.
The sun was all that one could ask for and more here; indeed, my eyes were so tightly shuttered in order to see anything at all that I completely missed the seal enjoying the day on the dock until Mike called it to my attention and even then I couldn’t pick it out at first—its coat blends extraördinarily well with the icy snow on the dock. Photo #2 shows the huge boulders of the breakwater and the dock inside the breakwater upon which the seal has hoisted himself. The close-up in photo #3 comes from a different photo, in which it is clear that, far from sleeping, as one might think from the upper photo, the seal was instead keeping a wary eye on us and his surroundings while basking in the sun and getting a good dose of Vitamin D from its rays. I can’t imagine that the winds were not as chilling to the seal as they were to us, but then I can’t imagine a dip in the icy water this time of year either (or, even worse, having once been in the water, hauling myself out into the freezing winds!). Seals have “both blubber and a specially adapted fur coat, including outer guard hairs that repel water and a layer of insulating underfur.” Additionally, they “use several strategies to conserve body heat while foraging in cold waters”, among them a circulatory system that “is uniquely adapted to redirect blood away from body surface areas to prevent heat loss.”¹ So, it is unlikely that this seal was feeling any discomfort from the winds, but instead was just spending a restful morning lounging in the sun, likely digesting breakfast. We left him to his enjoyment as we scurried back into the warm cocoon the car provided us and continued north along the Cabot Trail.
¹ For more fascinating information on this remarkably hardy species, see this Wikipedia article.↩