The Exploration of Percé Rock
This morning, the sun shone brightly on Adventure Canada’s Ocean Endeavour as we entered Day 5 of our Mighty Saint Lawrence expedition that will eventually take us all the way to St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Today, however, we’re in Percé, Quebec, nestled on the easternmost reaches of the mouth of the Saint Lawrence river. It’s not far from where we were yesterday in Gaspe; in fact, if you went ashore and rented a car, you’d be back in Gaspe in under an hour.
The object of our affections isn’t the small town of Percé; it’s nearby Percé Rock; a distinctive arched rock formation that has fascinated explorers and served as a wayfinding point for mariners since the days of Samuel de Champlain.
Although it is sunny outside, temperatures hover around 12°C today. Out on the water, it feels more like 10°C. It’s cooler than average, and highlights the importance of bringing layers and clothing suitable for every type of weather on this itinerary. I personally packed two sweaters, a fleece, two kinds of jacket (windbreaker and lined), plus a ton of light, breathable shirts for hot-weather days. I haven’t used the latter yet, but I’ve made great use out of the sweaters, fleece and jackets.
Waterproof (not water-resistant) pants are also essential. Even on a day like today, where there’s no rain, you’ll still want them in case your Zodiac takes a couple of well-timed waves over the bow. Or, in case you get “bombed” by an overhead bird. Both of those instances happened on our Zodiac today.
Wake-up was once again at 0700, and I find I’m rising 30 minutes prior and am already making my way down to the Polaris Restaurant when the ubiquitous Bing-Bong-Bing!– of the Public Address system sounds, along with Expedition Leader M.J.’s soft wake-up announcement.
By 0830, guests aboard the Ocean Endeavour were loading into the Zodiacs. Fifteen minutes later, a procession of boats was out on the water, headed for Percé Rock and nearby, bird-drenched Bonaventure Island.
Percé Rock used to have three distinctive arches, but unfortunately, time – and Mother Nature – takes its toll. The third arch collapsed a number of years ago, but the second one crumbled more recently. Now, it’s absence leaves a sort of stone obelisk jutting oddly out of the water. All it takes is a single look at this rocky outcrop for me to cleverly deduce that winter here must be a harsh and foreboding thing.
Bonaventure Island also has the same wind-swept appearance, with tufts of trees littering its surface here and there. It looks like one of those grainy-black-and-white videos you see of the A-Bomb testing, where the shockwave wipes trees and houses away. A few hearty trees grow here and there, but by and large the few that exist stand alone.
Birds, on the other hand, are everywhere. Both Kittiwakes and Guillemots call this island home, and they swarmed over the eastern face of the island. What looks like frosting on a cake drooling down from the upper reaches of the island is actually a thick slew of guano, the preferred expedition term for excrement. When you catch the wind the right way, the island takes on the familiar eau that should be familiar to anyone who’s ever been around it.