Gros Morne Mountain

Port au Choix

Fogo Island

Gull Island

Cape St. Mary's

100 kilometers

100 miles


Let’s get one thing straight: I know that caribou do not live in the ocean. As a marine biologist, I study ocean animals. I live on an island called Newfoundland. It’s part of the province Newfoundland and Labrador in eastern Canada. My research takes place in the North Atlantic Ocean. 

Of course, there are no caribou floating around in the ocean. But, here’s what happened. I was visiting the historic Port au Choix lighthouse. The view of the ocean is incredible there. As I walked around the lighthouse, I nearly ran into a small herd of caribou! They were calmly grazing on the lighthouse grounds. 

I’m not embarrassed to admit it: I geeked out. Caribou are hard to see in the wild. They are “shy,” and they avoid people. To see so many at once was a big deal.

I dropped to the ground in front of the lighthouse and inched forward on my stomach. There was no way I was going to miss this. With my heart racing, I fumbled for my camera and took as many photos as I could before the caribou got wise to me and moved off.

I may be a marine biologist, but here on this island, I get a lot of chances to see amazing animals from the sea, sky, and land. Let me tell you about a few of them.

The Sea

It’s the sea creatures that I know the best. The North Atlantic is very cold, and its waters can get pretty rough. Even though it isn’t the easiest place to live, you wouldn’t believe how many animals call these waters home. 

The seafloor is littered with sea anemones. These colorful invertebrates have squishy bodies. They can be as small as a button or the size of a teacup, and they cement themselves to rocks with a wide base like a sticky foot. That keeps them in place despite choppy waves. Their bodies are surrounded by long, sensitive tentacles. The tentacles sting and grab helpless prey that get too close.

The waters around Newfoundland are full of anemones and other life.


Sea Snacks

While the anemones hold fast to rocks, tiny, shimmering fish flit about in these waters: capelin. No bigger than a hot dog, these fish are special because they come to the coasts of Newfoundland by the millions. They are famous for putting on a show. Thousands of them will “jump” onto the rocky beaches to lay their eggs.

Many other species find capelin delicious. Humpback whales are big fans. Humpbacks travel to Newfoundland on summer vacations. They travel thousands and thousands of kilometers from tropical waters because food is so plentiful here. They intentionally eat a lot so they gain and store lots of healthy fat (blubber) during their vacation in Newfoundland.

These whales can be hard to spot, though. It’s only when they come close to the surface that you can make out the small, hook-like fins on their backs. If you’re really lucky, you can catch sight of a whale tail, or fluke, pop out of the water before a humpback dives.

The tail of a humpback whale sticks out above the water’s surface as the whale dives.

Atlantic cod

If the humpbacks don’t scarf down all the capelin, then the Atlantic cod will. I admire cod because they are excellent predators. They have big eyes and a long chin “whisker” called a barbel. The barbel helps cod sense food in murky waters. I’ll be honest: My introduction to cod was not in my role as a biologist. When you live on an island, you often go fishing to catch your dinner. I first learned about cod on a fishing boat on Fogo Island.