Gros Morne Mountain
Port au Choix
Cape St. Mary's
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 in eastern Canada. It’s part of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. My research takes place in the North Atlantic Ocean. Of course, there are no caribou floating in the ocean. But, I can explain why I’m talking about caribou. Here’s what happened. I was visiting the historic Port au Choix lighthouse.
The view of the ocean was incredible. 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 avoid people. To see so many of them at once was a big deal.
There was no way I was going to miss this. I dropped to the ground in front of the lighthouse. I inched forward on my stomach. My heart was racing. I fumbled for my camera and took as many photos as I could. Soon, the caribou got wise to me and moved off.
Yes, I’m a marine biologist. But on this island, I get to see how lots of amazing animals interact with the sea, sky, and land. Let me tell you about a few of them.
It’s the sea creatures that I know the best. The North Atlantic is very cold, and its waters can get rough. Yet, many animals call these waters home.
Sea anemones live on the seafloor. These invertebrates have squishy bodies. They can be as small as a button or big as a teacup. They cement themselves to rocks to stay in place despite the waves. Their long tentacles sting and grab prey that get too close.
The waters around Newfoundland are full of anemones and other life.
While the anemones hold fast to rocks, tiny, shimmering fish flit about. They are capelin. These fish come to the coasts of Newfoundland by the millions. Here, they put on a show. Thousands of them “jump” onto the rocky beaches to lay their eggs.
Many other species find capelin delicious. Humpback whales are big fans. They travel to Newfoundland on summer vacations. Food is plentiful here. They eat a lot so they gain and store healthy fat (blubber) during their vacation in Newfoundland.
These whales can be hard to spot, though. When they come close to the surface, you can make out the small, hook-like fins on their backs. Or, you can catch sight of the tail of a humpback whale before it dives back into the water.
The tail of a humpback whale sticks out above the water’s surface as the whale dives.
If humpbacks don’t eat all the capelin, the Atlantic cod will. They have big eyes and a long chin “whisker” called a barbel. The barbel helps cod sense food in murky waters. I first learned about cod, not as biologist, but by catching my dinner on a fishing boat!