Natural Erosion Features
of Newfoundland and Labrador
Here is a list of the more prominent natural erosion features of Newfoundland and Labrador. This information has been gathered from the Travellers' Guide to the Geology of Newfoundland and Labrador prepared by the Geological Association of Canada and personal travels. This list (then called geological features) was first published in The Bathroom Book by Art Rockwood. It has been revised and is reproduced here, with Art's kind permission. Where possible I have added photographs, more will be added as they become available.
Located on the west side of the Great Northern Peninsula, a few miles north of the community of Parsons Pond, a large block of limestone, about 50 feet high, has been separated from the coastal rock by wave action. Two arches, which were at one time caves in the block, are exposed just within reach of the ocean. Provincial parks has marked the area with signs along the highway and has constructed a trail to the beach so that it is readily accessible.
A crevasse in the rocky shore south of Bay Bulls, which for years sent a spray of seawater into the air with each wave, was stopped by idle individuals several years ago. A large boulder was dropped into the crevasse and became wedged in place, thus stopping the water from spraying. In 1995 members of the East Coast Trail Association, and interested citizens of the area, aided by a group of army engineers, were successful in removing the boulder and put
The Spout back in operation.
A huge sea cave that collapsed several hundred years ago is a place of interest near the tip of the Bonavista Peninsula. The Dungeon began as a couple of crevasses along the coast. Over thousands of years, the ocean wore away the rock where it was soft or weakened by fractures, creating a cavern that was connected by two sea caves. The cavern became so large that the roof over it could not be supported and it collapsed on itself.
Continuing wave action removed most of the material and today a huge hole, about 250 metres in diameter and 15 metres deep, connected to the ocean by two sea caves (or sea tunnels) now exist. Provincial parks has provided an interpretative sign and parking at the site, located just off the road leading to the Cape Bonavista lighthouse.
Western Brook Pond
Although you might not think about it as an ocean-formed feature, the fjord that forms present-day Western Brook Pond, in Gros Morne National Park, is also the work of a combination of the action of ocean waves and the huge sheet of ice that covered Newfoundland several thousand years ago. Although this feature is located several miles from the coast today, it was at one time an intricate part of our coastline. As the weight of the mile-thick sheet of ice was removed by melting, the land rebounded, moving the fjord inland. The Fjord is located at the north end of Gros Morne National Park. The National Park service has allowed the site to be developed as a tourist attraction and a scheduled boat tour is available at that location.
Other fjords, along the south coast of the Island, and in the northern parts of Labrador, are still accessible from the sea and make a spectacular sight from the deck of a small-pleasure craft or a large yacht.
Not all the geological features of Newfoundland were created by ocean waves, but oceans have played a part in their creation. A feature located in the Trout River area of Gros Morne National Park, this extensive flat-topped range of hills is reminiscent of a desolate moonscape. These rocks are the remnants of ocean-floor material that was brought to the surface when the proto-Atlantic Ocean closed about 470 million years ago, during the Ordovician period. They consist of ultramafic rock, a rock type that constitutes the Earth's upper mantle. This area has an eerie appearance because of the yellow-orange colour of the rocks and the lack of extensive vegetation. The ultramafic rocks contain many elements that inhibit plant growth and contrast sharply with the more abundant vegetation on the north side of the highway. This is yet another site the emphasizes Newfoundland's important place in the study of global geology.
This is a major break in the Earth's crust, which takes its name from the town of Dover, Bonavista Bay. On the eastern side volcanic rocks of ancient continent of Gondwana are exposed; to the west, continental rocks are buried beneath younger sedimentary rocks that formed in the proto-Atlantic Ocean (also known as the Iapetus Ocean). This is a geological feature, rather than a natural erosion feature, however, the surface expression of the fault is enhanced by erosion which is seem as a low area or notch between higher, more resistant rock on the other side. It is probably best viewed from the town of Hare Bay's municipal park.
The Corner Brook Caves
Located just off the Trans-Canada Highway, a few kilometres south of the City of Corner Brook, these caves were carved out of limestone by the action of the water of Corner Brook Stream. At the time of the author's visit (1994), the caves appeared to be a few hundred feet deep and vary in height from 3 to 8 feet and the cave system was accessible only at times of low water. Debris had blocked the remainder of the cave system.. More recently the debris has been cleared away and the caves explored in more detail. Current reports indicate that about 1 kilometre of underground area has been opened and tours are now operated within the caves.
Along the Humber River, a few kilometres east of the City of Corner Brook, is a feature that is relatively easy to see. Perched high above Shellbird Island on the north side of the river is the representation of a face of an Indian carved in the cliff. The image is the result of the natural erosion of the cliff face.
Click on the photograph at right to see an enlargement of the "Indian's head".
Among the coastal islands, and in particular between Black Tickle and Snug Harbour, Labrador, the most prominent peaks are crowned by stone markers or cairns. These were erected by native peoples and early Europeans as an aid to navigation in bad weather. Some of these markers have existed for hundreds of years. They are known as American Men. Some think that this may be a corruption of Marker Men, or they may reflect the influence of early American whalers along this coast. These markers are not erosion feature, however, they are a phenomenon that is now part of the natural development of the area.
The Devil's Dancing Table
At Henley Harbour, on the coast of Labrador, is a very large, flat-topped rock feature. The cap rock is massive basalt whereas the lower layers are an older and thicker basalt which developed vertical cracks during cooling. From a distance, this feature has the appearance of a table supported by a multitude of legs. Locally this feature is called Castles Hill.
The Hole in the Wall
To the south of Pinsent's Arm, on the south coast of Labrador, is a feature known as the Hole in the Wall. A weak zone of rock has been eroded by the combination of wave-action and the "freeze-thaw" cycle of water, to create a hole in the cliff face. This hole extends through the cliff to a valley on the other side of the cliff. As ships pass this point it is possible to see the vegetation on the valley wall behind through the hole.
The Porcupine Strand
A magnificent white sandy beach, extending for 35 kilometres north and south of Cape Porcupine, near the entrance to Groswater Bay, Labrador. The sand was derived from sand and gravel deposited inland by glaciers about 10,000 years ago. Black sand layers within, the beach deposits consist of magnetite, ilmenite and other heavy minerals concentrated by wave-action. Some archaeologists believe this to be the "Wunderstrand" mentioned in the Viking sagas.
The Quaker Hat
An isolated island that is shaped like a broad-brimmed hat, near Cape Harrison, Labrador. The hat is complete with a black band around the base of the crown. The "band" is a gabbro sill (a dark, medium-grained intrusive rock) which intrudes the overlying granitic rocks.