A light drizzle greeted the ferry as it arrived in Newfoundland, six hours across Cabot Strait from Nova Scotia. A fog shrouded the low hills bordering the harbor, misty white hands trying to reclaim the land for a sea reluctant to give it up.
Later, I found a passage in John Gimlette’s book, Theatre of Fish, with a similar image of Newfoundland from 19th century American explorer Robert T.S. Lowell: “A monstrous mass of rock and gravel, almost without soil, like a strange thing from the bottom of the great deep, lifted up suddenly, into the sunshine and storm, but belonging to the watery darkness out of which it has been reared.”
Newfoundland is nature’s great experiment to saturate stone. The rocks seem always wet, even in the sun, which has no power to dry them. Bogs and fens are everywhere – in the valleys, on the moors, and up mountain slopes, where not even gravity can loosen the water.
But the rock is stubborn and not quickly washed away. It is the northern extent of the Appalachians, part of the oldest surviving mountain system on the planet, older than the Rockies, the Alps, and the Himalayas, formed on the ancient super-continent of Pangaea.
After 480 million years of rain, snow, wind, freeze, thaw, and scouring glacial ice, the mountains have been worn to their nubs, but nubs that still reach half a mile high. The sea can only reclaim them one grain at a time.