Rick Stanley and the crew at Ocean Quest know how to make sure come from aways and livyers alike experience the coolest sights this province has to offer
By Pam Pardy Ghent
The day started out as a cool one, but as the sun rose over picturesque Petty Harbour those who made their way down to the wharf knew it was about to get a whole lot cooler – in an incredibly good way.
The ‘bergs were visible from shore, and as the hearty crew of eager adventurers made their way towards the Ocean Quest Adventures zodiac to don their survival suits, all chatter focused on the magnificent and mighty majesty we were about to see, and possibly touch; icebergs.
‘bergs in the distance
Rick Stanley, Ocean Quest’s founder, was all smiles. “You’re going to be sitting on one of those by the time the day is out,” he teased, pointing off to the many dotted ‘bergs in the distance.
At least I hoped he was kidding. Yours truly was just getting adjusted to the fact we were heading off in an open vessel that had to have air added to it in order to stay afloat. Thinking we would be heading out in one of Ocean Quest’s larger whale watching-styled boats, finding out otherwise was a little nerve wracking – at first.
But Stanley’s jovial mannerisms and his top-notched excitement level soon washed away all fears. So did the confidence of those more seasoned souls about to step on-board. Local photographer Sandy Spurrell, tourist and visiting Captain Paul Tasker (British Columbia) and diving enthusiasts pals Steve Lewis, Chris Loper, Matthew Lerpiniere (Ontario) and Frank Stopa (Virginia) got all geared up and climbed on-board with little hesitation.
respect for nature
Stanley was quickly all business, maneuvering the zodiac to our first ‘berg in no time. What strikes you first is the sheer size of these beautiful ice creations. From the shore, icebergs are magnificent and beautiful, but up close they are nothing short of awe-inspiring. And in a Ocean Quest zodiac, you get close enough to touch these ancient creations of nature.
Having heard the stories, and seen a scatter video or two, of icebergs rolling, I admit there was a wee touch of nerves at being so incredibly close to these giants. Rest assure, Stanley and his crew have a respect for them as well. “We could never get this close in one of the bigger boats,” he said. “These (zodiacs) are quick, and you pay attention to what the ‘berg has done, is doing, and to the sea and wind conditions. This is adventure tourism, too, so having that measured sense of adventure and excitement is important,” he said with a wide smile. He was loving this, and so were his guests.
We visited ‘berg after ‘berg, lingering, touching, snapping pictures, sampling (for our drinks later) and simply admiring nature at its finest.
ice for your cup
Steve Lewis, who would be diving underneath (and sitting on) these same ‘bergs with his fellow adventures days after our shared experience with Ocean Quest, was enjoying the day to its fullest. Lewis, England born and breed, is an active cave and wreck diver. He’s also a member of The Explorers Club and in 2006 led a team of divers to explore the Bell Island iron ore mine along with Stanley’s Ocean Quest Adventures. Bell Island’s Minequest Expedition was voted expedition of the year by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. “I love adventure, and this is adventure,” Lewis said with arms swung wide beneath a huge ‘berg in the Atlantic. “To experience beauty like this you have to come to a place like this, and so we came! And we keep coming, to see sights like these beautiful ice giants of the sea. This is beautiful, and it’s right at our fingertips.”
that perfect shot
With those words, Lewis was in action, hacking off a piece of the ‘berg for his icy beverage later that evening.
“Only in Newfoundland do you have to work this hard to get your own ice for your drink!” he said with a laugh.
Frank Stopa, CEO and Co-Founder of Discovery Deep, a non-profit foundation with headquarters in Washington, D.C., shared his thoughts as he expertly maneuvered around the zodiac looking for that perfect shot. “This is beauty, right here,” he said. While the highlight of his trip was yet to come; diving beneath the ‘bergs, seeing the icebergs up close was also a thrill. “It’s really something. To see them from shore is one thing, but to be here; the colours, the texture, the shapes, contours, everything; just amazing.”
‘it’s been my life’
Stanley beams with pride. “You couldn’t ask for a better day,” he says as he takes us for a jaunt along the base of the East Coast Trail. The sun was out in full force as we searched for caves and other areas to explore. “This is my life. It’s been my life since ‘92, and I’m always looking for that next adventure. But showing people; tourists and those who live here, what we have to offer never gets tiring. These guys come here just to do this stuff that so many of us get to do every day if we wanted to. It’s all right here, waiting to be experienced. You couldn’t ask to be born in a place better than right here.“
Stanley, who goes out to see ‘bergs when weather permits, says demand is high. “It’s something everyone who comes here wants to experience at least once. They want to see whales, and icebergs, and birds, and just feel what it’s like to be at sea. But we get locals too. And that’s great, because being out here is the best.”
He’s right; it was one of the best days I’ve ever experienced. The zodiac was fast, but felt safe, especially with our experienced Captain.
best day ever
The ‘crew’ were in good spirits and were willing to take in nature in all its finest and just enjoy the day. We saw the bluest blues and the purist of whites. We were blown away as the sun sparkled thousands of diamonds of light off the tips of the ‘bergs as we marveled and wondered at the scrapes and shapes along the underside of the beasts as we passed by within touching distance. It was a day of wonder and certainly one filled with beauty.
For more visit: oceanquestadventures.com