To the eye of the osprey (a large fish-eating hawk) soaring overhead, Western Brook Pond looks like a shimmering jewel dropped by a giant hand. The jewel’s landing place is the bottom of a 2000ft (600m) deep canyon, cut into the Long Range Mountains of the Canadian island of Newfoundland.
To describe this lake as a ‘pond’ is misleading, for Western Brook Pond snakes for 10 miles (16 km) into the mountains, and is 544ft (166m) deep. The gorge containing it was cut during the Ice Age. A glacier moved down an existing river valley, deepening and widening it before stopping short of the coast. When the ice finally retreated about 11,000years ago, Western Brook Pond formed at the bottom of the gash.
It was some 6000 years after the Ice Age ended that people started to move into this area, the earliest of whom hunted seals, fish, birds and caribou. The later Dorset Inuits settled along the coast near western Brook Pond in the early centuries of the Christian era. They built houses with earth walls and fireplaces and may have used wood and hide boats similar to kayaks.
Now pleasure boats take summer visitors along Western Brook Pons, past the waterfalls that tumble down the canyon’s sides, and the scree that litters the lower slopes. To reach the lake, visitors cross a boggy plain where the insectivorous pitcher plant, New-foundland’s floral emblem, grows.