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Newfoundland and Labrador: Location and Land


Location

The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador consists of two major geographical areas; the island of Newfoundland, and Labrador on the Canadian mainland. They are divided by the Strait of Belle Isle, in the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. The province occupies a mid-latitude position between 46 35' and 60 23' north. The mainland, Labrador, is bordered by northeastern Quebec and is approximately two and a half times as large as the island. Most of the island of Newfoundland lies below the 50th parallel. Located at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River the island is a large triangular-shaped area of some 112 000 km2. The island of Newfoundland is separated from the Canadian mainland by the Strait of Belle Isle in the north and by the wider Cabot Strait in the south.

Landmass

Facing the North Atlantic in the northeast corner of North America the island of Newfoundland is the easternmost part of Canada. Labrador, to the north, is a coastal region of the Canadian mainland, and the northeastern part of continental North America. Labrador comprises 72.5 percent of the land area of the province but contains only 5.3 percent of the population. The province's total area is 405 720 km2.

The Land

The Atlantic Ocean has had a decisive influence on life in Newfoundland and Labrador, as has the natural environment. Factors such as the shortness of the growing season, the scarcity of good soils, the long winter period, and the impediments of harsh weather, including storms, fog, strong and variable winds, heavy precipitation, and cold temperatures have had an impact on the land and the people. As well, poor drainage, cold currents, offshore pack ice, and icebergs have also had a major impact.

The province's coastline stretches over more than 17 000 km. It is varied with prominent headlands, coves, fiords and offshore islands. The interiors of both Labrador and Newfoundland were deeply impressed by glacial activity, continental collision, mountain-building, and volcanoes and were formed by oceans, rivers and ice sheets. Central Newfoundland is the remains of an ocean floor that lay between North America and Africa about 500 million years ago. The island's west coast is part of the ancient margin of North America. The east coast was once part of southwestern Europe or North Africa. When the continental plates again separated (which led to the formation of the Atlantic Ocean basin) the split occurred east of where they had collided and this left a piece of the eastern plate attached to North America.

Today the Island has a rolling, rugged topography with much of the island and southern and central Labrador covered by a thick boreal forest, broken by numerous lakes and swift-flowing rivers. Labrador is the easternmost part of the Canadian Shield, a vast area made up mostly of plutonic and metamorphic rock.

  • Mountain Ranges
    Newfoundland represents the northeastern most extension of the Appalachian Mountain system in North America, and is much younger than Labrador. Northern Labrador is marked by the Torngat Mountains, which rise abruptly from the sea to heights of up to 1676 m.
  • Lakes / Rivers
    More than 8% of the area of the province of Newfoundland is occupied by lakes. This is slightly greater than the average for Canada. Western Brook Pond, a large lake in Western Newfoundland, is a deep rock-basin lake, which is called a 'pond.' Artificial dams, such as those at Star Lake, Grand Lake, Red Indian Lake, and Grand Lake on the island's west coast, have enlarged other lakes. Besides lakes Newfoundland and Labrador also have many rivers. The main river in Labrador is the Churchill. Major rivers in Newfoundland include the Exploits and the Gander rivers.

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