Introduction to Geography of Newfoundland

Newfoundland, officially Newfoundland and Labrador, the easternmost province of Canada. It is divided into two unequal parts—the island of Newfoundland in the Atlantic Ocean and Labrador on the mainland. The two areas were joined in 1949 to form Canada's 10th province.

Newfoundland is bordered by numerous arms of the Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and is bounded inland by Quebec. The province's total area of 156,650 square miles (405,720 km 2) includes many small offshore islands. Just off the southern coast are the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon.

Newfoundland and Labrador in brief
General information
Entered the Dominion: March 31, 1949, the 10th province.
Provincial abbreviation: NL (postal).
Provincial capital: St. John's.
Provincial motto: Quaerite Prime Regnum Dei (Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God).
Provincial song: "The Ode to Newfoundland." Words by Sir Cavendish Boyle; music by Sir Hubert Parry.
Flag and coat of arms: Newfoundland and Labrador's provincial flag was adopted in 1980. The blue section represents Newfoundland and Labrador's ties to the United Kingdom. The red and gold symbolize hope for the future, with the arrow pointing the way. The coat of arms was granted by King Charles I of England in 1637 and officially adopted as a provincial symbol in 1928. The shield has two lions and two unicorns representing the United Kingdom. The Indians symbolize Newfoundland and Labrador's first inhabitants.
Floral emblem: Pitcher plant.
Land and climate
Area: 156,649 sq. mi. (405,720 sq. km); the island of Newfoundland, 43,008 sq. mi. (111,390 sq. km); Labrador, 113,641 sq. mi. (294,330 sq. km).
Elevation: Highest--Mount Caubvick (called Mont d'Iberville in Quebec), 5,420 ft (1,652 m) above sea level. Lowest--sea level.
Coastline: The island of Newfoundland, 7,176 mi. (11,548 km). Labrador: 5,078 mi. (8,172 km).
Record high temperature: 100 degrees F. (38 degrees C) at Happy Valley-Goose Bay on July 4, 1944.
Record low temperature: -55 degrees F. (-48 degrees C) at Ashuanipi on Feb. 7, 1950.
Average July temperature: 59 degrees F. (14 degrees C).
Average January temperature: 19 degrees F. (-7 degrees C).
Average yearly precipitation: 44 in. (111 cm).
Population: 505,469 (2006 census).
Rank among the provinces: 9th.
Density: 3 persons per mi2 (1 per km2), provinces average 13 per mi2 (5 per km2).
Distribution: 58 percent urban, 42 percent rural.
Largest cities and towns: St. John's (100,646); Mount Pearl (24,671); Conception Bay South (21,966); Corner Brook (20,083); Grand Falls-Windsor (13,558); Paradise (12,584).
Chief products
Agriculture: chickens, eggs, milk, nursery products.
Forestry: fir, spruce.
Manufacturing: paper products, seafood products.
Mining: iron ore, petroleum.
Provincial government
Premier: term of up to 4 years.
Members of the House of Assembly: 48; terms of up to 4 years.
Federal government
Members of the House of Commons: 7.
Senators: 6.
Sources of information
For information on tourism in Newfoundland and Labrador, write to: Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Tourism, Culture, and Recreation, P.O. Box 8730, St. John's, NL A1B 4K2. The Web site at also provides tourist information. For information about the economy and government of the province, write to: Communications and Consultation Branch, 10th Floor, East Block, Confederation Building, St. John’s, NL A1B 4J6. The government’s Web site at also provides information about the province.

Physical Geography

Newfoundland and LabradorNewfoundland and Labrador is one of the Atlantic Provinces of Canada.

The island of Newfoundland marks the northern extreme of the Appalachian region. Much of the land is rolling terrain, rising gradually westward to a maximum of almost 2,700 feet (820 m) above sea level in the Long Range Mountains. These low mountains extend the length of the western coast. The island's irregular coast is indented by numerous bays and inlets, some of the largest of which are Bonavista, Notre Dame, Trinity, and Placentia bays. There are numerous lakes and short rivers.

Labrador occupies part of the eastern edge of the Canadian Shield, or Laurentian Plateau, an elevated block of ancient crystalline rock covering most of eastern Canada. The glacier-scoured shield consists of rolling to hilly terrain and is marked by numerous rivers and lakes—particularly in the interior. The seaward edge of the shield is higher and more rugged than the interior. The Torngat Mountains, at Labrador's northern tip, rise slightly more than 5,300 feet (1,600 m) above sea level. Elsewhere along the coast there are fjords, high cliffs, and numerous bays, largest of which is Hamilton Inlet, including Lake Melville. Rivers are longer than those on the island and have great hydroelectric potential. One of the world's largest hydroelectric projects is located at Churchill Falls on the Churchill River in western Labrador.

The province's two sections have somewhat different climates. The island enjoys the moderating influence of surrounding waters. Average January temperatures range from 14° F. (-10° C.) in the north to 25° F. (-4° C.) in the south. July temperatures average between 50° and 60° F. (10° and 16° C.). Average annual precipitation is about 30 to 60 inches (760 to 1,520 mm), much of which occurs as snow.

Labrador has a harsh climate influenced by air masses from North America's cold interior. Temperatures often drop below 0° Forests, composed largely of black and white spruce, balsam fir, birch, and poplar, cover about a third of the island of Newfoundland and more than a fourth of Labrador. Nonforested areas, other than those cleared by humans, consist mainly of tundra, barren land, and bogs.

Interesting facts about Newfoundland and Labrador
The first successful transatlantic telegraph cable was completed when the Great Eastern, the steamship laying the cable, landed at Heart's Content on July 27, 1866. The Great Eastern, the largest ship in the world at the time, laid the cable on the ocean floor from Valentia, Ireland to Newfoundland.
Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless message at St. John's on Dec. 12, 1901. The Morse Code signal he received was a letter s sent from Cornwall, England. The signal was picked up by an aerial attached to a kite.
Sir Humphrey Gilbert, an English explorer, claimed Newfoundland for England in August 1583. It became England's first possession in North America. However, Great Britain did not formally recognize Newfoundland as a colony until 1824.
Newfoundland and Labrador'sNewfoundland and Labrador's provincial tree is the black spruce.Newfoundland and Labrador'sNewfoundland and Labrador's provincial bird is the puffin.Newfoundland and Labrador'sNewfoundland and Labrador's provincial flower is the pitcher plant.


Historically, the economy of Newfoundland has been based primarily on fishing and on the canning and processing of fish. Also important have been mining, lumbering, and related processing and manufacturing activities. Since the early 1990's, fishing and related industries have declined significantly because of the depletion of fish stocks in coastal waters. Diversification of Newfoundland's economy is a major goal for the provincial government. Pulp and paper milling are the largest industries in terms of value of production. The service industries employ the largest number of workers in the province.

Newfoundland has rich mineral resources, and mining has developed substantially since the 1950's. Of outstanding significance are vast iron ore deposits extending through western Labrador into Quebec. They constitute the largest reserves in Canada. Mines in Labrador account for roughly half of the nation's annual iron ore production and more than 80 per cent of Newfoundland's total mineral output by value. Other minerals produced in sizable quantities include copper, lead, zinc, asbestos, and gypsum. Petroleum, produced offshore, is also important.

Lumbering has been a major activity in the province since the early 20th century and provides seasonal jobs for many Newfoundlanders. Commercial logging is confined mainly to Newfoundland island, where forests are of better quality and are more accessible than in Labrador. Most of the wood cut is processed into pulp for the paper industry.

For hundreds of years the Grand Banks and other fisheries off the coast of Newfoundland were among the most productive fishing grounds in the world. Especially important were cod. By the early 1990's, after decades of overfishing, the fisheries of the Grand Banks and other coastal areas were in danger of being destroyed. In 1992 the Canadian government banned all cod fishing to give the cod time to reestablish themselves. Some fishing still occurs, mainly for crabs.

Agriculture has little significance in Newfoundland, where the climate and soils are generally unsuited to farming. Cultivation is limited to small areas of Newfoundland island, mainly on the Avalon Peninsula and along the southwestern coast. Potatoes, turnips, cabbage, and hay are the chief crops raised.

There is some dairy, hog, and poultry farming on the island. Fur trapping provides supplementary income for some farmers.

Newfoundland's principal highway is a section of the Trans-Canada Highway, which crosses Newfoundland island from Channel-Port aux Basques to St. John's and links most of the larger cities. Most of the rest of the province's paved roads are also on Newfoundland island. Ferries connect the island with Nova Scotia and with Labrador. Coastal vessels provide service to many of the province's seaside communities that are not served by roads. A privately owned railway offers passenger service from Shefferville, Labrador, to Sept-Îles, Quebec. St. John's is the province's chief seaport, handling both coastal and overseas trade. Several airports, including an international airport at Gander, serve the province.

People and Government

Most of the people live in villages and small towns; although more than 40 per cent were classified as rural, fewer than 1 percent lived on farms. More than 90 per cent of the people are of English, Irish, Scottish, or Welsh descent. There are also Inuit (Eskimos) and Indians, most of them living in Labrador.

Annual events in Newfoundland and Labrador
Corner Brook Winter Carnival (February); Mount Pearl Frosty Festival (February); Grand Bank Winter Carnival (March); Newfoundland and Labrador Drama Festival (held in a different location every year in April) .
St. John's Day in St. John's (weekend nearest June 24); Gros Morne Theatre Festival in Cow Head (June-September); Festival of Folk Song and Dance (July); Strawberry Festival in Humber Valley (July); Twillingate and New World Island Fish, Fun, and Folk Festival (late July); Stephenville Theatre Festival (July-September); Royal St. John's Regatta (first Wednesday in August); Bakeapple Folk Festival in Forteau (August); Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival in St. John's (August).

School attendance is free and compulsory from age 6 to 16. The province's school system is organized according to religious denominations. The provincial department of education shares responsibility for the schools with three denominational education councils—Roman Catholic, Pentacostal Assemblies, and an Integrated Council representing the Anglican, Moravian, Presbyterian, Salvation Army, and United Church of Canada groups. The Seventh-day Adventist Church operates an independent school system.

The Memorial University of Newfoundland, which is nondenominational, is in St. John's.

The Confederation Building,The Confederation Building, seat of the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador, is in St. John's, the province's capital since 1729.

The head of the provincial government is the lieutenant governor, appointed by the governor general of Canada, in council. The lieutenant governor represents the crown but has only nominal powers. Executive powers are exercised by the executive council, composed of the premier and the cabinet. The premier is actually the head of the provincial government, the leader of the party in power and chooses cabinet ministers from among party members in the House of Assembly. Legislative power is vested in the Assembly, which is composed of 48 members elected by the people. The Assembly has a term of four years but may be dissolved at any time by the lieutenant governor on the advice of the premier.

Premiers of Newfoundland and Labrador
Joseph R. Smallwood Liberal1949-1972
Frank D. Moores Progressive Conservative1972-1979
A. Brian Peckford Progressive Conservative1979-1989
Thomas Rideout Progressive Conservative1989
Clyde Kirby Wells Liberal1989-1996
Brian Tobin Liberal1996-2000
Beaton Tulk Liberal2000-2001
Roger D. Grimes Liberal2001-2003
Danny Williams Progressive Cons.2003-

Local governmental units are municipalities, towns, and rural districts. The judiciary is headed by the Supreme Court. Newfoundland is represented in Canada's Parliament by six senators and seven members of the House of Commons.