The Labrador dependency of Newfoundland comprises an area of 110,000 square miles. It stretches from the Strait of Belle Isle, latitude 51°20′N; to Cape Chidley, 60°20′N; a distance of 600 miles. It adjoins the province of Quebec along a boundary which in the south follows the 52nd parallel of latitude and in the west follows "the crest of the watershed of the rivers flowing into the Atlantic Ocean until it reaches Cape Chidley". Long in dispute this boundary was fixed by a decision of the Privy Council in March, 1927.
Labrador is part of the upraised Canadian Shield, underlain by hard, old Precambrian rocks. Its general form is that of a rough plateau, the summits of which represent the remnants of an ancient peneplain or surface of erosion. The plateau is tilted, presenting a bold escarpment toward the northeast along an old fault zone. It is highest in the north, where the Torngat Mountains have summits over 5,000 feet above sea level. The Mealy Mountains, south of the Hamilton River, attain heights of over 4,000 feet. The edge of the plateau is deeply cut by the valleys of rapid rivers draining into the Atlantic. The southwest part is known as the "plateau of the lakes" because here drainage has not been fully established and there are many lakes both large and small.
There is marked evidence of Pleistocene glaciation. The Torngat Mountains have many cirques, U-shaped valleys, sharp peaks and ridges cut by mountain glaciers. The seaward escarpment is indented by many ice scoured valleys now invaded by the sea to form fjords like those of Norway. While the eastern border shows the work of icescour, the inland area has many land forms produced by glacial deposition such as moraines, kames, eskers and outwash plains. There are large areas of till plains including many drumlins and in these areas there are few outcropping bedrock hills. The largest river is the Hamilton, which drains much of the Lake Plateau. Grand Falls, twice as high as Niagara, is a reserve of untamed power.
Climate and Life Zones
Generally speaking, the climate of Labrador is harsh, the yearly average temperature for the whole country being below freezing. The summer is short and cool, exposed coastal stations having July mean temperatures below 50°F. Winters are extremely cold, especially on the interior plateau.
Precipitation ranges from about 40 inches per year in the south, to 20 inches in the north, with heavy snowfall. For much of the plateau, summer is less than three months in length. Snow begins to fall in September and does not disappear until the following June. On some of the higher mountains, small patches of snow may remain all summer.
The coast of Labrador may be regarded as an extension of the fog zone of the Grand Banks although, toward the north, fogs are not so frequent as they are in the Strait of Belle Isle.
The northern part of Labrador has little vegetation and may be regarded as a southern extension of the Arctic tundra. In the south, particularly at the lower elevations, there are coniferous forests which eventually may be worth economic exploitation. Spruce and balsam fir are the important trees.
Most of the valuable fur-bearing animals of eastern North America are found in Labrador, including the beaver, muskrat, mink, otter, martin and fox. The arctic hare is found in the northern barrens while the varying hare inhabits the southern forests. Both woodland and barren land caribou formerly were found in fair abundance but are now rather scarce. The coastal waters are frequented by arctic marine animals including various seals, the walrus and polar bear. Whales also come from the north and are caught some distance from the coast. Coastal waters also abound in cod, haddock and herring. The evidence of all observers indicates that the larger animals are disappearing. This is especially true of the land inhabiting forms. Fish, however, continue to be plentiful.