Photo Story

The Torngats and the Power of Silence

Author Dennis Minty unveils the transformative power of silence of Torngat Mountains National Park. Reflecting on personal experiences, he reveals how this land, rich in Inuit history, offers a spiritual sanctuary. Amidst the wilderness and towering peaks, the Torngats inspire mindfulness, self-discovery, and a profound connection to the essence of nature.

© Dennis Minty

Exploring the sense of tranquility found at Torngat Mountains National Park

One day when I was a young teenager, and in a foul mood about something, my father told me to go up on the big hill behind our old family home in Twillingate and "listen to the silence". When he said it, I thought it strange, but nonetheless, followed his advice.

I sat on a rock and felt foolish as I tried listening to nothing. Eventually my mind emptied of whatever was bothering me and I heard the watery melody of a distant robin. Then I became aware of the whisper of wind through the blueberry bushes. The soft put-put of a motorboat came to my ear as it pushed out of the harbour. I became aware of my own breathing. I inhaled, then exhaled slowly and deeply, once, twice, three times.

After a half hour or so, I came down from the hill and realized I was in a fine mood again. Whatever had been bothering me, now felt trivial, unworthy of being carried forward. That was the day I became aware of the power of silence and stillness, inside and out.


© Dennis Minty

Reflection in Ramah Bay, Torngat Mountains National Park

When I visit the Torngat Mountains, I always find a rock and listen to the mighty silence for a spell. Inevitably, I feel small and humbled by this vast and sacred land.  

The name Torngat is based on the Inuktitut word "Tongait" meaning place of spirits. Inuit have come here, one of the most dramatic landscapes on Earth, for millennia to commune with spirits and find guidance from their "spirit helpers.”


© Dennis Minty

Nachvak Fjord, a place of spirits

In the southern part of the Torngats, on an island called Sallikuluk, habitation goes back five thousand years. More than six hundred people lay buried there. When you sit quietly on a rock and let your imagination flow, you hear the beat of their drums and the soft thrum of their lives, like a memory, but theirs, not yours.

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© Dennis Minty

Lighting the qulliq, a traditional seal-oil lamp

Although this northernmost part of Labrador is one of the most natural on Earth, Inuit footprints are everywhere. The very notion of wilderness would have been foreign to them since it requires contrast with human-dominated landscapes to make any sense. For Inuit, it was simply "the land", and it still is. It is their home.  

The land and sea provided seals and whales, char and seabirds, caribou and ptarmigan, hares and more, all interconnected with the valleys carpeted with wild berries, high mountain passes, ink-blue fjords, and ice-covered seas. Timeless, circling seasons.


© Dennis Minty

The land provided

As travellers from the south, we may struggle to commune with the same spirits and find guidance, but with some mindful attention to the surroundings, we can feel that it is a truly spiritual place, even more so than the finest cathedrals of Europe. When we are a world away in a place like this and break with our southern routines, when we quiet the vibration and tune to place, our peace of mind, our thoughtfulness and even our creativity can surface. Many of us have forgotten the feeling of quiet and stillness since we are enveloped in a world of noise, chatter, and responsibility. Distractions are constant.


© Dennis Minty

Finding stillness and feeling the spirits

But here, amongst these towering mountains, the highest on mainland Canada east of the Rockies, we can connect with ourselves and with this majestic place. It's elemental. The air is so clear that the peaks seem etched with a fine black pen. Distances are impossible to judge with no trees, cars, or buildings to give scale. Little here has changed in thousands of years. At nearly four billion years, the rock is some of the oldest on Earth. The longer you gaze and listen, the more you see, hear, and feel. The energy is primal.


© Dennis Minty

John Muir: “Everything is flowing—going somewhere..."

Being mindful means being non-judgemental, an impartial witness to your own experience. It requires patience to let things unfold in their own time. It is fuelled by curiosity and an open mind. Your attention is turned full-on to the here and now. Your thoughts flow, they are not pushed. You let go and you accept things as they are. We can be very good at doing, but how are we at just being? The Torngat Mountains is a place to practice this.


© Dennis Minty

Patterns and textures are everywhere

Torngat Mountains National Park was created as part of the 2005 Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement, which established a 72,500 square kilometre region of Inuit land known as Nunatsiavut, an area roughly the size of New Brunswick. The 9,600 square kilometre national park is within this area.

By establishing the park from within their territory, Nunatsiavut Inuit essentially made a gift of the Torngats to the rest of Canada and the world—a portal for a better understanding of Inuit culture. Less than six hundred people visit here annually compared to Banff National Park with its four million. Roadless, with no settlements, not even a building, it is the only national park run entirely by Inuit.


© Dennis Minty

Nearly ten thousand square kilometres of roadless wilderness in the Nachvak Fjord  


© Dennis Minty

Ramah Bay where mountains speak if you take the time to listen

In my book, Labrador, the Big Land, I say:  

A person has no choice but to feel small here. The transience of human life is palpable. If the mountains could talk, I’m sure they would tell us that we humans really don’t matter very much, that they will still be here in cold silence long after we have gone. But while we are here together, mountains and people, we would do well to understand from them that they are the essence of wildness, a tonic for those lucky enough to be in their midst.

Come join Adventure Canada in the Torngat Mountains. Come sit on a rock, let your thoughts flow, and listen to the silence. It is the music of the land.

About the Author

Dennis Minty

Dennis Minty

Photographer, Wildlife Biologist

Dennis has been working with Adventure Canada since 2002. Dennis’s path—from his small island roots in Twillingate, Newfoundland to his current career as a photographer and eco-tour leader—has taken him through more than three decades of local and international work.

For him, nature and photography are inseparable. Dennis immerses himself in nature through photography and seeks to inspire in the viewer a deeper connection with the natural world. Dennis has authored nine books on subjects such as environmental science, his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and his photography.

To see more of Dennis' work, visit his website.