I was fixing up some pictures from our NewFoundland trip.
Our day started relaxed with a later breakfast of French toast and bacon – but accompanied with tragic news. The girl who was cooking our breakfast at Whitsha House had just lost a very close family friend along with 2 young boys and another friend who was home visiting from the Yukon. They were out in the afternoon for a fun boat ride but when they failed to return home in the evening the rescue teams were sent out. We did not hear the helicopters, but several of the other guests did hear them. The one boy was found around 2:30am and 2 other bodies today. The other boy’s body and the boat have not yet been found – and likely may not be. It’s national news understandably, and to be there in the local community with the people impacted was profound.
We left a bit later today with the weather quite cool but promises of turning warm. So with t-shirt and shorts we started with a tour of the Fishing Museum in Boyd’s Cove. It was a very fortunate stop. We paid the$7.50 – $2.50 more for the guided tour. And wow was it worth it! Our guide was a local retired school teacher – taught at the school we had been at it for the wine tour for 22 years. So he is not a fisherman which gave him a unique perspective on the industry. We had a mix of local history with stories from the “uncles”, and a full education on the local life and fishing village persona.
We started with a description of the “legal” bottom trawling that is currently done for shrimping – now the biggest catches locally – which totally destroys the ocean bottom and all habitat for basically all ocean life. If it doesn’t live on the bottom itself, or depend on the seabed plant life for protection, then it would probably be dependent further up the food chain – so everything is effected. We also saw how the crab traps work – and that they are much less destructive in their impact so long as the numbers are controlled.
But then we moved to an education on life before refrigeration. Until then, cod fishing was dependent upon salt curing of the fish, so the numbers manageable by each family were dependent upon what they could process. A smaller family could not really make a living at fishing – so they would do other jobs. A family of up to 6 would perhaps run lines of hooks and try to fish for a living that way. But a family of say 9 could run a whole net system. A village area may have 30 families and perhaps 9 would be large enough to manage the nets.
Each village would have its own method of determining who gets which berth (area for netting). There would be a draw where the names of the berths went into a draw and each family would draw their berth. There was always a prime berth of course – and depending upon the local rules, it may or may not be forced to be rotated.
The winter was spent making the nets – done in the kitchen since it was the only warm room. Mostly the men, but some women who had spare time (yeah right) also helped out. When the season opened, there were 2 ways to catch the fish –depending whether they were eating or not. If fully fed, they became lethargic and came into shore. Then they were jigged – drop a line with a 2 prong hook and snag the fish and toss them into a bucket. There were so many fish that Bill remembers the sensation of bump, bump, bump as the line went down into the fish. Now it just goes thump as it hits the bottom – no fish. (although the shore cod may be recovering in recent years and locals are now allowed to catch 5 fish per day and the numbers seem to be stable.)
If the cod were hungry, that’s when the nets came into use. The assigned berth would be where a family would drop their net – and they would leave it there for a day or 2 or more if bad weather. There was then a systematic way to pull in the nets. Once the fish were all brought to the surface, they were scooped into the boat until either the boat was full – and surplus may be offered to the others line fishing in the area (or returned for pick up on another day depending how much you liked your neighbor!)
Back on shore, the work of processing began. The fish were transferred into the stage – which sat over the water – from the boat by the kids. The kids also ‘fed the table’ to make sure there was a constant stream of fish. One man snapped the head, sliced the belly and gutted the fish – all scrap dropped into a hole in the floor to feed the fish below. As the guts were removed, the very important liver was dropped in a bucket. This became the cod liver oil which was so important in helping to avoid scurvy – a good spoon or mugful was all you needed!
Then over to the splitter who took out the balloon bone – which is the back bone with a hollow allowing the fish to raise or lower in the water by filling it with air – and splayed the fish fully open for salting – very important that it was fully split.
These fish were then laid out off to the side in an alternating pattern and layered with salt – an extremely important step. If any of the skin was exposed, fly eggs would survive into maggots and ruin an entire section of fish (fish here means only one thing – cod). The hut would be filled until the weather was right for drying. If it was to get wet, the fish goes yellow and quality goes down (hence the price too). If it is out in the hot sun, it gets white and powdery – called burnt – and the price goes down. Both result in the salt being drawn out of the cod and ruining the storage life.
It would take about a week for the fish to dry – weather dependent and during that time they had to come in and out each night and every time there was a chance of rain. So the family could never stray far from the flakes – no trips to the cottage!
Once dried – into the fish store until the late fall when they were sold to the merchant – and it was all at his mercy as to what they were paid. In a small town there would only be one merchant and he owned it all – the supply store, the blacksmith, the cooper, the price of fish. So the fishermen never got wealthy even in a good year.
And then the later day was net mending – over the fish store the men would congregate and with the net hung over a beam they would mend the holes – and it was important that the pattern was maintained or it would not hang right in the water.
We also saw the barrels for treating the cotton nets – they used spruce gum and salt water; cod liver oil being used to calm the water, and being mixed with ochre for red paint for the boats and the huts – that is why they are red – and the white comes from lime whitewash to purify the walls of the huts. There were lots of relics including motors for the boats – single drive. And a very unique cheese cutting wheel which would likely have been owned by one of the merchants I’m guessing.
But after refrigeration, it all changed – there was no longer a need to process the fish – so the hut for processing, the flakes and the fish store along with the net mending loft (nylon ropes now too) were no longer needed. That’s when the fishermen starting catching more and more and moving out to deeper waters. Then the big cod started to be caught by the 70’s – and that was the start of the end. They were catching 5 ½ feet cod up to 105 lbs – but these were the oldest mature fish and once they were depleted, the numbers really declined. Add to that the destruction of habitat and the fisheries collapsed.
To this day however, you may still see the odd killick around – a homemade anchor as seen at right – a big rock framed and strung which serves the purpose quite well in a pinch.
There were many more stories from Bill but that’s about it for now….
Also at the museum was an entire whale skelton. The owner of the museum heard about a beached whale in a nearby town and offered to take it away. He towed it to a nearby island and after protecting it from drifting away (caged it in sort of), he left it for nature to take care of. Now several years later it is finally on display. The most interesting part for me was the baleens. I had seen small pieces before, but never the entire set of them intact. They were actually furry – as you can see – and much softer than I expected. But they were still pretty ripe – not an overly pleasant smell :-).
Sitting here in the window seat of our B&B in Durrell, Twillingate as Michael edits todays photos. Another day of spectacular views mixed with fog and rain. But now that we are further south and east again, it is back to warmer at least – no more need for mittens – we even have the fan running to cool the room down.
Last evening we watched another movie in our room as there was not much happening in Springdale – it was not a very pretty town – the first non-picturesque town we have been to I’d say. We stopped by the salmon run river – but despite a few fishers out, there was no sign of any fish. The wildlife staff work out of the station as they have for close to 100 years – but I’m not sure there are many salmon left to protect. We also drove into town to check out the waterfront trail where the bird sanctuary was. It was a flat boardwalk tour with lots of bugs and the tide was out – so we gave it a bye as the weather was rainy.
This morning we had an entertaining breakfast as our hostess played her ‘Joey Smallwood’ dancing man on her knee to her local songs. The highlight of Springdale. Her home was ripe with Newfoundland tartan and her two children’s books that she has published. We headed out early – so early that I managed to leave my brand new Gros Morne jacket on my breakfast chair. I’m hoping it can catch up with us in St. John’s – or that it can be mailed back home to me in Barrie. I did phone from our gas fill spot to arrange – also cancelled our reservation of the 21st as we have decided to try to stay near the puffins that night instead – we’ve missed the icebergs so I have to make sure I at least see the puffins! We managed to book a place later in the day from the tourist info site – so that seems to be sorted out at least.
Our drive was fairly long again today – about 3 ½ hours- but it was relaxed. We passed a couple more moose – so now up to about 8 or so – these were the closest I think. Unfortunately while they are close near the highway, they are generally moving fairly quickly to get out of the way, so photo ops are not great.
En route to our overnight we passed many scenic vistas and made a stop at the lobster pool. It was a large barn type structure with about 2 feet of water and the whole thing was full of lobsters. The local b’y who runs it buys them from the local fishers and keeps them alive by feeding them all summer till they run out. Lobster season closed a couple of weeks ago, and this supply will keep him going till August some time. We saw one that was huge – weighed in at 6.2 pounds! The 2 we bought were cooked and 2.2 lbs each. Quite a steal at $14 per. We had them for late lunch here at the Whitsha Inn with some wine / beer – quite decadent and very very good lobster.
Once checked in we walked over to the 2 local sites – the Durrell museum where we saw a stuffed polar bear – a small one at “only” 480lbs – they get up to a ton. Still would not want to run into it! Lots of local paraphernalia from woodworking and such – but this time for the fishing industry rather than the farming implements we are more used to seeing.
Then we were off to the local Auk Winery. They make lots of berry wines on the island – and Auk had quite a selection. Many are available in Nfld liquor stores, but several were only available from the winery direct. We had a tour – quite interesting as it is run out of an old school and the gymnasium is now the wine making room. We ended up ordering a case for shipping home to Barrie (free shipping by the case) for gifts, of the blueberry iceberg wine. Iceberg wine is made from the water from icebergs – filtered that is!
Then “home” for a Jacuzzi tub (all that sitting in cars is hard on the back), short nap and then out to the very tip of Twillingate to Long Point. It was well worth the drive as the views were amazing. We actually arrived to a bride and groom at the viewpoint and expected their wedding party to arrive for photos. But it turned out they were merely escaping the chaos of their day and were alone getting away from the party. They headed back soon – unfortunately Mike missed taking their photo for them as it would have been nice to send it to them I think.
The sky was very interesting as there were small patches of clear sky in the north distance and thin strips to the west – but there were also vast bands where you could see the rain and fog. And all above a landscape of cliffs, breaking waves, islands and lush green mosses.
We waited a while to see if the setting sun would provide more dramatic skies as they had the night before, but eventually decided to head off for dinner. But further down the hill, we found another short trail where the views were also spectacular. So we stopped there too for Michael to make more shots.
Then off to dinner at R&J’s as recommended by the tourist info – we unfortunately were not able to get tickets to the ‘All Around the Circle’ show which came highly recommended by many folk. We substituted our chips for salad at least tonight so that we feel like we are getting at least a little bit of veg!
And now back it’s almost 10:30 and I don’t have internet for the second night – so just recording for later posting. Hoping the boys got to the cottage okay and managed to get the place opened and running. So another day done.
So we now sit in our room near Springdale. The original plan was to stop near Deer Lake today, but we decided a couple of days ago to try to push a bit further – and we were lucky enough to get a room here after a phone call from Hay Cove.
Yesterday evening the sky cleared again and we decided to make a quick jaunt back up the trail from Hay Cove to catch the sunset over the ocean. There were definite signs of recent moose activity – fresh hoof prints in our direction and droppings. But no live encounters. We carried our coyote sticks too in the event of a less desired encounter – but again no meetings. The sunset was beautiful and it was well worth the extra trip. I was actually quite sure we would meet a moose as Mike’s camera batteries died as the sun finally set… it turns out that there were 6 of them at the end of the road from Hay Cove – 2 minutes from the B&B but we missed them as we were walking not driving!
Today we headed out by just past 8 am and just managed to get here by 3:30. We did have a couple of photo stops. First off we stopped at The Arches along the beach north of Gros Morne. They are remnants of the last glacial retreat. There were several hollows in the rocks and what was most interesting was that once they collapse, being primarily sedimentary rock they dissolve into sand. But all the other rocks around are large stones or rocks of granite from the glacial debris. Interesting landscape. Behind the arches was a very dramatic forest – would have made a great mood setting for a spooky film! The trees were all dead -possibly from the salt spray directed up the hill from the arches, but that was just a theory we heard. At any rate – the area directly behind the arches was not somewhere you want to journey alone in the dark!
Next we stopped by a small abandoned fishing village. In the 60s the government relocated many village folks to larger areas for ease of education, health and other servicing. So many homes were just left abandoned. The town we stopped by seems to have some new building alongside the old abandoned homes though, so perhaps it is being repopulated.
We had lunch on the road – a much needed salad we had picked up at the grocery store yesterday. Then back on for a brief gas stop and on to Springdale. We are now off to explore the town and for dinner. There is a local waterfall which the salmon jump up for spawning – so we’ll check that out as well as grab some dinner. There is also a waterfront boardwalk to a bird sanctuary – which we may or may not check out. So off we go again to burn some the wine and beer calories we have been enjoying!
Our guide was excellent – a local man who was here as a boy and played on the mounds before the find was made. He was part of the second excavation after the Norse left (Cdn government funded in the 70’s). He also helped build the recreation site (after the ground beneath was excavated also to ensure it was clear of any relics) and has worked here ever since. He had heaps of knowledge of the locals, the history and could answer any of the questions. We heard of the local mistrust in the entire concept of there being Vikings here at all, the stories of polar bears coming into the local bay and killing the sheep and even breaking into the houses, the stream that used to run so thick with salmon they could be caught by the wheel barrow full – now you will see small numbers coming up to spawn.
Then off to Norstead – another local recreation site of a viking village – not of the same make up as L.aux M., but more of the proper Norwegian style. They also had a recreated ship which was actually used to sail here from Greenland in 1998 (?year) The Snorri carried 9 men across on a recreation voyage. The character who showed us around the Snorri was quite the local. He has worked in Toronto as a nurse – so he has been around but is very much a local and was full of stories and character. Quite entertaining. The single needle knitting was also quite interesting – it ends up very thick and won’t run even if ripped as each stitch is tied off.
But still it was so cold and the wind so biting that few of the demonstration sites were being run – even the staff had their mittens on.
So off to lunch at the Norseman restaurant – very nice – Mike had the baked Cod and I had the warm seared scallop salad and a trout and cream cheese with pickled onions sandwich. and dessert – Chocolate mousse cake for Michael and partridge berry pie for me. Very nice place.
The late afternoon we headed back to St. Anthony’s and low and behold the sun finally showed around 2pm. And then it was most pleasant for hiking and we took the hike around the cliff and up the top at Fishermans Point for spectacular views of the rich lush landscape. We are now getting in our share of hiking – the 476 steps up the main hill were even manageable!
Then to the market for some shopping for our long drive tomorrow and some more beer & wine(!) and a Mary Brown chicken dinner then back here for a much needed shower and here I am sipping my beer and finishing off today’s blog. THink I might go get Michael from his photo editing and see if he wants to venture out to try to catch the gorgeous sunset we may just get.
Other than one day of sunlight, we are certainly seeing our share of fog and rain. But it’s warm, so at least it’s not in your bones.
Back to Tuesday night – we caught the Neddy Norris show in Cow Head. It was not quite what we expected – but better. 1 young guy from Toronto and 3 young women – all locals; 1 from Cow Head, another from mainland western Labrador and the 3rd from a very small town – Kippens (the south west of NFLD). They treated us to a variety of songs, ballads and verse even an original by one of the troup. I’ll add a few of the titles from the list when I have it handy.
Next morning we did a hike at the local Cow Head Lighthouse trail before our drive. It was a very pretty walk – we saw rabbits and fox – with lots of views. The lighthouse itself was a metal structure and surprisingly low for a landmark – but since it was up the hill I guess it was visible from sea. We followed the trail down to the waterside (there was actually a campsite down the trail) where the water front was very interesting. The rocks are metamorphic with lots of pools and the cliffs to the edge are full of moss and small wind dwarfed flowers and trees with waterfalls trickling down the faces. Very beautiful and peaceful. The iris’ were especially unique in dwarf form.
On the way out, we encountered a black fox who was very accustomed to humans. The locals are apparently concerned by it’s lack of fear, but the couple living at the site were certain it is very safe. It hangs around all the time – digging and burying gloves and such in her garden. It’s just very used to people.
Next our drive up the coast to the point with great hopes of seeing icebergs. We drove through intermittent rain, some fog and overall clouds into St. Anthony’s. At a stop for late lunch in Tim Horton’s, we heard that there was an iceberg visible from the end of the road. So we drove out to catch a sighting. It may be the only one we see – a small one from a distance – as the local news sounds like sightings are slim to none. But Michael didn’t even take a photo as it was so far out and we still had hopes that we would see more – but alas that appears to be it.
After checking into our B&B at Viking Nest, we took the local trail up the hill outside Hay Cove. Since it was lightly raining, Mike decided to leave his camera behind – which was a mistake as the views from the top of the fog rolling into the bays was spectacular.
No moose – but signs again. No coyotes – again signs though. Mike tried to scramble back to get his camera – so he did end up getting a few shots but they were much more fog bound than our original views unfortunately.
We were going to take a picnic for dinner – but the rain got heavier so we ate in our room with a nice bottle of wine and watched movies on Michael’s laptop. Great to have your own travelling entertainment!
It’s a lovely little fishing village – and according to Thelma (our hostess) her husband as one of the fishermen is really struggling. He was offered $.30 a pound for cod – just outlandish giving the sale price. And they don’t know what they will get till the last minute. And getting a buyer is tough. Something just isn’t right with this picture.
And now we are off to L’Anse aux Meadows to check out the viking village. Not sure if we’ll try the iceberg trip today – doesn’t sound promising….maybe the early boat tomorrow when the weather is supposed to be a bit better?
Well we’ve more than made up for lost hiking time today! Awoke to a blue sky at 7am which unfortunately quickly clouded over before we could get on the trail. But the clouds made way to sun by mid day and now at 4:15 at room in Cow Head I am actually sunburnt.
First off – we had a very nice dinner last evening. started with a sampler of cheeses from Quebec – very nice. Michael had the Prime Rib steak and I had rack of lamb – a whole rack of lamb. It was very good – but both Mike and I have left overs for snacking on today!
After a quick breakfast at 8am, we first headed to the Gros Morne mountain trail. It’s graded difficult – but that is mostly for the top section where you climb up the last 400m almost straight up the scree through a valley. Given our timing for the day, we skipped the long trail and just went to the base point where the views were quite impressive. The mountains here are very different – they are all flat top due to glaciation. The geology of the area is very unique altough we have not done any great learnings on the topic, they are very old mountain formations / rocks which are now exposed. the signs of glaciation are clear – between the fjords and the rocks clearly deposited out of place by retreating glaciers – with the odd mega boulder sitting completely out of context on a flat plain.
After that hike, we travelled up the coast past Green Point. We were going to do a trail, but missed the entrance so just went to the end of the trail where we found Green Point – a small fishing outpost with an amazing geological find at the end of the ‘town’. Green Point consists of exposed sedimentary layers dating back through many geological eras. The point is used as the benchmark for distinction between Cambrian and Ordovician periods as of 2000. The shales represent 30 million years of history of the ocean floor. Quite an interesting chance find!
From there to Western Brook Pond where the boat tour up the “pond” showcases the fjords. Having been on similar tours in New Zealand and craving hikes, we decided to do the hikes around the boat launch area rather than the boat tour. But much to our disappointment, Parks Canada let us down. (not to mention that they didn’t open the park office till 9 am so we along with many others had to wait in the morning for our park passes). It turns out that there were 2 trails 3 years ago – one in each direction from the boat launch. They stopped maintaining one of them 3 years ago so the boardwalk is now decayed and you can’t really walk across the bog – as well as it’s overgrown with trees. The ‘good’ walk requires you to cross the brook – which is about waist high at this time. The bridge was washed out and they have no plans to rebuild it. YOu are expected to cross the stream. Not quite sure why that wasn’t mentioned to us when they gave us the trail map. So instead we headed to Cow Head – and probably just as well as we’re both tired and at least this way we can rest before heading to the Gros Morne Theatre tonight. We’re off to see Neddy’s cabaret. And you can get served beer there too – so it’s all good.
We are sitting here in our room in the inn mid-afternoon in the pouring rain. We did try to make a start this morning, but the rain sent us back here. And the weather does not sound too much better for the next week…. Although tomorrow has a chance of breaks in the clouds vs. today’s threats of thunderstorms. At any rate, no kayaking out in the fjords I’m quite sure!
After another nice breakfast at George House, we headed out by about 10 am yesterday (Sunday) for our drive. We were not quite sure how long to expect to be driving – the google map estimate of 9 hours we guessed was high – but we ended up with just over a 6 hour drive, so it was much milder than expected.
We started in the fog and driving rain, and luckily they cleared way to just plain old overcast for the majority of the drive. But we did spot our first moose – no photo unfortunately but hopefully we’ll see more – but only from a distance as the sign entering Gros Morne indicated 15 car/moose meetings this season in the park! Mike did the whole drive except for the last 20km from the park info centre. I got off quite easy! We stopped just before our destination at a lookout point with a small hike to a viewpoint and the rain held off as we took our view.
We had not stopped for lunch, so headed into Norris Point for gas and to check out restaurants soon after arriving- but ended up going into Rocky Harbour where we found a great little spot.
Java Jack’s is run by a mother and her daughters who moved here from Jasper when the husband/father was transferred here from Jasper, Alta. Mike had the salad with fresh from their garden greens, pears, walnuts, and blue cheese along with seared scallops in a mango curry. I had a house salad and the bubbly bake – a very yummy dish full of lobster, shrimp, scallop, fish in a bubbling cream sauce. Along side we had a 1/2 bottle of rioja – very nice meal and ambiance.
This morning we passed on the early ferry across to the other side of the bay since it was raining so heavily (and foggy). And then when the rain and fog persisted, we even passed on the noon ferry. We did stop in the local bakery however. It was attached to the grocery outlet and when we asked for the bakery we were lead out the back through a storage room to a back room where the bakers where busy. Quite funny actually. But they did have some fresh baked cookies which were not out in the store so we picked up a pack of the along with a fresh loaf of bread and some cheese from the store. We were luckily able to comply with the check out sign indicating payment now required – no more credit will be honoured beyond 2 weeks.
So here we sit listening to the pouring rain – drinking a beer and updating the blog. We’ll probably read books, watch a movie and enjoy dinner here in the inn. And hope the weather improves….but we are relaxing even if we aren’t getting any exercise.
We arrived at George House around 8:30pm last evening having made good time on the drive from the airport. We were the only ones in the George house last night – but the parking lot is looking fuller tonight. We quickly headed over to Dildo Dory Grill as they last served at 9pm.
From here we went north a bit more to Winterton Boat Building Museum. We did not do the full tour, but did check out the current boat building. This is the 400th anniversary of Cupids – the oldest English speaking settlement in what is now Canada. It was settled John Guy. After having been dropped off in Oct, he and his co-settlers (not certain how many) built the Indeavour – over the first winter for their use in exploring the area (along with several smaller fishing boats). They are recreating that ship now in Winterton – although with the willingness of the shipbuilder to engage in conversation rather than work, I’m not sure they’ll get far!
Next we continued north Grate’s Cove. Unfortunately, Michael took ill right about this point. We saw some spectactular towns all along and at Grate’s Cove where Mike managed to take some photos and we each had a bowl of soup.
But Mike wasn’t so good by then and he back seated it over to Bay de Verde where he again managed to take some photos. It is a very interesting town where until recently a great portion of the area was covered with ‘flakes’ – raised wooden structures for drying the fish. But now there is little fishing although there were several fishing trawlers and there was a processing plant in the bay.
We are now sitting in the executive lounge in Montreal awaiting our flight to St. John’s Newfoundland – wine and scotch accompanying the pouring rain and lightning and thunder. Our airmiles having covered the extravagence of executive class, it’s worked out quite nicely that we have a 1 1/2 hour stop over in Montreal to enjoy the lounge here – especially since the weather isn’t great. Might as well be sitting back here watching the storm go past and sipping wine.
Hoping for better weather for the next 2 weeks as we head to Newfoundland for our first trip to that province (previous encounters of less than 1 day not counting as legitimate visits). Photos will follow.