Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Labrador -- The Big Land

We left Quirpon to retrace the only road south to Deer Lake where we could get on the Trans Canadian Highway to start heading east. Our one stop was in St. Barbe where we left the RV for a couple of days while we took the CRV on the ferry to Blanc-Sablon, Quebec. From there we drove the Labrador Coastal Drive. Newfoundland and Labrador have one provincial government as the population of the latter is less than 30,000. Labrador does have its own flag and we sensed that the people here don't feel closely tied to the Newfies. The Coastal Drive in Labrador is only paved for 50 miles to Red Bay but everyone we talked to was very happy that the new gravel road to Goose Bay was opened this year so they can now get there without taking the ferry. (If you are real adventurous, you can now drive over 900 miles of gravel road to north of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, where you hit paved roads again, and back to the US.) We had planned to stay in a B&B in L'Anse-au-Loup but when we arrived no one was home so we decided to find a place to eat as it was late in the day. We drove around town and discovered the only place to eat was a chip van that was closed for the day. We drove to the Oceanview Resort in West St. Modeste where we found one of only four restaurants on the fifty mile stretch of highway. While dining we decided we would stay there. The fact that the waitress who took our order also cooked the great meal influenced our decision. Even though it was more expensive, we at least had all the amenities (bar, food, bed) we needed. The day we arrived the weather was sunny but cool. The next morning the bad news was it was foggy, windy and cold so being outside and hiking were very uncomfortable. The good news was it was foggy, windy and cold (40) so there were no back flies (they have not been kind to Nanc) meaning we could be outside. Even the locals were complaining about the cold so we didn't feel like wimps.
On the drive south we spotted several whales feeding just off shore. We saw a lot of spouts and just a glimpse of the whales. We actually stopped on the road to watched them for about ten minutes. Not one vehicle passed while we were stopped.
The crossing on the MS Apollo only took an hour and a half. This ferry is similar to the one we used to get to the Rock, but much smaller. It was pretty windy and we did not see any of the whales they had seen the day before.
Inuit Inukshuk
The inukshuks are found throughout Labrador. They were used by Inuit hunters to channel the caribou to a spot for easy harvest where they would hide behind them to get closer to the caribou. They were also used as trail markers on the treeless tundra. Today it is known as the symbol of the human spirit.
Here we are all bundled up standing on the highest bridge in Atlantic Canada over the Pinware River. The deck of the bridge was wood which I guess holds up better than asphalt.
One destination in Labrador was the Red Bay National Historical Site. In the 1500's as many as 1000 Basque fishermen came to Red Bay each summer for the whales and cod. Selma Barkham, a archival researcher, found records in the Basque region of Spain and France that indicated four galleons had sunk in this area. In the 1980's a underwater archaeological team found the remains of one that is believed to be the Saun Juan, a vessel that had been loaded with 800 to 1000 barrels of whale oil when it sank in 1565. The entire ship was brought to the surface piece by piece, catalogued, copied and then reburied in the sea. Above is the model of the Saun Juan that was built using the information collected by the team. The boat on the right is a chalupa that was found at the site. This is the boat the whalers would use to get close enough to harpoon the whale. Middle is a skeleton of a whale's fin next to a typical Basque whaler. No matter what you think of the whalers, they had to be very brave to take on these huge creatures.
This is Red Bay harbor. The inset on the right is a model to show how they would render the whale fat for the oil. A major part of the operation here was to make barrels to transport the oil. In the left inset are whale bones along the Boney Shore Trail, one short walk we took on the windy cold day. It was something seeing all these bones that are hundreds of years old.
Another stop was to the Point Amour Lighthouse which was built in the 1850's to help make travel through the Strait of Belle Isle safer. Ships used the route to save 200 miles when traveling between North America and Europe. Our tour guide Robert did a great job of explaining the construction and the workings of the light. The tower was built of stone, covered with brick and then with shingles to stop the corroding of the mortar by the salt air. We could not see much from the top because of the fog. The fog is the result of the cold Labrador current from the north meeting a warmer water flowing out of the Gulf Of St. Lawrence. Also because of the colder current there are no lobster in Labrador with just across the strait they thrive.
Left is a 7500 year old burial mound near L'Anse Amour that is the oldest in North America. Right is a smaller lighthouse at West St. Modeste. All the French names along the coast go back to when this was part of New France until they lost the Seven Year War. This war was called the French and Indian war in US history.
On our quest to check out an iceberg we came across this cemetery in Pinware where I found a whole section with grave markers of the Hudson family. I'm not really into genealogy but my great grandmother was a Hudson so I may have some relatives in the area. I plan to check this out with my cousin who has done quite a lot of research on our family and may be able to clear up the mystery. Quite an interesting day along the Labrador coast.


Anonymous said...

Lovely to see someone exploring Labrador! I am a native of the south coast of Labrador, St. Lewis. If you want to see Ice Bergs, that is the spot to see them for sure! There's also a few walking trails there, a museum, and restaurant/hotel. It's definitely worth checking out. Tell them Mandy Poole sent you.. :)

lee said...

That headstone picture brings back memories. Arthur Hudson raised my Grandmother.

Nice pics

Lionel Lee said...

This is a picture of Arthur Hudson's headstone he raised my mom Alice Lee (Buckle). My mom and dad (James Lee)and a family of 6 kids lived with with Arthur Hudson in Pinware in an older house near the salt water until the year of 1977 we moved into a new house and Arthur Hudson moved with us. My brothers, sisters and I consider Arthur as our grandfather since we never knew our grandparents on our mom's or dad's side. Arthur Hudson lived with us until his passing in 1992.