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Thursday, 31 August 2006

Newfoundland: Earth to Human - Page 2

Written by Christina Kay Bolton
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In July I went on a different type of tour of Newfoundland. If I had to put a name on it, I'd call it a “human-centered eco-tour.”  ‘Earth to Human’ was our theme as we explored Gros Morne National Park and Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula, seeing breathtaking landscapes as well as visiting all types of sustainable projects from newly created ecological reserves to the lodges that thrive on the influx of tourism...


Day 2

phillips gardensWe were off early to Port-aux-Choix, a historic site halfway up the western peninsula.  It was a drizzly day, but the walk to Phillips Gardens was beautiful. At the site, archeologists were busy digging the remains of a Dorset house. Pricilla Renouf, the main archeologist and Canada Research Chair at Memorial University, met us there and explained that Phillips Gardens is the best spot in Newfoundland to hunt harp seals and is also the richest place to find the Dorset people’s remains.

The Dorsets were Paleoeskimo people who lived here 1,200 to 1,800 years ago. The dirt is black from hundreds of years of seal oil. What was especially interesting is that over 90% of the bones found at this site of over 100 Dorset houses were from seals, even though caribou came to these fields every day and fish would have been plentiful as well; the Dorset people hunted caribou and fished in different areas because they considered it disrespectful to the seal to hunt something else in a place so perfect for seal hunting.

lodgeWe continued up to the Tuckamore Lodge in Main Brook, a quiet spot on a beautiful lake. Rooms at the lodge are paneled in local woods and decked out in fine linens, which impressed us all. After a refreshing swim, we had dinner in their perfect dining room overlooking the lake.

After dinner, local author John Steffler read from his books about the government’s relocation program and the resulting ghost towns and cultural upheaval, and read poetry highlighting Newfoundland’s creatures like fish and moose.

The owner of Tuckamore Lodge, Barb Genge, spoke about her short stint in Toronto and her longing to return to her native Newfoundland. Since the cod moratorium in ’91 saw the collapse of the fisheries, many people had to leave the island in search of work in Ontario or other provinces. Barb ended up coming home and found work at a local community development association, where she launched a series of initiatives which were unpopular at the time because they were considered too radical. They included cleaning up the rivers and starting a cottage industry in bird down that would eventually allow local women to collect the feathers and sell them.

According to Barb “There’s more power in a blunt pencil than a sharp knife.”  With her characteristic warmth, easy laughter, and Newfoundland twang, she told us how she started the Tuckamore Lodge without much money and in the beginning would even collect redeemable bottles at 5am to pay her mortgage. Now the popular lodge attracts both hunting and non-hunting clientele. Her pride in being a Newfoundlander was revealed when she said, “I’m a Newfoundlander and I do what I do so I can stay here.”

Day 3

L'Anse aux MeadowsAfter a short night’s rest, we woke at 5 am to get to L’Anse aux Meadows at the northern tip of Newfoundland for breakfast with the Vikings.  We ate in a sod longhouse with a very spirited group of actors playing the part of crass Vikings who shared songs and stories with us.  Our breakfast was catered by one of the best restaurants in the area, The Norseman Café, and included Viking specialties of apples sautéed with sausage and onions, flatbread, and some more familiar dishes. vikings

At the visitor’s center we learned that L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site was a Viking settlement 1,000 years ago. This was actually the first European discovery of North America. Archeologists did not find this site until 1960 and have since excavated many of the longhouses. They’ve even found a blacksmith’s hut, where the first Viking settlers made iron nails for repairing their ships by smelting the ore found in peat.


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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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