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Thursday, 31 August 2006

Newfoundland: Earth to Human - Page 3

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...


Next, we stopped in St. Lunaire at the Dark Tickle jam factory, an example of a very successful business based on harvesting the local berries and producing quality jams. The owner spoke with us about his expanding business and about Newfoundland. When asked what he likes most about his homeland he said, “It’s the freedom, the open spaces.”

We lunched in Raleigh at the Burnt Cape Café, a new business that sprung up after the creation of the Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve. After lunch, we met the interpreters for the reserve, who took us out to the peninsula and showed us the frost polygons and miniature plants & flowers growing in limestone. Burnt Cape has the shortest growing season, the lowest annual temperature, and the most precipitation of any park in Canada. Not surprisingly, it is home to many rare plants, most of which are tiny.

That night, after another great meal at the Tuckamore Lodge, we sat in the Great Room for the evening’s talk by David Maggs and another inspiring concert by the Azmari Quartet.  Surrounded by glass, we watched trout jump and fireflies zip around under a blanket of stars.


Day 4

After a restful sleep and filling breakfast we were off along the boardwalk to view the salmon holes, where we happened to meet Trevor Pilgrim, the initiator of this sustainable project. He described the journey of the salmon through a mile of underground caves created when water dissolved the calcium in the limestone over thousands of years.

tuckamoreWe drove to Torrent River where Bill Maynard, owner of the Torrent River Inn, showed us a project to re-introduce salmon to the Torrent River, which had always been one of the best spots in the area to fly-fish, but which had been heavily over-fished to the point that the river was down to only 19 salmon in 1969. Now, the river has over 5,000 salmon and is open to catch-and-release fishing, with each fisherman being able to take home four fish a year, the maximum number that is sustainable for this river.

Our next visit was to the Myra Bennett house in Daniel’s Harbour; Myra was a nurse (who acted like a doctor) to the entire area. Her 82-year-old son Trevor Bennett met with us and told us stories about his mother’s work and the way things used to be. When asked, “If you could bring back one thing, what would it be?” “Humanity,” was his immediate response and then, “the versatility of people… People used to do so many things, like make their own snowshoes… When you’d leave the house your mom would say ‘bring your axe’ because you could always cut trees to make a shelter if you needed to.”

Some of us wandered down to the docks as the fishermen were cutting off fish heads, preparing the catch for the market. When asked what the best thing was about being a fisherman in Newfoundland, one replied right away, “Saturday night.”

Next, we were off to Cow Head for the Gros Morne Theatre Festival’s dinner theatre at the Shallow Bay Motel. The show was The S.S. Effie and during the meal, riotous laughter kept breaking out as the actors who served us took on unforgettably obnoxious personalities.

The story of the S.S. Effie was a serious one, though: another piece of local history about an old steamer caught in an intense storm. To try to save the passengers, the captain decided to run the ship aground in an area sandy enough that it would not be torn apart. They managed to do so, but were still too far out. Running out of options, they  decided to set up a bowman’s chair by attaching a rope to a barrel and sending it afloat towards shore.

The plan worked: the people on  shore saw the crisis and caught the rope:. Each of the ship’s passengers then got on the bowman’s chair, and eventually they all made it safely.  There had been a baby aboard as well, and in another feat of Newfoundland ingenuity, they wrapped her in blankets and put her in a mail sack, attaching it to the rope chair and sending her ashore to safety.

It was an inspiring story and I don’t think I’ll ever fear getting on a boat in Newfoundland. The Shallow Bay Motel was less inspiring, however. The furnishings are older and commonplace, and only the rooms with an ocean view are really worth staying in.


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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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