Newfoundland/Labrador Day 13: Icebergs, History and Labrador
While I’m writing this the evening of June 30, many will read it July 1. So, Happy Canada Day, eh? We’re celebrating the 1867 Act of the British Parliament which joined three colonies (Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Canada (Quebec and Ontario) and created the federated state of Canada. Click here
Today was a day of icebergs for me. I had seen some yesterday, but saw a lot more today. St. Anthony’s, at the northeastern tip of Newfoundland’s western finger, is at the heart of what’s called iceberg alley where many icebergs come to finally melt away in the many coves and inlets along the Newfoundland and Labrador coasts. Most of the icebergs I saw today probably calved (broke off) glaciers in Greenland more than a year ago and then slowly made their way south on the cold Labrador current. This year and last have been banner years for iceberg watchers and scientists say the trend will continue as Greenland continues to shed its ice cover at an increasingly rapid rate due to climate change
I had generally pictured icebergs as mountain-shaped blocks of ice, but what I saw today dispelled that. They clearly come in all shapes and sizes and wind and waves melt them to ever-changing shapes (but almost never like a pointed mountain). It was hard to estimate how large the ones I saw were, but they seemed to range in size from a tractor-trailer to a half a city block. And, of course, most of their bulk is underwater
As they melt, the water that runs off them into the ocean is some of the purest water in the world, having been frozen 15,000 years ago when there were far few pollutants in the air. I would like to have chopped off a piece to put in my glass of Jack, but those who know icebergs say you generally shouldn’t get that close to them, unless their grounded near shore. Out at sea, they continue to break apart and flip over, and anyone in the vicinity is likely to get tossed into the frigid Atlantic waters.
I also saw icebergs on the 1 1/2 hour ferry ride aboard the Apollo from St. Barbe, Newfoundland to Blanc Sabon, Quebec. Blanc Sabon is only about two miles from Labrador, but that’s where the ferry lands. Some days on the ferry you also see whales. Some days you don’t. Today was a “don’t.” No whales sighted from the ferry, but I definitely expect to see the behemoths of the deep later this week and next week when I’m on the eastern side of Newfoundland.
Before I left St. Anthony for the two-hour ride in the rain to catch the ferry, I stopped at a local museum that honors one of the great pioneers in medical care in Newfoundland and Labrador: Dr. Sir Wilfred Grenfell. Grenfell first arrived in 1892 as a 23-year old physician and missionary to serve the then unserved population of tens of thousands of cod fishermen and the their families. He traveled by boat, by dog sled and by foot to reach his patients and his potential converts. He raised money to build hospitals and nursing stations all along the Labrador coast the northern and eastern arm of Newfoundland. He recruited other doctors and nurses. Then he started an orphanage, a school, a cooperative store, industrial workshops and more. His work was institutionalized with the creation of the International Grenfell Association, a non-profit organized to expand and continue his work. For his efforts in medicine, social work and education he was knighted in 1927.
I spent more than an hour at the museum and still didn’t see all the parts of the historic Grenfell properties in St. Anthony’s and didn’t take any pictures at all (mainly because I would have been taking pictures of pictures).
Now the plot thickens: When I made my B&B reservations four months ago, I picked on in Labrador called Grenfell Louie B Hall Bed and Breakfast. As it turns out, the house I’m in as I write this served as a nursing station and stopover for traveling physicians in the 1940s and 50s before there were any roads build in the area and the nurses who would have staffed it were recruited by the International Grenfell Association. I haven’t spoken much yet with the owner/operator of the B&B, but she has decorated the house with artifacts from years it was a nursing station. Tomorrow I hope to learn more about the house and it’s history
Today was only the third day out of 13 on the road where I had to put on rain gear and even the rain I rode through wasn’t too bad. But it’s about 20 degrees cooler today (low to mid 50s) than it has been my first five days in Canada. I think this is far more typical and its actually what I expected to see. Tomorrow the temperatures should be about the same after overnight lows in the low 40s, but I don’t think it’s going to rain.
Off for another ride along a rugged coast tomorrow to the end of the pavement in Labrador, then turn around and come back after a stop at an historic site dedicated to whaling and yet another European influence. I don’t know about you, but I’m having fun.
Before I sign off, I have to give another pie report. Tonight it was bakeapple pie. Like partridgeberry, bakeapple was new to me, too. While I was enjoying the sweet, orange, seeded fruit pie, I did a little research. First, it has nothing to do with apples as one look and one bite will tell you. The name, it turns out, is an Anglicized version of the French “baie qu’appelle” which means (roughly) “What is the name of this berry?” It also turns out that while the name bakeapple is unique to Newfoundland/Labrador, the berry is not and is actually called the “cloudberry” in other boggy parts of the world. Anyway, it was another good addition to my pie arsenal.
Keep dodging those potholes and I’ll do the same.