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Newfoundland Travel – Avalon Peninsula
Sunday, July 20, 2003
Our destination today was Terra Nova National Park, on the East Coast of Newfoundland. We were very surprised at the fees they charged: $5.00 per day per adult for use plus $21.00 per day for camping with no amenities (electricity was $5.00 extra per night). The area boasts arboreal forests reaching to the sea. There are many hiking trails, most between four and ten kilometers in length.
We went to the marine interpretation center. A ranger explains the different aquatic animals they have in their touch tank: stars, scallops, various crabs, barnacles, etc. It was very informative. They also have tanks with local fish in them: cod, caplain, etc.
Monday, July 21, 2003
Took to some of the trails today to view the wildlife and the scenery, which Terra Nova has to offer. We saw three plovers, a herring gull, a whiskey Jack (a gray jay), and squirrels, which are not indigenous to Newfoundland. We saw moose tracks and droppings and bear tracks, but no moose or bear yet.
After a day of hiking, it was early to bed.
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
Drove to St. Johns, the capital Newfoundland. We parked at Pitty Park in St. Johns. This is located close to Memorial University.
Until 1948 Newfoundland was an independent country. On July 22, 1948, they voted whether to become part of Canada. The first ballot was noncommittal. After some negotiations with the Canadian government and necessary concessions, the people voted confederation by a very narrow margin. Many Newfoundlanders, even today many wished that confederation never took place. The other options they had was to become a member of the USA or remain independent.
Drove down to La Manche (French for the sleeve) Provincial Park. We were put in the overflow section, which is perfect for us, because the area is wide open. There is no electricity or water, except for boiling available in any of the provincial parks. So we are happy to pay $13.00 Canadian per night. We are spitting distance to the lake, which has water the temperature of bath water. There are hiking trails. One leads to a picturesque falls, where swimming is allowed, but not recommended. Another leads to the ruins of the town of La Manche. After the Confederation in 1949, the residents of the town were given the opportunity to resettle to a larger town, because it was too costly to maintain roads and offer other services, such as electricity. Most refused. After a major storm hit the area in the 1960s, the town had been wiped out and so the people were resettled anyway. Only the foundations of the buildings remain today of this once prosperous fishing village. Similar stories exist for many of the fishing villages on the island. When the fisheries died from dredging, the life expectancy of the Newfoundland fisherman was also terminal. Many chose to give up the old ways, which originally had brought their families to this abundant island, and moved to larger towns to find less meaningful work.
Friday, July 25, 2003
Today we were going to go whale watching. We found out that Gatheralls in Bay Bulls charged $50.00 per person, but someone recommended Seabird or Ocean Adventure Tours out of Bauline East, closer to the Park, for only $20.00 per person for a one hour trip. We decided top check them out and see what they offered. We met Jerry, the owner operator of Seabird, who had just returned from a trip out to Great Island, the Puffin Sanctuary. He said that they had seen about six humpback whales out on the briny. By the time we left our small group of four had increased to over twenty people. There was plenty of room on board for all. Three Islands comprise Witless Bay Ecological Reserve: Great, Green, and Gull. Great is the largest and lays just off the coast of Bauline East. The first bird pointed out was the Northern Fulmar, a rarity since there are only twenty pairs on the island. Then there were the little puffins skimming the waters, wings beating almost as fast as hummingbirds, their colorful beaks contrasting to the black and white bodies. Also in abundance were terns, or Murrs in Newfoundlander, and black-legged Kittiwakes, a smaller member of the gull family, who has dipped its wing tips into bottles of India Ink. Enough of the birds. Off for larger prey.
Everyone on the boat was scanning the horizon as we headed out to sea. Finally someone shouted, “Thar she blows, starboard.” Off on the chase we went and there was our first humpback whale, complete with a dive with a wave of his tail fluke. All in all we must have seen about a dozen whales. The number might have been more or less. It is very hard to identify them unless you get pictures. We got a couple of their flukes, which usually have the identifying marks. Some of the whales were even vocalizing to us. Everyone on board acted like eight year old David, full of enthusiasm and awe at these magnificent persons. Sometimes we were less than five feet from the whale. Somehow I believe that they were having as much fun as we were, like the porpoises in Charleston, SC Harbor. Our trip on the sea was over an hour long and we hadn’t even started to return to Great Island or to the wharf.
We returned to the leeward side of the island and saw the nesting sites of the Kittlwakes, with adults and babies. We passed by numerous caves, one called skull cave because it looked like one, and natural arches etched from the rock by water and wind. The entire trip took almost two hours. Everyone got their money’s worth, plus some.
After a quick sandwich we left for the twenty minute drive to Ferryland. We wanted to see the Colony Avalon and other interesting sights there. We would be returning to Ferryland for the Shamrock Festival tomorrow. When we arrived, they were still setting up the venue. Colony Avalon is right there too. We joined a guided walking tour, which had just begun, outside the visitor’s center. Jennifer Carter was our guide. If she did not know the answer to our questions, she was in constant communications with someone who did.
Colony Avalon is an active archaeological site of a four acre plus community founded by George Calvert, AKA, Lord Baltimore, in 1621. Situated on the banks of a naturally protected harbor, the colony thrived throughout the 17th century, cod fishing being the primary industry. Thousands of artifacts have been found on the site, some dating back even further to the Beotuck tribes and 16th century Basque, Portuguese, French and English seasonal fishermen. The Avalon Colony, however, had cobblestone streets, sewerage system flushed twice daily by high tide, forge, wells, warehouses with doors on the harbor, palisades, a manor house, plus many other buildings. Excavations are still underway, with new artifacts found daily. On the day we were there, they had found part of a crystal goblet and a gold coin.
Lord Baltimore abandoned the settlement to Sir David Kirke and went on to found the colony of Maryland. Kirke did so well in building the colony, he was put on trial in England and convicted, most probably of embezzlement of funds which should have gone to the crown. His wife took over for another twenty-five years. Most people have never heard of this prosperous settlement which predates Plymouth Rock. St. Augustine had been founded in 1565 and Jamestown in 1607.
Sunday, July 27, 2003
Went on a hiking trail to the ruins of the town of La Manche. The town was started in 1840 and built on the side of a steep hill, at least fifty feet above the shoreline. Living there had to be pretty tough because everything was up and down the steep hillside. Even though it was almost a mile from the closest road, the town prospered. When confederation with Canada took place in 1949, the government wanted to relocate the town so that services good be given. They refused. But their decision was reversed when a storm wiped out the town. It had to be one heck of a storm, because the town was so high from the water’s edge. All that remains are foundations, some with basements, the cables from a suspension bridge traversing the river, and a doctor’s house in ruins across the river and up the hill.
We saw a humpback whale frolicking in the bay. On the return home I found an old stone spearhead and gave it to Jordan, a ten year old boy who was taking the hike with us. Tanya Herlidan was our naturalist guide. Later she brought to our trailer pictures of the town as it once had been.
Monday, July 28, 2003
‘Tis a fresh lovely Irish day to tour the Irish Loop: foggy, rainy, and windy. Our first stop was to Ferryland to the historical museum. We wanted to hear about the German W.W.II burials. The young people who were at the museum knew nothing about it, but had heard stories of U-boats in the area. We had been told that the Germans brought the body bags ashore and the local citizens had services for them and then buried them in their cemeteries. We were told that it was possible, because of the solitude of the local lighthouse, presently shrouded in fog, would be a good place to dump the bodies. They could not confirm the story, however. We asked where the old cemetery was located. We found it. As you can see in the picture, it was quite unkempt; many of the headstones were illegible and broken. Whether the story is true or legend, it still is a great story.
Drove through Renews, where the Mayflower stopped for supplies while on the way to Plymouth Rock. Then off to Portugal Cove South. The landscape was fairly open at this point, a great place to view the caribou herds, which number in the thousands. Arrived at the visitor center at Portugal Cove South in the fog. We were told by the young ladies at the center that the fog had lifted and it was quite nice outside. For the past week, they could not see across the road. Portugal Cove South has 158 days of fog per year, which is almost ½ of the time. When asked for the reason why they were so blessed, they said that it was because of the confluence of the Labrador, Gulf of Mexico and St. Lawrence Currents. In the visitor’s center were exhibits on the Titanic and on fossils. The lighthouse men at Cape Race were the first ones to hear the SOS from the ill fated Titanic in 1912. The wireless and the old house were demolished for a new on a few years later. So some historical artifacts lay buried. Along the road to Cape Race is Mistaken Point, a treasure trove of 575 million year old fossils. Because the cod industry of the area has been destroyed, the local citizens have become the self-appointed keepers of the fossils offering tours and chasing off the poachers. Today was not an optimal day for viewing them, because they turn into a slip and slide into the North Atlantic. When I asked the young ladies what was available in the area to keep them here, they said, “Nothing.” Both were college students at St. John’s majoring in Social Work and Physical Therapy and were home only for the summer.
Off to Trepassey we drove. Trepassey was the liftoff point for Amelia Earhart’s Transatlantic journey in 1928. We were in a driving rain storm. We took refuge in a restaurant, ate lunch and watched the storm. Off to St. Shotts to see some caribou. They were all hiding behind the fog. We saw zero caribou on the entire trip. We were told that the numbers have been severely reduced due to disease. There are very few left on the Avalon Peninsula.
We proceeded to the West side of the Irish Loop. The shroud of Brigadoon lifted to reveal a beautiful Kelly Green landscape with small farms dotting the hillside. We broke into song, happy to see the remaining seventy miles of the Irish loop.
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
Went to Cape Spear, the Easternmost point on the North American Continent. Even though Newfoundland is an island, it is still considered part of the North American Continent. Just as Nord Cap in Norway, also an island, is considered the Northern most point in Europe. Besides an 1835 lighthouse, one of the oldest in Newfoundland, the cape is also the emplacement of battlements erected by the US and Canadian Armies during W.W.II to protect the St. John’s shipping lanes from Nazi submarines. While there we saw minke whales breaking the surface. They were pretty far out to get pictures. Nevertheless it was exciting.
Returned back to the city and drove through the city. We stopped for ice cream at Moo Moo’s, a favorite spot for their 88 flavors of hard packed ice cream. After the cones we went to the Basilica of St. John’s, where the diocese keeps their archives. We were told by the historian there that most of the Pelley clan settled in Anglican communities. St. John’s was the closest port to Ireland. From St. John’s they traveled to Halifax and then to Boston. Many Catholic Irish came over and settled in protestant towns because the Catholic Church was not well established in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The research which has been done is now being catalogued. I will send more information on to those who are interested in their genealogy.
Tuesday, August 05, 2003
Today we drove the Killick coast. A killick is an anchor made out of long stones enclosed in pliable wooden sticks tied at the top and with crossed ones at the bottom to dig into the seabed.
Along the way are towns with names like Torbay, where the English landed to retake St. John’s from the French.
Further on is Flat Rock, where the cod was laid out on the flat rocks to dry. Pope John Paul II was there to bless the fleet. It is also home to a replica of the Grotto at Lourdes, which is visited by many pilgrims.
Further on is Pouch (pronounced Pooch) Bay, founded earlier than 1611, which was the first documented date. Although permanent houses were taxed by the Crown in the 17th and 18th Centuries, neither the Royal Navy nor pirates dared to enter the dangerous waters of the harbor. So the town thrived.
We then took a side track to St. Francis Point, via a gravel road with barely enough room for passing. At the end of the road is a helicopter pad and light beacon to warn sailors of the rocks. To the North are Baccalieu Peninsula and Baccalieu. The view is breathtaking.
The Sierra Club must also think this too, because we met a group of hikers on tour of the East Coast Trail having lunch on the pad.
Finally on the trail is Portugal Cove, the terminus for the ferry boat to Bell Island. Bell Island is noted for its iron mines, which go under the sea. During W.W.II, the German Government hired the local boat captains to man their U-boats, because they were familiar with the area’s waters. Newfoundland, at the time was an independent country. One of the ferry boats recently had a collision with a Russian trawler, in restricted waters ,putting it out of commission. The government does not know whether to prosecute or reward the ferry captain. We had lunch at Beach Cove Café, part of a B & B by the same name. The fries were superb, a large platter of thick wedges.
Drove to the Cape Shore loop, which includes Placentia, the original French Capital. We took the overland route via a gravel road. The Fradshams have a summer home on this road, called Misty Mountain. No one was at home. So we left a note. The road passes by the Cataracts which cut a sixty foot gorge through the hills; a pretty sight. We parked at the beach where the Placentia Regatta takes place in July, part one of the Triple Crown of Newfoundland.
We visited the town of Placentia settled in 1662 to protect the French interests in North America. Castle Hill overlooking the city is a National Historical site. It successfully protected the city from invasion, but not from blockade. The ground was not conducive for farming and rival factions slowly doomed the colony. The French then built the fortifications Louisbourg, NS, leaving Placentia to the British.
Also in Placentia are other archeological excavations happening at the base of the harbor. A dig is being done at Fort Louis, a military post, and at Fort Frederick, across the harbor inlet. The former can be visited and you can see the process at work. The latter is less accessible, but a better quality of artifacts is being discovered there. They can be seen at the archeological treatment center in town.
Drove to St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve, which is strictly for the birds: gannets,
On the return trip to Placentia we stopped at different towns along the way. First was St. Brides, whose population doubled in 1941, when the Americans set up a listening base for German ships in the area. More than 400 GIs stayed for the war years. They were able to relay messages to the US Naval base at Argentia thirty miles to the North.The military medical staff also took care of the locals since their was no other medical care available to them.
Next we stopped at Gooseberry Cove, a small cove with a blackish sandy beach. It was quite peaceful, watching the wave come on the sand. Sand is unusual in Newfoundland, since most of the beaches are rocky. Some rocks strewn the beach, but most had been pulverized into sand by the action of the currents.
Our next stop was Ship Cove, which had a man made stone breakwater. On the breakwater people erected cairns. I added mine to the collection. Meanwhile Maggie collected drift wood to work on her carving.
Home to Placentia and a stop at the Archeological Center. They had just found a silver coin, slightly smaller than a dime, with a cross inscribed on one side. The opposite side was more difficult to read. The lady also show us a copper coin, recently found, with three fleur d’leis on one side.
Off to the O’Reilly house, built around the turn of the century for the local magistrate. It has been refurbished with donated items. The house also contains exhibits regarding the resettlement of many communities in Placentia Bay. The stories are quite sad. All of the towns were fishing villages, independent from each other. As long as there was fish, there was work. When fishing was forbidden to them, their way of living was taken away. This is somewhat reminiscent of the destruction of the buffalo and the resettlement of the Native Americans.
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