I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Root Cellar Capital of the World

Yes, there is such a thing and I have been there! Elliston has 135 documented root cellars, some of which are almost 200 years old. In a region where growing anything was hard, root cellars allowed the precious crops to be stored through the long winters.

The two root cellars above are in Elliston, but my favorite is the one on the left, in Twillingate. It looks like a hobbit hole.

Random building break

This is completely out of sequence, but I found it in the latest batch of photos from Gros Morne National Park that I was processing today. I do love lonely buildings on the water, and Newfoundland has so many.

Two more looks at Terra Nova National Park

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

A slightly different view

Terra Nova National Park is located along Bonavista Bay, not far from the rugged coast at the cape. But inland the land feels very different -- forest sloping down to long bays.

Astronomy Tuesday

A beautifully detailed closeup of galaxy Messier 61.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble, ESO, Amateur Data; Processing and Copyright: Robert Gendler and Roberto Colombari

Monday, September 16, 2019

Dungeon Provincial Park

These two caves were part of a larger cave that eventually got so big, the roof collapsed, leaving a sinkhole with two picturesque outlets to the sea.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Sunday bird blogging

It turns out I can always stand to have more pictures of puffins in my life.

Another red building

I don't know what this building was -- the state of the fence makes it look abandoned. It was down a steep path to one side of the lighthouse.

Why they needed a lighthouse, part 2

More of the beautiful coastline. 

Cape Bonavista is where John Cabot is believed to have landed in 1497, the first European to visit mainland North America since the Vikings. I'm in awe of the courage of early seafarers, setting out in tiny boats with only the stars to guide them and no real idea of where they were going or how long it might take to get there.

The 1497 voyage made Cabot famous, and he quickly planned a followup. He left Bristol with five ships in 1498 and never returned.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Why they needed a lighthouse

Some of the beautiful, but rocky, coast below the Bonavista lighthouse.

Bonavista lighthouse

Before all the lighthouses were automated, lighthouse keeper was a much sought-after career in Newfoundland. For one thing, it paid cash in what was mostly a barter economy.

It wasn't an easy job. At this particular lighthouse, the mechanism turning the wheel of lights was controlled by a counterweight. It took fifteen minutes to crank the counterweight all the way up, and it had to be done every two hours, all night long, 365 days a year.

Two last pictures from Trinity

St. Paul's

The Anglican church in Trinity, with another of those picturesque graveyards by the sea.

So much depends upon a red building by the water

When you just can't decide which ones to go with, post all of them -- more from Trinity Bay.

Saturday reflections

On the water in Trinity Bay.

It's a short drive from Port Union, but a very different kind of community -- much more affluent, with a lot of summer homes owned by Americans and Europeans.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Random things I saw in Port Union

Unfortunately, I don't have any shareable pictures from the potluck dinner at the community center in Port Union, the best night on the trip.

That was the night we were “screeched in” as honorary Newfoundlanders, and though I do have a few pictures of the sacred ceremony, obviously I can't publish them. We had to don yellow rain slickers, recite phrases in Newfoundlandese, eat hardtack, drink a shot of the vile rum known as screech and, oh yeah, kiss a very large (frozen) cod.

Every occasion in Newfoundland seems to involve music and huge amounts of food, and we also got to dance and play tambourines and ugly sticks along with the band, and talk with some of the people who live in Port Union. It was so much fun. And at the end of the evening when we all stood in a circle and sang O Canada and The Star-Spangled Banner I was so moved by the great kindness we'd been shown by the people who let us join their community for the evening I got a lump in my throat.

It was an experience I will always remember.

The Fishermen's Advocate

I loved browsing through the old issues of The Fishermen's Advocate. Here in as issue from 1938, a report on Coaker's funeral appeared between ads for Windsor Patent flour and Dodd's Kidney Pills:

Lovingly, simply and beautifully the mortal remains of Sir William Coaker were carried to their last resting-place at Port Union on Friday afternoon.

I owe my soul to the company store

The main street in Port Union.

Our itinerary described Port Union as “the only union-built town in North America.” Which, honestly, didn't sound like the most exciting destination in Newfoundland, but it turned out to be a highlight of the trip.

First, for the history. The union in the town name was the Fishermen's Protective Union, founded by William Coaker in 1908. Under the prevailing merchant system, fisherman were given staples and supplies on credit, and at the end of the season turned over their catch as payment. Somehow, shockingly, the transactions always benefitted the merchants, and most fishermen were in perpetual debt. The FPU set up co-ops throughout Newfoundland that sold goods at fair prices and paid cash for fish.

Coaker wanted to expand the union's reach with companies for exports and shipbuilding, but the merchants wouldn't allow him to build on the waterfront in St. John's, so he established Port Union in 1916. It provided housing, schooling, and health care for fishing families, a daily newspaper, The Fishermen's Advocate, was published from here, and a fish processing plant operated until the moratorium in 1992.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Lovely cod! Wonderful cod!

Cod au gratin and salad for lunch in St. Anthony.

I ate cod pan-fried, on Caesar salad, in chowder, in fishcakes, deep-fried with chips, boiled with hardtack in the unexpectedly delicious fish and brewis, and, yes, au gratin.

Cod fishing still goes on in international waters, and there's a small fishery off Newfoundland's southern coast, so the moratorium doesn't mean you can't still eat cod in Newfoundland; on the contrary, it's hard not to.

There are a lot of high-end restaurants in St. John's that are creating new versions of traditional dishes and coming up with new ways to use ingredients like salt beef and partridgeberries. The food I ate wasn't fancy, but it was all delicious -- fish, and root vegetables, and berry crumbles. The big surprise was how tasty the dishes made with dried salt cod were -- as good as, if not better, than the fresh fish.


Fishing had opened up in Newfoundland with the enthusiasm of a gold rush. By 1508, 10 percent of the fish sold in the Portuguese ports of Douro and Minho was Newfoundland salt cod. In France, the Bretons and Normans had an advantage because the profitable markets of the day were nearby Rouen and Paris. By 1510, salt cod was a staple in Normandy’s busy Rouen market. By midcentury, 60 percent of all fish eaten in Europe was cod, and this percentage would remain stable for the next two centuries. 

Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World 
Mark Kurlansky

Newfoundland was more than pretty scenery and invisible moose; I was really impressed by how much we learned about the history and culture. (This was my first trip with Road Scholar, and I plan to do several more in the next year.)

And until 1992, life in Newfoundland revolved around cod: fishing it, processing it, selling it, eating it. Even today, the interior of the island is something you drive through to get from one coast to the other. Because of the Low Arctic climate, trees there don't grow tall enough to sustain much of a lumber industry; life there has always been about the sea.

27 years ago, after decades of overfishing, the Canadian government imposed a moratorium and a way of life disappeared, literally overnight. Crab and squid are fished commercially, but cod fishing is limited to a few weekends a year, no more than five per person for a maximum of fifteen per boat. It's a recreation rather than a livelihood.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Astronomy Tuesday

Pluto, of course -- my favorite dwarf planet.

This New Horizons image was processed to fix the colors to approximately what we would see with the naked eye, if we ever happened to find ourselves in the outer reaches of the solar system.

I'm back from Manchester, New Hampshire, where I attended the state Democratic convention and had a chance to hear most of the Presidential candidates speak, all of them thoughtful and intelligent, many of them inspiring. I will probably post pictures at some point.

Also, Elizabeth Warren hugged me. I may never get tired of saying that.

Image Credit: NASA, JHU APL, SwRI, Alex Parker

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Sunday bird blogging

A crowd of murres in the refuge in Witless Bay.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Saturday reflections

Evening in Port Union, and a single bird skims over the water.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Fun facts about Canada

Speaking of the Trans-Canada Highway, I was at the Mile 0 plaque in Victoria in July, and saw the other end in St. John's, where the sports arena is named Mile 1.

Apart from the contradictory nomenclature, I have to admit I was amused by the fact that the highway begins on one island and ends on another. (Which island is the beginning and which is the end is a question I'll leave to Canadians.) So you can't actually drive the entire highway; you have to swim or take a ferry at at least two different points.

None of the Canadians I pointed this out to thought it was strange. Or hilarious.

* * *

I'm spending a long weekend in New Hampshire so have to put Newfoundland photos on hold until next week. I'll queue up a few pictures for the usual weekend shots and resume Tuesday.

The story of the moose signs

One of the favorite places for viewing (as opposed to hunting) moose has been the Trans-Canada Highway, especially along the stretch near Come-by-Chance on either side of the narrow isthmus connecting the Avalon Peninsula to the rest of the island. Driving this stretch, I often saw them quietly browsing in their cow-contented way among the many marshes and shallow ponds that border the highway there.Perhaps they had learned that the strip of land bordering the highway was, in effect, a hunting-free zone. 
Unfortunately, this stretch of the TCH is also one of the foggiest on the island, and the number of moose-car accidents, often resulting in fatalities on both sides, has been substantial, one year reaching over eight hundred. The number of moose-related accidents has been augmented by tourists stopping to watch and photograph these placid, impressive creatures, sometimes without even pulling over onto the shoulder. The result has too often been that the tourists or their cars have been plowed into by oncoming vehicles in the fog. 
To address this serious problem, in the late 1980’s the Newfoundland Department of Highways implemented a “moose sign” program. This consisted of life-size sheet-metal silhouettes of moose, sometimes outlined in reflective ribbon tape, that were set up beside the highway a short distance before known moose-watching locations — a semiotic warning system designed to alert drivers that moose, and moose watchers, might be on the highway ahead. 
The presence of the moose signs apparently cut down on the number of accidents at moose-crossing and moose-watching sites, but it also had an unexpected and unfortunate side effect. It seems that drivers found the signs themselves interesting, and worthy of a slowdown or even a stop for photographing. The result was a rash of new accidents at the moose sign locations. 
Sent back to the drawing board by this new problem, the Highway Department came up with a novel solution. Instead of removing the moose signs and replacing them with ordinary lettered warning signs, they placed signs about a half mile or so before the moose silhouettes that read, 

Robert Finch
The Iambics of Newfoundland: Notes from an Unknown Shore

I happened to read this chapter while we were riding along the section of the TCH he writes about. There was no fog; it was a clear sunny day. And the moose signs -- and the signs about the moose signs, and possibly signs about the signs about the moose signs -- were no longer there.

Neither were the moose. That's not a surprise in the middle of the afternoon, since they tend to be active early in the morning and after sunset, but they remained elusive. I didn't see the moose we almost hit near Trinity Bay, so the only moose I actually encountered in Newfoundland was on a buffet table, stewed with garlic and honey.

It was delicious.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Cape Spear lighthouses

The first in a long series of Newfoundland lighthouses. The building on the right is the old lighthouse, built in 1836. The lighthouse on the left replaced it in 1955.

Next stop Ireland

Cape Spear, just outside of St. John's, is the easternmost point of North America, excluding Greenland and why wouldn't you?

Wedding party in Quidi Vidi

Quidi Vidi

This beautiful old fishing village is now part of the city of St. John's. It's home to a brewery that appears to supply 90% of the beer sold in Newfoundland.

Even Newfoundlanders disagree on whether the name should be pronounced Kiddy Viddy or Kwyda Vyda, but Kiddy Viddy seems more common, maybe because it's just easier.

More St. John's houses

The houses away from the harbor in St. John's are bigger and fancier, like the one on the left, but the basics are the same all over Newfoundland. Most of the houses in the small outport towns aren't as elaborate, and the color palette isn't as varied, but you rarely see a structure that isn't clapboard.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Jellybean mailbox

I saw these mailboxes all over St. John's, but mostly through a bus window. So of course when I was on foot and looking for one to photograph, I couldn't find a good one. It's still cute.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Jellybean houses

Fortunately I did have enough time to appreciate the postcard views. These are called “jellybean houses” for their bright colors.

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