Thursday, August 23, 2018

Sunday August 23, 1998 - Newfoundland


Pistolet Bay - sunny and clear.

I woke to a clear morning quite early and made breakfast over a fire which started much quicker than the night before. I had a nice hot shower at the comfort station and then drove around the shore through Onion Cove and Raleigh toward l'Anse aux Meadows.

I visited the Norse viking settlement site. The settlement has been recreated and there is also a little museum of artifacts and explanations of the site. I watched a very good film about the discovery of the site by a Norwegian couple, Helge and Anne Ingstad. 


In the recreated settlement site itself several local people played the original Viking inhabitants. One woman was a domestic slave and a man was the "captain". There were buildings partially dug into the ground and covered with sod roofs. The roof in the main building was high enough to stand up in comfortable but apparently the roof would have been much lower in the original building for ease of building and to conserve heat. The captain played a Norse board game with a young woman and the "slave" woman demonstrated one-needle knitting. She maintained quite a quick-witted humourous patter, answering questions about lifestyle and making jokes about everything.

Yohan inside the sod house
While I was there I met a fireman from Richmond BC who was travelling with his two daughters. He said that his wife worked for an airline and he used her flying dscount to visit a different province or territory each year with the two girls. One year they went to Nunavut and were billeted with local people on their stay there. This year was Newfoundland and Labrador. Lucky kids! He said he was spending their inheritance, I said these trips were their inheritance.

After visiting the Viking site I went on to St. Anthony and out to Fishing Point where there is a view of Iceberg Alley, but there are no icebergs there at this time of year. June and July are supposed to be the good viewing months.

In St. Anthony I visited the Grenfell Centre and the Grenfell home, both of which were very interesting. Dr. Wilfred Grenfell  came to St. Anthony early in the 20th century as a missionary, but quickly became almost exclusively a doctor because of the great need. He started an orphanage and a handicraft industry co-op where hooked rugs, parkas and so forth were made. The parkas were made of "grenfell cloth", which is water-resistant but not waterproof. he wrote several books about his experiences in this part of the world. 

I toured the house that he lived in. In his bedroom there was one of his books by the bedside, I sat down to read part of it, in particular a harrowing story about being stuck on an ice pan overnight in the winter. He had gone to see someone who was ill and was returning to St Anthony on the sea ice in the evening. His dogsled went through the ice. he and the dogs managed to get out of the water, but they were stuck on an ice pan out at sea. It's a moving story, I was quite rivetted by it. Obviously he survived, but he had to kill one or more of his dogs to do it. He loved the dogs, it was not an easy thing to do.

Grenfell made a film about the Mission hospital and orphanage to show to Americans to raise funds for his work. While he made it as a movie, he usually presented it as a slide show. I watched the film at the Grenfell Centre, it is quite funny and obviously deliberately so, to appeal to his intended audience.

After St. Anthony I returned to Pistolet Bay for a second night. Again the fire took a long time to get started but I eventually got dinner and went to bed. It was a clear starry night so I expected it to be cold but in fact it was quite warm, probably due to clouding over later in the night.

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