Sunday, August 14, 2016

Red Bay, Labrador 8/12/2016

We began our day early getting in line for the ferry to Labrador at 7 am.  We would not get back until around 11 PM the same day.  The ferry trip over was on a tired ferry, nothing like our ferry arrival from Nova Scotia.  But it got us from point A to point B so no complaints.

We wanted to get a small taste of Labrador which is about a 25 mile ferry ride from Newfoundland. The roads  when we arrived were a bit poor with lots of frost heaves, but hey, we were on an adventure!  The biggest thing we noticed was how much the landscape changed over a distance of about 70 miles.  

Our major destination for the day was the Red Bay National Historic Site.  In approximately 1978, it was uncovered that the area near Red Bay was a large whale harvesting and processing site for the Basque whale fishermen in the 1500's-1600's.  What they were after was the oil for fuel, soaps and lamps. We learned that between 1530-1600 over 15 whaling ships and 600 men from France and Spain would come to Red Bay and stay for the whaling season (sometimes as much as 8 months) when the whales were migrating through the Straight of Belle Isle.  The whale of choice was the Right Whale, funny enough, that is how it got its name(the fishermen pointed at it and said that is the right whale).  They also hunted the Bowhead whale.  These whales were chosen because they floated after being slaughtered and they also supplied a large amount of baleen.  

Whales were hunted in a 26 foot boat known as a Chalupa.  Keep in mind that an adult Right Whale could be 40-60 feet long.  When spotted, the whaler would thrust a harpoon into the whale.  The whale would then be stabbed with several harpoons that had anchors attached.  The blood loss and anchors would slow the whale down enabling another whaler to hit a vital organ with a harpoon.  As brutal as all this sounds, it had to be incredibly dangerous from a 26 foot boat that sat close to the water.  The skin and blubber would then be removed and boiled for its oil.  It is estimated that in 50 years over 20,000 whales were killed.  It is believed that their own over hunting, in this short time, is what brought this industry to an end.

While at Red Bay we took a water taxi over to Sable Island and we walked the whale processing trail. Sable Island is one of the locations where artifacts of the rendering process have been found. There was quite an operation taking place on Sable Island between the huge vats used to render out the oil and also the assembly of the barrels (the pieces were brought from France and Spain) to haul these massive amounts of oil back home. While there are many interpretive signs along the trail on the island, there were no actual artifacts to view.  There were lots of seagull colonies, however, with young gulls trying their best to get off on their first flights. The island was also covered in what the locals here call Baked Apple Berries( known in other places as Cloudberry). Guess we will need to buy some Baked Apple Berry jam and give it a try.

In the Red Bay Museum, located on the mainland there is a lot of information and artifacts from the San Juan ship that sank in 1565 with over 1000 casks (each holding 60 gallons) of processed whale oil on board.  The ship is one of the 5 ships that have been recovered in the area.  The San Juan was excavated, recorded and then reburied as the waters are preserving her well.  There is also an actual 400 year old Chalupa that was recovered, piece by piece and reconstructed.  Conserving a Chulpa For those interested in learning more about these Basque Discoveries: Red Bay Discoveries

Before returning to the ferry we also visited the Point Armour Lighthouse (tallest in the Provence and second tallest in Canada) and also the oldest known burial site in North America.  At L'Anse Amour a young girl was buried about 6500 years ago.  This is like 2000 years prior to the Egyptian Pyramids being built.   The child was found buried with numerous artifacts including a walrus tusk and a bone whistle.  Her body was covered in red ochre (pigmented natural earth) and then wrapped in birch bark.

Finally, we just drove down various roads and enjoyed the changing views before returning for our ferry ride back.  It was a long day but one filled with discovery.

Newfoundland Trivia: Candlemas Day is February 2nd.  This is Newfoundland's version of Groundhog Day.  If a hibernating bear comes out of his sleeping place and the sun is shinning, it is believed that the winter weather is almost over.  "If Candlemas day is fair and fine, half of the winter is left behind; If Candlemas Day is ruff and grum, half of the winter is yet t come".  

Chalupa (whaling boat over 400 years old)
Red Bay, Labrador
Greenland Right Whale Left Flipper (gives a perspective of their size)
Red Bay, Labrador
Whaling Harpoon from 1500's
Red Bay, Labrador
Hiking on Sable Island Where the Whale Processing was Done
in the 1500-1600's
Young Seagull trying to learn to fly
No, he did not quite make it while we were there.
Sable Island, Labrador
An Abandoned Boat on Sable Island, Labrador
Baked Apple Berry on Sable Island, Labrador

River Along a Labrador Highway
Burial Site from 7500 years ago,  This is like 2000
years before the Egyptian Pyramids were built!
Oldest known Marked Burial in North America
L'Annse Amour, Labrador
Labrador Beach near Point Armour Lighthouse
Labrador, Canada
Point Armour Light House (1857)
Labrador, Canada
The Water is so Clear and Contains so Many Beautiful Colors
Labrador, Canada
Waterfall Along the Roadway
Labrador, Canada
A Rainbow to complete our day in Labrador, Canada

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