Thursday, July 18, 2019

Newfoundland Journey 2019 — Post #2

Newfoundland Journey 2019 — Post #2

I'm on a two-month journey to Newfoundland. Like Last year, my goal here is to post some stories, words and pictures, to document my trek to the Rock. 
You can click on any picture in the blog to blow it up. This year I'm shooting with my Nikon D800 and the new Nikon Z7, so if there's any quality issue, it's on me not the hardware! Most of the pictures will be available as large format prints at very reasonable cost. Contact me.

Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula

I love Newfoundland. I've often said I could live here, all things being equal. Not up here on the Northern Peninsula, though.

Maybe it's just because of the weather today (5°C, raining, 60kph winds...) but it's chilly here. And as you drive around from Raleigh to St. Anthony's to Goose Cove, you see piles of white snow and not just on North-facing slopes. When I asked Emily (my hostess here) about it, she said they had over 30 feet of snow this winter — that's over 10 meters — and it's not all going to melt. A typical mid-summer day up here is 10-13°C.

The terrain up here is sub-arctic. Actually in places it is more than sub-, it's downright desolate.

Ovefrlooking Great Brehat, north of St. Anthony. I climbed up to the viewing platform overlooking the town. The terrain is entirely rocky with pockets of tundra in between. Nothing grows up here more than a few inches high. That white spot you see is a semi-permanent snow patch. The intrepid climber is of course, me. 

I took these two shots in the Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve (BCER from now on so I don't have to keep typing the name in full!). This is mostly an expanse of gravel/rock interspersed by the odd patch of green arctic vegetation, lichen and the like. A lot of it is endangered and unique to this place, so you are enjoined not to leave the road, lest you drive over some rare species. More on this place to come. 

I struggled with the distinction between "Desolate" and "Isolated".  Another area is Cape Norman and the towns of Cook's Harbour and North Boat Harbour. Although they're only 10 km apart or so, the one gravel road feels much longer than that because there's NOTHING around you. This single 4 km spur goes only to the Cape Norman Light(house), essential for navigation years ago. The only man-made thing: the power line and the road surface which in spots is indistinguishable from the terrain around it. 

This image is just outside Cook's Harbour. You're looking East: the land in the distance behind the iceberg is the BCER. 

This is the town itself. Why would anyone live here? Well this was the nexus of the Cod Fishing industry back in the '80s before the shutdown and millions of pounds of cod was processed in the fish plant daily during the season. Now?

By the way, the little clump of stubby trees in the foreground is typical in the coastal areas but such copses are far apart and stunted.

There are critters that live in these little copses, including this large caribou seen at the BCER. 

Isolation is a recurring theme for me in Newfoundland. People choose to live FAR from any neighbours. In this case the owner was probably a successful fisherman but his property is miles from anywhere.

Here's a typical fishing stage and boat, all alone.

...and another one. This one's in Raleigh

St. Anthony is the only population centre on the peninsula with about 3500 residents and they actually have a Tim Horton's! And a real grocery store.

Taken from the Fisherman's Point Lighthouse a couple of km out of town.  

Back to the BCER...

There are hundreds of species of dwarf flora unique to this area and other arctic vegetation. Local guides can pick them out and Ted, who owns Burnt Cape Cabins, takes people out on his little school bus. The road is Subaru-friendly, I guess if you live there and know it well, school bus friendly too!

I didn't go with him because, as I explained, I need several minutes for each photo since I'm doing focus stacking on tripod. I stopped at this spot and was still there when he came back about an hour later. By the way, the 'nippers' or 'skitters' seem to thrive up there. DEET works, somewhat...

Here are a few images I took. I can't name the plants but at least one of them is rare, endangered. For my photography readers, I shot stacks of 20 images in the Z7 then compiled them in Helicon Focus back in the computer.

Lady Slipper 

This is a crop of the previous shot. It is one of the most endangered species there.

This is a carnivorous plant, about the size of my pinkie finger. The sticky interior traps wayward bugs. 

For more plant images, please see my portfolio page:

Viking stuff

The reason most people travel to the Northern Peninsula is to visit the Viking settlements at L'Anse aux Meadows. I was very disappointed. It's a government-run historic site, staffed by people in uniform, fancy displays, video shows and powerpoints... I didn't go outside the visitor centre building because (1) it was late, (2) it was far and (3) they admitted there's not much to see. The archeological sites have been excavated, you're looking at mounds and a few artifacts (they admit the major artifacts have been taken away). So you'll see a little triangular piece of rock that they say was a stone knife or arrowhead... not my thing.

However there's another site called "Norstead" (it has some Danish characters in the word that I won't even try) where they created a living replica Viking settlement, not just some archeological digs. Staffed by people in period costume, it was fascinating and I wish I'd spent more time there. 

They have an interesting website, it's worth the visit.

This is the "Snorri", a 50-odd-foot-long replica of the 'knarr' or ship Leif Ericsson used to cross the ocean from Iceland. They built this thing, took it to Iceland and sailed it back to Newfoundland using the original route the Vikings probably used. Imagine being one of the 30-odd crew of this open boat, crossing the North Atlantic in about 3 months, with no cover, no weather protection whatsoever. 

 Staff at Norstead are in period costume (well, except for the glasses, LOL). Very knowledgeable and friendly. ALL of them are local residents, most have lived there their entire lives.

Replica of a fishing boat or sealing boat they would have built after landing in the Snorri. The staff used this one here for several years before it was damaged in a winter storm. They're building another. 

Inside of a Viking church. 

More friendly staffers in period costume. Don't you love window lighting? 

Icebergs and other stuff

Here are a few more images before I close this chapter!

Seen off the far end of the BCER.  The other side was visible from Cook's Harbour.

You have to be in the right place at the right time. Hay Cove just before L'Anse aux Meadows. Stacked and digitally painted.

Crashing waves, long exposure using the ND filter. 

Parting Shots
On the side of the road

In the interior, away from the coast, there are more trees, thicker forest. As you drive along, you see garden plots, miles from anywhere, and stacks of firewood. Here's the story:

When they built the roads, the construction crews dug up and turned over fertile soil by the side of the road. Much easier to work than the rocky soil on which the settlements were built, so locals plant their annual vegetable gardens there instead! According to the notes I read, they're fenced to keep the moose out and away from their veggies — as if that's going to help! 

I think the 'scarecrow' is just for fun. Oh, wait. There are actually tons of crows and ravens around.

Homes are primarily heated by firewood. Other fuels are prohibitively expensive and so is electricity, besides these settlements date back over centuries. Every winter, local residents obtain permits to cut wood, and they go in cut and haul their wood out to spots near the highway. Historically, they used horse-drawn sleds to carry the wood (which was uniformly cut to 8-foot lengths). Now of course, they use snowmobiles and chain saws, but they still use the sleds! The wood is stacked and left to dry, some cut to 4' length or to the finished 16-18" length. Everyone knows where their own wood is and I'm pretty sure stealing someone's wood is a capital offence! Over the summer and fall, the now-dry wood is hauled and split and stacked again near peoples' residences. 

You can see the sleigh that is used to haul the wood here. Now hooked up to a snowmobile instead of a horse! Most of the wood in this picture has already been cut to length, but not yet split.

Along the roads are endless stands of birch trees, the main type of wood used. Softwoods, like pine, don't provide as much heat, burn faster and produce creosote and other harmful chemicals. The birches don't seem to be as bright white as the ones back home. 

Wow. I know this was too long. Sorry... but I couldn't figure out where to split it and as I wrote, I got carried away. Stay tuned for Part 3 in a little while!

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