Posts From Labrador


Milestones, 5000 miles, 1 month, Labrador City (Gravel Pit Hwy 500, Labrador)

Journal entry for Saturday 4th Aug, 2012 (day 31, miles 5076)

A day of milestones. We have been on the road one calendar month, traveled 5000 miles and reached Labrador City at the western end of the Trans-Labrador highway. It was also a day of gradually changing terrain. We started the day with a continuation of the hilly granite country with its myriad lakes where the road was forced to twist and climb around the terrain. As the day progressed the terrain flattened somewhat, the lakes were joined by large areas of wetlands (I think what they call muskeg in Alaska) so that at times the road seems to be forced through the lakes rather than around them. Interspersed between the lakes are some impressive rivers. The forest continues to be an endless carpet composed mostly of what I think are black spruce, the same kind of trees we saw on the road to Inuvik. To our surprise there has been a lot of sealed road today, some of it brand new, and even the gravel (more accurately packed earth) we have encountered has been in good condition allowing (our) highway speeds.

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Rain, road works and lunch with fellow travelers (Another Gravel Pit, Labrador)

Journal entry for Sunday 5th Aug, 2012 (day 32, miles 5271)

Rain, wind and lower temperatures this morning gave us an opportunity to test the various heating systems in the vehicle. So in turn we tried the hydronic to heat water (for a shower) and then to heat the camper, next the generator and small electric heater, and finally the heating strip in the air conditioner.

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Tilts, traps and Mina Hubbard (Gravel Pit, Hwy 510, Labrador)

Journal entry for Monday 6th Aug, 2012 (day 33, miles 5484)

Another wet morning, more Black Spruce tundra and more gravel road brought us to the (twin .. adjacent?) towns of Goose Bay and Happy Valley. All the shops were closed, but fortunately not the gas station and visitors center. A further 30 kms north was the Town of North West River where we spent an informative couple of hours learning about the fur trade (at the Labrador Heritage Museum) and the ethnic origins of the peoples of the region (at the Labrador Interpretation Center). It is hard to credit but settlement of Labrador and its meager population of 51,000 owes its existence to the fur trade (or more accurately a fashion craze in Europe for felt hats made from beaver pelts). Approaching from the north and the Hudson Bay was the British strategy for gaining access to the furs of Canada in the face of French domination of the Quebec City region and the St Lawrence. North West River was a key stop along the fur trading routes as it has access to the sea via Lake Melville and the narrows near Rigolet. The Museum is housed in the old Hudson Bay Company store building and contained many artifacts from a way of life that is not all that distant for the folks of this town. As recently as the 1940 trapping fur was the main livelihood of many residents. We learned about tilts, small wooden buildings about the size of a 2-man tent, The trappers built these along their trap-line at 1-day intervals. We also learned about Mina Hubbard the wife of Leonidas Hubbard who (after a failed and fatal attempt by her husband) became the first European to map the interior of Labrador in 1905.

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The Atlantic Ocean, and defrosting the fridge (Port Hope Simpson, Labrador)

Journal entry for Tuesday 7th Aug, 2012 (day 34, miles 5682)

Today it felt like we drove through the same patch of country and road almost all day. Gravel road, tundra dotted with lakes and rivers, and outcroppings of granite (a general sensation of repetition familiar to anyone who has driven in inland Australia). However at the end of the day we were rewarded for our patience with the arrival of the Atlantic Ocean at the town of Port Hope Simpson. The real Atlantic mind you, not just a lake that is connected by a series of channels to the Atlantic like North West River but the real honest to goodness ocean. The slight let down was that we were also greeted by the worst sections of road so far in Labrador. An intimidating and discouraging start to anyone embarking on a trip across Labrador from the East via the NewFoundland ferry.

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More history, this time fishing (Mary's and Battle Harbors, Labrador)

Journal entry for Wednesday 8th Aug, 2012 (day 35, miles 5710)

Where North West River told the story of Labrador from the perspective of the fur trade, todays visits to Battle Harbor (an island) from Mary's Harbor (mainland) showed it through the lens of fishing. From the early 1500s Europeans (English, Basque, French, Portuguese) came to the shores of Labrador to fish for Cod, Salmon, Seal and whale. Battle Harbor was one of the major venues where these catches were processed ready for sale to merchants and shipment back to Europe. At one time there were hundreds of small fishing villages along the coast of Labrador supported primarily by Cod (and other) fishing. But in the 1960s reductions in the fish stock caused the end of the Cod fishing industry and the demise of many of the fishing villages. Battle Harbor (we are told is a corruption of a Portuguese word battel or boat) has been taken over by The Battle Harbor Historical Trust partly as an exercise in saving heritage and partly as a way of injecting some tourist dollars into the local economy.

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Basques, old boats and black flies (L'Anse aux Claire, Labrador)

Journal entry for Thursday 9th Aug, 2012 (day 36, miles 5825)

This morning we saw off the last of the gravel road on our way into Red Bay, a picturesque village on a rocky barren cove. This place is famous for the discovery (in 1978) of a Basque whaling galleon that sank here in the 1500s while laden with a seasons haul of whale oil. Interestingly the search for this vessel was triggered by documentary research conducted in the Basque region of France and Spain. This research unearthed not only the existence and sinking of this ship but also shed light on the existence and extent of Basque whaling operations in the new world. Apparently at the time (early-mid 1500s) the Basques were the only European nation actively hunting whales using small boats and harpoons. The two exhibits in Red Bay (one of the galleon and the other of the smaller whaling boat called a chalupa) were quite interesting and highlight Red Bays role as a major whaling settlement during the Basque period.

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