30 August 2015

Along The Viking Trail: Part One - St. Anthony south to Port au Choix

If you are intrigued by the lives of the Peoples that combined to form the earliest history and culture of Canada, then you won't be disappointed by what you can learn in this part of Newfoundland and Labrador. The drive we are now on, follows the path of a brief Norse habitation along the North Atlantic coast of North America... and it's fascinating!

Newfoundland and Labrador Route 430 is a 415 kilometer (258 mile) long paved highway that traverses the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland and Labrador. The route begins at the intersection of Newfoundland and Labrador Route 1 (The Trans Canada Highway) in Deer Lake and ends in St. Anthony. 

We will travel it in the opposite direction. Officially known as the "Great Northern Peninsula Highway", it has been designated as the "Viking Trail" since it is the main auto route to L'Anse aux Meadows, the only proven Viking era settlement in North America. It is the primary travel route in the Great Northern Peninsula and the only improved highway between Deer Lake and St. Anthony. It is the main access route to the Labrador Ferry terminal in St. Barbe.

The route passes along the western coast of Newfoundland Island with views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Strait of Belle Isle to the west and the Long Range Mountains to the east. It passes through or near several towns and villages including Rocky Harbour, Port au Choix and St. Barbe as well as Gros Morne National Park.  

ST. ANTHONY and Surrounding Area
We spent the better part of a day driving several of the routes around St. Anthony that terminate at coastal fishing villages ... to Goose Cove, Quirpon, St. Lunaire, Griquet, Raleigh.


Wikipedia: An archaeological site on the northernmost tip of the island of Newfoundland in Canada. Discovered in 1960, it is the most famous site of a Norse or Viking settlement in North America outside Greenland. Dating to around the year 1000, L'Anse aux Meadows is the only site widely accepted as evidence of pre-Columbia trans-oceanic contact. It is noticeable for its possible connection with the attempted colony of Vinland established by Leif Erikson around the same period or, more broadly with Norse exploration of the Americas. It was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978.

The site is a re-creation based on the findings of a nearby dig. Several Viking interpreters work here and guide tourists. There is also a well thought out interpretation centre. 

There were 3 longhouses here and each would house the crew of one boat or upwards of 25 men and 5 women. The men were not allowed inside the longhouse during daylight hours. The longhouses were completely under the control of the women and it was their domain. Men were given a hearty breakfast and then left for the day to fish, forage for food and firewood, work in the foundry or woodworking shop. The women spent the day, repairing fishing nets, sewing clothing, preparing food, making beer and gardening. The men would return late in the day and be served a hearty meal. The women kept control of the key where the ale was stored and only after the days final meal was completed would they allow the men as much as two horns of ale. Women spent their days mostly inside with fires going and the smoke would linger, thick at times. They also brought Irish and Scottish slaves and indentured servants with them.

Many women became blind or developed breathing problems. They seldom lived past 25 years of age. If they weren’t taken by ill health they would die during childbirth. The men lived a somewhat healthier life, being outdoors and in the fresh air, but their work was dangerous and backbreaking. They typically lived slightly longer, to about 40 years of age. 


Take A Walk Through The Longhouse

Gathering and socializing, a cooking and warming fire, eating and drinking, tools and weaponry hung on walls, sleeping quarters for some of the ships crew. The ships captain and navigator and their wives shared a semi-private room, equivalent to the size of a modern day walk-in clothing closet (maybe 8x8).

Daily work implements, butter churn, food barrels, sod bricks, post & beam structure, pole roof sheathing. Ceilings were kept low to keep the heat down. Pass-throughs and entrances in the buildings were kept low to slow intruders down if the community was invaded.

Ale brewing.

Rock weights to hold the loom yarn taught.

Raw flax and wool (basket) was spun into yarn, dyed or bleached, woven into cloth and then cut or sewn into garments.

Laundry, eider ducks, sea gulls and other catch hung to dry near the fire.

Wikipedia: The earliest European presence in Port au Choix dates to the 16th century when the town received its name, Portuchoa (Portutxoa), meaning "the little port" from Basque fishermen who operated in the area. The town's original European residents were mainly descendants of French and English fishermen who settled in the area after 1904 when France relinquished its rights to fish, and for the first time permanent settlement was allowed. Under the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, the French were given exclusive rights to fish in an area known as The French Shore, which this area is part of. At Point Riche, The French Shore Treaty monument is erected to commemorate this historic event in Newfoundland history.

The fishing fleet in the Port au Choix Harbour

' We fish mostly for crab and cod these days. The cod are comin' back, we're seein' 75 pounders again boy. The government won't increase our quotas ya know ... but I tell you my son, there be lots o' cod out there. '

         Point Riche Lighthouse                 3 Bull Caribou wander the Lighthouse shoreline                                                                                                

Crusty ... I love Canadian history.

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TEAM: LOAF, Crumby, Wry & Crusty