24 August 2015

Battle Harbour, Labrador

We sailed on Iceburg Hunter, 16.8 kms one way from Mary’s Harbour to Battle Harbour.

Water was calm, weather was clear, some cloud, some wind and quite warm. Dolphins and humpback whales on the voyage over and humpbacks on the return trip.

Battle Harbour holds the dual distinction of National Historic Site and Historic District of Canada. The place commemorates the 19th and early 20th century fishing outports of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

NAME: Battle Harbour
Some of the earliest Europeans to settle and fish here were from Portugal. It is thought the name is derived from the Portuguese word for boat ... batal. Other legend, suggests Montagnais Indians, aided by the French, fought their final battle against the Inuit here in 1760. Some attribute the name to this historic event.

Fishing premises were established here by John Slade and Company of Poole, England circa 1775. Over the next century Battle Harbour became a major commercial centre for cod, salmon and seal fisheries and a permanent community was established. By the 1850’s it was considered the unofficial capital of Labrador and had 350 permanent and 1000 seasonal residents. Dr. Wilfred Grenfell visited in 1892 as part of the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen (later the Grenfell Association). Concerned that such a large population had no medical facilities, he established a hospital here (the 1st one outside of St. John's). The hospital burnt in the 1930s and was rebuilt in Mary's Harbour. In 1955 the site was sold to Earle Freighting Service. The remaining residents were eventually moved to the nearby communities of Mary’s Harbour, Lodge Bay and St. Lewis during the government relocation programs of the 1960s and early 1970s. After the collapse of the cod fishery in 1990 the Earle family donated the site to the newly formed Battle Harbour Historic Trust.

As an historical note, Robert Perry held his first press conference here after his journey to the North Pole. This was the only location to have a permanent Marconi telegraph station in Labrador. Major renovation of the community occurred in the 1990’s. 

Residents from Mary’s Harbour, descended from those first Europeans that settled here and those original families of Battle Harbour, now own several of the residences on the island and use those homes between May and November of each year. 

A small crew of restoration carpenters, with monies from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency & other tourism funding, private donations and various fundraising events, are doing a wonderful job restoring some of the aging buildings and providing ongoing maintenance to remaining structures on the island. The island is hoping to become a high end tourist destination now that it has turned some of the buildings into an inn.

Spring pack ice annually destroys stilts that hold the Salt House. It is estimated that there are 1000 poles under the building, in places so thick that you can't see through.

Today, the Battle Harbour site is a vibrant tourist attraction and a Canadian National treasure that recognizes the uniqueness, culture and lifestyles of the early Peoples of Labrador ... the Inuit, Innu, Metis and European settlers.

Fish drying table
                                                                                              Wry & Crusty ... LOAF has the day off

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TEAM: LOAF, Crumby, Wry & Crusty