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FISHERS, FOXES, BATS & VOLES A guide to the small mammals of Labrador
Labrador A photographerâ€™s passion for the people and places of the Big Land
Tales From a Bush Pilot The Day the William Carson Sank
Eldred Allen photo
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Published by Downhome Inc. 43 James Lane, St. John’s, NL, A1E 3H3 1-888-588-6353 • www.insidelabrador.ca
Editor-in-chief Janice Stuckless
Marketing Director Tiffany Boone
Editor Tobias Romaniuk
Publisher and CEO Grant Young
Art Director Vince Marsh Graphic and Web Designer Cory Way Distribution and Subscription Representatives Marlena Grant, Nicola Ryan
President and Associate Publisher Todd Goodyear General Manager and Assistant Publisher Tina Bromley
Advertising Sales Senior Account Manager Robert Saunders Account Manager Barbara Young
To subscribe, renew or change address use the contact information above.
Canada Post Canadian Publications Mail Sales Product Agreement #40062919 The advertiser agrees that the publisher shall not be liable for damages arising out of errors in advertisements beyond the amount paid for the space actually occupied by the portion of the advertisement in which the error occurred, whether such error is due to the negligence of the servants or otherwise, and there shall be no liability beyond the amount of such advertisement. Pen names and anonymous letters will not be published. The publisher reserves the right to edit, revise, classify, or reject any advertisement or letter. © 2020 Downhome Inc. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission of the publisher.
Printed in Canada
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28 table of contents 6 Editor’s Note 8 Chronicles of a Bush Pilot 45 years of flying the Big Land
15 The Labrador Phenomenon A poem of the northern lights
16 Labrador: An Unknown Land A 1944 report of future opportunities
20 Readers’ Photo Album 22 The Hens of Hopedale Raising chickens up north
50 Big Things in the Big Land Awesome facts about Labrador
28 All Things Great and Small Labrador’s littlest mammals
53 Word Find Can you find all the animals?
38 Readers’ Photo Album
54 Readers’ Photo Album
40 Capturing the Wisdom in Their Eyes
56 In Deep Water
A photographic visit with Elders
46 Labrador: A Poem 4
The loss of the MV William Carson
64 Photo Finish FALL 2020
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We often take for granted that which we experience everyday. Things become normal, almost unnoticed as we go about our lives. It’s natural. Healthy, even.
Imagine the mental overload of being completely in awe of your surroundings, stopped in your tracks by the sheer beauty of the land every time you stepped outside. It would be hard to get anything done. Unless, of course, appreciating the beauty of your surroundings is exactly why you’re outside. Sometimes it takes hours - like the seven hours Eldred Allen once spent waiting with his camera for the wildlife to do something worthy of capturing. He didn’t get the shot that day, but he has many others, all gained through a deep love of photography, combined with an appreciation for the beauty of Rigolet and its people. In a recent photo project, he trained his lens on the Elders of the community, capturing intimate, evocative portraits. In this issue, he shares with us how those images, and his passion for photography, came to be. In a story by Dennis Flynn about pilot Tony Powell, passion is once again at the core of the tale, with highlights from his 45-year career as a bush pilot. From air ambulance flights to mail runs to aiding search and rescue missions, Tony has amassed a trove of tales from the cockpit. From a life of flight we go to flightless birds, with a tale of raising hens on the coast, where a miscalculation in feed can become quite pricey. Told by Dale Jarvis, noted writer and historian, the tale weaves modern day experiences with historical accounts of hen raisers from days gone by. We hope you enjoy the stories we’ve collected here. If you have stories of your own about Labrador, we’d love to see them. Thanks for reading, Tobias Romaniuk
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Everyone has a tale to tell. And we want to see your stories about Labrador. Maybe it’s a recollection of the way things used to be, or a historical piece, or a story about somebody doing great things in your community. Maybe it’s a travel story about a trip into the woods or up the coast. Whatever your story, in verse or in prose, our readers would love to see it and so would we. If you’re better with a camera than a keyboard, you’re in luck, too - we’re also looking for photos of Labrador. From snapshots while berry picking to compositional studies of the landscape and everything in between, we love looking at your images.
Published submissions will receive $20 in Downhome certificates to spend in our stores and online at www.shopdownhome.com.
Send your photos and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org or upload them to our website at downhomelife.com/submit.
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Tony Powellâ€™s recollections from 45 years of flying over the Big Land BY DENNIS FLYNN
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Tony by his PA-18 Super Cub at his cabin on the Hawke River in 2018.
Flying in a small two-seater bush plane is to feel the vibration of the engine, to experience the subtle changes the aircraft goes through in takeoff, landing, and with every turn, twist or bit of turbulence. It is as close to magically having wings of oneâ€™s own as I have gotten.
All photos courtesy of the Tony Powell Collection
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Above: Tony flew an air ambulance out of North West River in 1979. Right: Tony and his then fiancé, Ida, in Charlottetown, Labrador, July 1990. They were married in November of the same year.
Tony Powell, who grew up in Charlottetown, Labrador, experienced that magic almost every day of his 45year career as a bush pilot in some of the most scenic and remote sections of the beautiful Big Land. He’s logged 27,000 hours of flight time on more than 30 different types of aircraft. He’s flown planes equipped with all manner of landing gear including wheels, skis and floats. And he’s a licensed
commercial helicopter pilot. He would often log an astounding 1,500 hours of flight time in a single year, in conditions where the winter temperatures went as low as -50°C. Despite a few amazing escapes over the years recounted in his memoirs, Tony modestly mentions that he has never had any injuries to himself or his passengers, a proud record for any aviator.
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Tony, now 65, has an extensive collection of wonderful aviationrelated photos I have long admired that are at the heart of his new book Against the Wind, due out this fall. It chronicles a career that began with a crash. It was, mind you, of a ship, not a plane. In 1975, he was shipwrecked in northern Labrador and stranded for four days on a little island before being rescued. After narrowly escaping with their lives that fall, Tony and his brother Sandy changed careers and went to flight school in Charlottetown, PEI. But Tony’s love of flight and his fascination with aircraft began long before that. “Back when I was a young boy growing up on the coast of Labrador,” says Tony, “the main means of transportation at that time was by dog sled. Once a month during the winter the mail plane would arrive from Gander on the island portion of Newfoundland and Labrador. The planes were a Beaver type or single-engine Otter model on skis. Pilots would have
lunch and sometimes stay for the night at our home. Many great pilots like Ian Massie, Royal Cooper and Gunnar Laurell [the last two flew during the Second World War] visited. I always wanted to fly the mail up the
Tony arrives at Norman Bay with Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, 1987. “The children were very happy,” remembers Tony
coast of Labrador, but flying lessons were expensive and money was scarce. I never had any desire to be a large airline pilot, but wanted to be the best bush pilot I could. There were six
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Tony lands at historic Battle Harbour in 2013.
licensed pilots in my family; but as of 2020, I am the only one still flying commercially. I remember being 16 years old, going to Toronto with my older brother Lester to bring home a Cessna 172 equipped with floats. I loved flying and that trip persuaded me to pursue my dream. I would find the funds no matter what.” It is difficult for Tony to pick highlights from his career, as he notes, “There was so much pure enjoyment and great experiences flying over the years. A few hundred interesting flights stick in my mind, like leaving Nain after dark with an emergency patient in a single-engine Turbo Beaver ski plane for North West River, landing on the old snow-covered airstrip, where the patient would be taken to the hospital for medical attention.” Flying small planes is far different from piloting large commercial airliners. The compact size means giving
up a lot of comforts often taken for granted. “I will never forget flying a Beaver CF-OCG with mail up the Labrador North Coast in February with -50°C temperatures, without a heater in that aircraft,” says Tony. He reflects on one particularly harrowing night while he was flying the Air Ambulance out of North West River. A Goose Bay Air Services Otter had engine failure and went down in the Red Wine Mountains north of Goose Bay. Tony flew to the site at night in bad weather, with rain and a low ceiling, and rescued the plane’s pilot and three passengers, safely carrying them back to North West River. Still it paled in comparison to another adventure that Tony says “was my toughest flight of my career. I was ferrying a Cessna 206 to Labrador from Inuvik, in the western Arctic. It was August 1988, and I battled terrible weather all the way. My worst night ever in a plane was spent near Baie-
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Fuelling a Cessna 208 Caravan in Nain, 2013, for a wildlife survey in northern Labrador.
Comeau, Quebec, on that ferry flight. I was up all night trying to save my airplane during a fierce storm. Thankfully I made it through OK and arrived home the next day.” Helping others in a time of need is a recurring theme in Tony’s work and writing. In 1989, he spotted a small fishing boat from the air that had been missing for two days. It was struggling in dangerously rough seas 20 miles off Square Islands with a terrible storm approaching. Tony notes, “Many boats, including Coast Guard, and a Search and Rescue [SAR] helicopter took part in the search; but, fortunately, I spotted them in the heavy seas and passed their location to SAR, who rescued them. I was told if they weren’t found by dark that day it might have been a very different outcome with the boat taking on a lot of water.” For many years Tony operated his own aircraft charter service out of
Charlottetown, Labrador, which had the distinction at the time of being the only aircraft charter service based on the Labrador coast. In more recent years, with the construction of the Trans Labrador Highway through southern Labrador, Tony lost most of the demand for his business. Still he took it all in stride and remained ever positive as he still had bigger personal challenges to fight, including one that almost took his life. Tony says, “It was my battle with the fourth and final stage cancer that changed everything for me. On January 2, 2004, I answered the phone and got the terrible news from Dr. Fitzgerald in St. Anthony. I survived a 12hour lifesaving surgery on January 29, 2004. This was followed by 108 rounds of radiation treatment. It would be a long seven years before I got my Category 1 pilot medical clearance back. Cancer may have stolen many things from me that I
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used to take for granted, but it never stole my determination and willingness to wake up each day with a grateful heart and fly the beautiful freedom of the skies of this Big Land I call home.” One image from Tony’s collection catches my attention, since it has nothing to do with aviation but rather snowmobile racing, which is a highly competitive sport in Labrador. “Next to flying I loved it most,” Tony says of snowmobiling. “There were snowmobile races almost every winter weekend. I would fly [at] five in the morning on Saturday so I could go to the snowmobile races at Port Hope Simpson in the afternoon. I have been fortunate to participate in over 200 snowmobile races during my lifetime, winning more than half of them. The one that really stands out, though, is on April 9, 2005. After my cancer battle I won the gold medal and was crowned
“King of the Hill” at Marble Mountain, near Corner Brook. It was the biggest uphill drag race in Eastern Canada at the time. I was the first racer from our province to win this trophy, and it was a very special moment earning the fastest time up the mountain.” Concluding my exchange with Tony, I reflect on the appropriateness of his book title, Against the Wind, since airplanes take off against the wind. It is the wind resistance that gives them the lift and the ability to take flight. Tony acknowledges, “The phrase pretty much sums up my life. Much of it wasn’t an easy ride. Through it all, I remained hopeful for a better tomorrow. My positive attitude and my willingness to remain hopeful was a major attribute to my survival. All I ever wanted from life was to be a bush pilot and live close to home.” Tony has lived a life that, on so many levels, is truly uplifting.
Tony has been flying a Beaver floatplane for Portland Creek Aviation on their annual moose hunt charters for the past four hunting seasons. 14
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The Labrador Phenomenon BY PAT HAYES • GUELPH, ON
On a cold, cold night in Labrador Just west of the IOC As I travelled the road from Wabush While a Newfie Jig played on CD
I’ ve travelled o’ er this province From St. John’s to Red Bay town From Wabush to Lake Melville To Englee, where fish aboun’
To my wonderment, joy and elation The night sky lit up above In green and blue and white and red All dancing as though in love
But nowhere in my travels Did such a sight I see Not even on the ocean Woods Island or Bay D’Esprit
The emotion which then filled my heart And through my every bone In the splendour of this moment I never felt alone
In silence then I listened As the dance continued on I could hear the voice of heaven As God ’s handiwork I foun’
The aurora borealis The wonder of the sky It danced to the Newfie music My pleasure to enjoy
The northern lights of Labrador Is a sensation to behold So close but yet so far away It ’s the tenth wonder of the world
Don’ t take this sight for granted Enjoy its every gleam As it rises, then falls and waits To add colour to your dream
Tim Collins Photo
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A 1944 report by Lord Ammon outlines the Big Landâ€™s future potential BY BURTON K. JANES
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Before joining Canada in 1949,
Newfoundland and Labrador was a dominion of England, a semi-autonomous colony with its own system of government, currency and laws. This system of responsible government, begun in 1855, fell victim to global economics and the Great Depression, among other factors, and ended in 1934 with England reclaiming direct control of the colony through a Commission of Government.
Domingo Dichoson photo
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Timothy Collins photo
Lord Ammon’s report highlighted Churchill Falls with its potential for “supplying sufficient lighting power for half the North American continent.” Intended as a short term solution, by 1943 the British were looking at ways to return Newfoundland to a responsible government structure. A Parliamentary Committee, chaired by Charles George Ammon, was in charge of investigating the future of the Dominion of Newfoundland. First Baron Ammon, a British Labour Party politician, was accompanied by A.P. Herbert, an independent Member of Parliament, and Derrick Gunston, a Unionist MP. The Committee travelled the island and as far north as Hopedale in coastal Labrador. Lord Ammon’s prescient if unofficial report, Newfoundland: The Forgotten Island, published a year later, serves as a digest of his views and proposals. He devotes a chapter to Labrador. At the outset, Lord Ammon suggests that if Newfoundland is “a forgotten island,” Labrador is “an unknown 18
land.” He recognized the power generating potential of Grand Falls, later renamed Churchill Falls, saying it was “grander than Niagara [Falls] and, if harnessed, [is] capable of supplying sufficient lighting power for half the North American continent.” The lack of development, as Ammon saw it, was part of a larger pattern of Labrador’s neglect by the British. Ammon contends that, as late as 1944, “little or nothing has been done to develop Labrador” because, he insists, no such policy exists. Ammon visited Labrador in the middle of WWII and took note of the Goose Bay airport, calling it “one of the wonders of the war effort” and FALL 2020
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“the largest airport in the world.” Despite being outside the Canadian border at the time, the airport was built by the Canadian Armed Forces during the war. In the interest of expediency, certain details, like who actually owned it, were to be dealt with later. At the time of Ammon’s visit in 1943, the airport had been in operation for two years but the ownership issue was still unanswered. The airport was, Ammon notes, rife with “much speculation and uneasiness.” He also took issue with the Dominion’s lack of input on the matter. “Newfoundland was never consulted,” he states. “Newfoundland has a right to know what she is to get after the war.” It wasn’t until 1944 that those details would finally be worked out. The land the base sat on would be leased to Canada under a 99-year agreement, at the time meaning it didn’t belong to Newfoundland and Labrador at all – it belonged to Canada. Taken by the natural beauty of the land, Ammon notes Labrador “presents unrivalled attractions in its magnificent scenery of forest, sea and inland lakes, salmon and other fishing, moose, caribou, partridge and bear.” Still, Labrador “is practically unexplored.” The Commission of Government, the non-elected body that governed the Dominion of Newfoundland from 1934 to 1949, virtually neglected
Labrador’s potential. Ammon felt energetic development could result in “equal or better results” than recent strides made in Alaska. His report made several recommendations on how this land could become an eastern Alaska of sorts. Using the Grand Falls (now Churchill Falls) for power generation, developing the already surveyed iron ore deposit in western Labrador and studying the interior for development opportunities were all suggested. Realizing the magnitude of surveying such a vast land and cutting roads through its sizable forests, Ammon conceded, “The development of so wild and remote a country may now seem a pipe dream.” However, he noted, it is eminently possible. In addition to exploiting the natural resources, Ammon saw a need for an improvement in social services, calling on the Commision to assist the Inuit through developing markets for their fish and furs. Absent those markets, the future of the Inuit was in peril, Ammon warns. “It is probable that they will soon be extinct.” To Lord Ammon’s disappointment, the Dominions Office rejected his report. He reacted by publishing a revised edition in the Fabian Research Series, Newfoundland: The Forgotten Island. The story Ammon tells, the Fabian Colonial Bureau observes, “contains more than one object lesson for the peoples, and administrators, of other parts of the Empire.”
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Readersâ€™ Photo Album Go with the Flow
The Ashuanipi River looks mesmerizing in this long exposure photo. DOMINGO DICHOSON Labrador City, NL
Wild flowers in full bloom on the north shore of Nachvak Fjord. MARK PENNEY Rensselaer, NY, USA
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BY DALE JARVIS
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When I reach Pearl Cobb by phone at her home in Hopedale, she is busy putting up her bottled beets for the winter. She had grown the beets herself in buckets, along with carrots and potatoes. She tells me she grew green peppers in her greenhouse, and enough turnips to see her through the winter. Originally from Fogo Island, Pearl moved to Hopedale to take up a teaching position. Her initial plan was to stay in the community for six months. That short contract stretched into 30 years. “The longest six months on record,” she jokes. She stayed, raised a family and made Hopedale her home. Beets aside, it is Pearl’s 11 hens that I have called to chat about. A farmer friend had tried for years to convince her to try her hand at hens. About five years ago, she finally gave in and took some fertilized eggs back to Hopedale. She borrowed an incubator from the
school and hatched them out. “Well, the minute they hatched out, I was hooked,” she says. Her husband took their children’s old play house, insulated it, added a chicken run outside, and that was it. “All I have inside is a couple of light bulbs,” she describes. “In February or March, when it gets really, really cold, I might take out a light bulb and put in one of those heat lamps. Between that and their body heat, their water never freezes. If I go out in the morning and realize that the water has froze, well, then it’s time to switch up the light bulbs and put in the heat lamp.”
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One of the first chicks she hatched out was a little black one, smaller than the rest, whom she named Licorice. “She had a real personality!” says Pearl. “If you got close enough she would hop up on your shoulders, or your lap if you were sitting, and talk the whole time you were out there, squawking. I’ve still got her; she’s one of the favourites. Ginger is a favourite, too. They haven’t laid in years; they’re more pets now.” Licorice, Ginger and the girls are the latest in a long line of Labrador egg-layers. “I think there’s been hens here before, but they didn’t last very long,” Pearl tells me. “You might get them in the summer and by winter they may be gone. Somebody lost some because the huskies got at them.” Dogs have long been the bane of a Labrador hen’s precarious existence.
In 1923, Dr. Harry Paddon wrote the following in North West River: I heard details of the trouble taken to protect our hens from the dogs, so that we actually produced 100 eggs in the dead of winter to save the life of a lusty young trapper who was afflicted with gastric ulcer and who might otherwise have bled or starved to death. Wilfred Grenfell himself noted the problems that dogs could cause for potential hen-keepers. He stated in one of his Labrador reports that village dogs had chewed through a fence and had made their way in, killing two hens and 14 young chicks, “a serious item in Labrador.” Chickens are not a native species to the province, but by the 1860s there are archival mentions of hens along
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the coast in places like Rigolet. So how did hens get to Labrador in the first place? The easy answer is that people brought them from away, but from where and when is harder to say for certain.
a crew member onboard the George B. Cluett steaming between Boston, Massachusetts, and Mugford Tickle, Labrador. As if dogs were not a hazard enough to poor Labrador hens, Anderson wrote the following about
So how did hens get to Labrador in the first place? Newfoundlanders fishing on the Labrador brought hens (and the coops to house them) on their schooners for the summer fishing season. Early settlers sometimes kept hens in their homes during the winter to keep them laying, and the Moravian missionaries were in on the egg-raising tradition as well. In 1939, Henry H. Anderson Jr. was
the shipâ€™s mate, whom he described as a burly fellow: He delighted in plucking a freshly laid egg from one of our crated hens, biting off the end and sucking it down in one swallow. Of scientific bent he frequently experimented with the hens, determined to find out whether
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they could swim, by dropping one overboard in the Strait of Belle Isle. Poor visibility meant that the fog swallowed up the hen before the sea. In the 1970s, the International Grenfell Association’s hens at the poultry farm in North West River were producing 10,000 eggs a month. The eggs, it was reported, were delicious, and every time an airplane went north or south it took a few dozen to the Grenfell nursing stations. Any surplus eggs the IGA Leghorns laid were sold, helping reduce the organization’s costs. In 1974, Dr. W.A. Paddon (Dr. Henry’s son) wrote, I visited them the other afternoon, just before dusk. They were peacefully winding up the day, and some were roosting. There was a drowsy murmur of conversation 26
over the entire place and remarks such as ‘good night’ were easy to pick out on the roosts. Occasionally there was a sudden shrill squawking — perhaps a sleeping hen with a nightmare about Col. Sanders — but the predominant sound seemed to be that of small talk. These days, there is a bit of a backyard chicken boom in central Labrador, with many people in Happy Valley-Goose Bay experimenting with raising their own hens. In an area that sometimes struggles with access to fresh, locally produced food, keeping hens is one way to build greater food security. Along the north coast, however, hens are still a rarity. Which brings us back to Pearl and her feathered friends. “I haven’t bought eggs in five or six years,” Pearl claims. “I’ll get plenty for FALL 2020
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me, and I usually get two or three dozen to sell or give away to my friends. That’s if they are all laying, because they are going to lay every day, every 24 hours, give or take a day.” In addition to whatever household scraps are suitable for a chicken, hens require feed, which Pearl says is the hardest part about having chickens on the coast. “Usually we get it shipped up on the boat in the summer. Before I came back, I went to Lewisporte and I got about 25 sacks of feed and brought it back on our trailer, and shipped it up on the boat. That’s the only feasible way to do it, because if you had to get it shipped in for the winter you wouldn’t be able to pay for it. One winter I ran out and I had to get in three sacks of feed and it cost me about $300 – the most expensive
eggs ever!” Before I let Pearl return to her beets, I ask her if she has any tips for aspiring Labrador poultry farmers, other than being organized about feed and having a well-insulated coop. “Berries,” she says. “They really like leftover berries. And carrot scraps, and cabbage.” Then she adds, “Don’t keep a rooster, either! Because I’ve tried that and a rooster being penned up for a long length of time during the winter is not a nice bird. I gave up roosters because they weren’t worth the trouble.” I say goodbye to Pearl and imagine, for a moment, being penned up in an old children’s playhouse with a bunch of squawking, small-talking hens for an entire Labrador winter. I don’t think it would make me a very nice bird, either.
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Caribou, moose and polar bears get all the attention from wildlife photographers and animal watchers, but these smaller, less popular mammals are just as interesting – and often easier to find, too. This guide will help you find a likely place to spot a variety of small mammals. Bring a camera – in addition to being a joy to observe, these small animals make for mighty good photos.
Arctic Fox Alopex lagopus The Arctic fox is native to Labrador, occasionally showing up on the island. These foxes are our smallest canid species, measuring 75-115 cm (2.6-4 ft.) in length and obtaining weights of 2.5-9 kg (5.5-20 lb.). During the summer they are two-tone brown or pale bluish grey, turning pure white in winter. The Arctic fox is responsible for bringing rabies to Newfoundland in 1988.
HOME SWEET HOME Arctic foxes’ referred habitat is barren lands and around the banks of ponds and river banks. They can also sometimes be found on ice floes.
ON THE MENU
The diet varies greatly and includes lemmings, mice, birds, eggs, small marine animals, fish, seal pups and carrion. They sometimes follow polar bears, scavenging on the kill remains.
ON THE MENU (OF SOMEONE ELSE) Wolves, golden eagles and bears occasionally prey on these foxes.
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Fisher Martes pennanti These large members of the weasel family do not get their name from their great fishing ability; in fact, their regular diet doesn’t even include fish. The name comes from the Old English word “fiche” which refers to its pelt. They are dark brown with blackish brown on the rump and tail and, like the marten, they have a light cream coloured bib on the chest. They are 75-120 cm (30-47 in.) long and weigh 3.5-6.0 kg (8-13 lb.).
HOME SWEET HOME Fishers den in holes in the ground and hollow trees, logs and stumps in coniferous, mixed conifer-hardwood, and old growth forests with plenty of woody debris. ON THE MENU Fishers are one of few animals that will tackle and dine on porcupine. They will also eat mice, chipmunks, squirrels, snowshoe hares, birds, amphibians, insects, carrion, nuts, berries, and mushrooms. They’ve even been known to occasionally kill domestic cats, dogs, poultry and Canada lynx.
ON THE MENU (OF SOMEONE ELSE) This large weasel has few threats outside of humans who hunt them for their fur.
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Voles Bank Vole Myodes glareolus (above); Eastern Heather Vole Phenacomys ungava; Meadow Vole Microtus pennsylvanicus; Southern Red-backed Vole Myodes gapperi; Rock Vole Microtus chrotorrhinus
Voles are commonly referred to as meadow or field mice. Voles generally measure 7.6-22.9 cm (3-9 in.) and weigh 25-43 g. They have stout bodies, short tails and a rounded head with small eyes and ears. The general colouration is greyish-brown. Vole populations experience a four-year cycle, and during peak years the number could be as high as 200-400 per acre. In 1967, the southern red-backed vole was introduced to Labrador but did not establish; however, it is suspected that they were introduced again in 1998.
HOME SWEET HOME All voles prefer moist, dense, grassy areas with substantial amounts of plant litter and other dense vegetation types. They are good swimmers, often inhabiting areas near streams, lakes, ponds and swamps with dense overhead cover. ON THE MENU Voles will burrow to gain access to succulent root systems and will continue to eat them until the plant is dead. They also enjoy bulbs, other small plants and almost any nut or fruit. Like other rodents, they will also eat snails, insects and dead animals.
ON THE MENU (OF SOMEONE ELSE) They are a staple of many predatorsâ€™ diets including pine marten, coyotes, foxes, weasels, lynx, owls, hawks, falcon and large fish.
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Lemmings Northern Bog Lemming Synaptomys borealis; Labrador Collared Lemming (AKA Ungava collared lemming) Dicrostonyx hudsonius
Lemmings measure 13-18 cm (5-7 in.) and weigh 23-34 g (0.8-1.2 oz.). They have a rounded shape with reddish-brown or greyish-brown long soft fur marked with black, a very short tail, a stubby snout, short legs and small ears. During the winter, the collared lemming is covered in white fur. There is a widely popular misconception that lemmings commit mass suicide when they migrate by jumping off cliffs. This came about when Walt Disney staged this behaviour for the documentary White Wilderness in 1958. The lemmings supposedly leaping to their demise into the ocean below were actually thrown off the cliff by the Disney filmmakers. It was staged using careful editing, tight angles and a few dozen lemmings running on a lazy Susan-style turntable (Mickey must be shaking his head in disbelief).
HOME SWEET HOME Inhabits northern forests, bogs, tundra and meadows. ON THE MENU
Primarily herbivores, lemmings dine on mosses, grasses, berries, leaves, shoots, roots, bulbs, lichens, and twigs of birch, aspen and willows. They sometimes eat snails and slugs.
ON THE MENU (OF SOMEONE ELSE)
Predators include owls, hawks,
weasels, coyotes and foxes.
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Little Brown Bat Myotis lucifugus
Flying Squirrel Glaucomys sabrinus
Flying squirrels are light brown or cinnamon above with greyish flanks and whitish underneath. They have large eyes and a flat tail, measure 2537 cm (10-15 in.) long and weigh 110230 g. These nocturnal rodents are proficient gliders, but clumsy walkers.
HOME SWEET HOME
They inhabit coniferous and mixed coniferous forests across much of Canada.
This is the only bat species known to live in Labrador. They range from reddish or dark brown to tan, with dark brown or black ears and wings. The body length is 9 cm, with a 22-27 cm wingspan. They weigh a minuscule 8 g.
HOME SWEET HOME They are found anywhere with trees, caves or buildings that provide good roosting sites, and will sometimes take up residence in peopleâ€™s homes. ON THE MENU Bats use echolocation to
Like red squirrels, they are omnivorous, munching on plant material, nuts, buds, flowers, sap, fungi, insects, carrion, birds eggs and nestlings.
locate and snatch up moths, beetles, mosquitoes and flies. A single bat can catch up to 600 mosquitoes in just one hour, and can eat about half their weight in insects each night.
ON THE MENU (OF SOMEONE ELSE)
ON THE MENU (OF SOMEONE ELSE)
Owls, hawks, marten, lynx, foxes, coyotes and domestic cats all consider flying squirrels a tasty snack.
Bats are on the menu of hawks, owls, falcons, weasels, mink, squirrels, rats, cats, large frogs and trout.
ON THE MENU
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Groundhog Marmota monax This mammal has gained fame through the popular belief that it can predict the oncoming of warm, sunny spring weather or the extension of the long, cold months of winter. Despite the celebration of Groundhog Day every February 2 – when people eagerly await for him to pop his head out of his burrow and see if he is scared back in by his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter – he is unfortunately no Eddie Sheerr, and does not possess such weather knowhow. This rodent – also known as woodchuck, ground pig, whistlepig, whistler and marmot – is 41.8-68.5 cm (16.5-27.0 in.) long and weighs 2-6.3 kg (4.4-13.9 lb.), and sports brown, greyish-brown or reddish-brown fur.
HOME SWEET HOME Groundhogs are typically found in low-elevation forests, small woodlots, fields, and pastures in open country and woodland edges, but rarely strays far from their burrows. ON THE MENU
They chow down on wild grasses, berries, agricultural crops, dandelion, coltsfoot, sorrel, timothy grass, buttercup, agrimony, plantain, wild lettuce and clover. They will occasionally snack on grubs, grasshoppers, insects, snails, and nestlings and other small animals if encountered by accident, but they are not as omnivorous as other squirrel family members.
ON THE MENU (OF SOMEONE ELSE) Coyotes, foxes, lynx, wolves, eagles, owls, mink, weasels, hawks and domestic cats are all considered predators of groundhogs in Labrador. 34
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Woodland Jumping Mouse
Deer Mouse Peromyscus maniculatus
Woodland jumping mice are yellowish or reddish-brown peppered with black and have a dark brown band running from nose to tail. The underparts and feet are white. They measure 205-256 mm (8.1-10.1 in.) and weigh 17-35 g. This mouse could be considered the long jumper of the rodent world, as it can leap as far as 3 m (9.8 ft.) in a single bound.
HOME SWEET HOME These mice live in cool, moist areas dominated by sprucefir or hardwood mixed trees, often close to streams and in areas where meadow and forests intermix with lots of available groundcover and water.
These native mice vary greatly in colour from black to white, but can be distinguished by their white undersides and feet. They have large, beady eyes, large ears and typically measure 184 mm (7.2 in.) and weigh 21 g (0.7 oz.). These nocturnal creatures spend most of the day in a nest built inside hollow trees or burrows. They can become a health concern as they are a carrier and vector of infectious diseases including hanta virus and Lyme disease.
HOME SWEET HOME Unlike the house
ON THE MENU
mouse who likes to share our cribs with us, these guys prefer a wide variety of plant communities such as grasslands, brushy areas, woodlands, and both coniferous and deciduous forests.
ON THE MENU (OF SOMEONE ELSE)
ON THE MENU Deer mice are omnivorous, feasting on seeds, fruits, leaves, fungi, spiders, bugs, insects, caterpillars and other arthropods.
Like all mice, they will eat almost anything they encounter including caterpillars, beetles, fungi, seeds, and most fruits and berries.
The woodland jumping mouse often becomes a meal for owls, hawks, falcons, herons, lynx, minks, weasels, foxes, coyotes and large fish.
ON THE MENU (OF SOMEONE ELSE) Suppertime for owls, hawks, mink, marten, weasels, lynx, coyotes, foxes and domestic cats might include a heaping of deer mouse.
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North American Porcupine Erethizon dorsatum
Also known as the Canadian porcupine and common porcupine, they measure 74.5 to 120 cm and weigh in at 3.5 to 18 kg (7.7 to 39.7 lb.). Porcupines are dark brown to black in colour, with white highlights. They have a small face, short legs, stocky body and a short, thick tail. The common myth surrounding porcupines is that they can throw their quills. They actually swing their tail at an attackerâ€™s face, embedding the quills on contact. They are also the only North American mammal with antibiotics in the skin, which prevent infection if they fall out of a tree and stick themselves with their own quills when hitting the ground.
HOME SWEET HOME These spiky critters prefer coniferous and mixed forests, but have adapted to the harsher conditions of scrublands, tundra and deserts. They build dens in hollow or rocky areas.
ON THE MENU Porcupines nibble on twigs, stems, roots, berries and other vegetation in summer; in winter they eat tree needles and bark. ON THE MENU (OF SOMEONE ELSE) Porcupines are on the menu of fishers, wolverines, coyotes, wolves, black bears, eagles and great horned owls. 36
Starnosed Mole Condylura cristata
This is the only mole with a touch organ that has more than 25,000 minute sensory receptors, known as Eimerâ€™s organs, used to feel their way around in their dark underground burrows. They measure between 175 to 205 mm in total length and weigh 35 to 75 g. The colouration is dark brown to black on the back and lighter brown underneath. The body is stout and cylindrical, the feet are broad with large claws.
HOME SWEET HOME Moles call areas with moist, poorly drained soils in both coniferous and deciduous forests, clearings, wet meadows, marshes and peatlands home. They also may reside in stream banks, and lake and pond shores. ON THE MENU This mole dines primarily on invertebrates, including earthworms, other worms, leeches, insect larvae, insects, aquatic crustaceans, mollusks and small fish.
ON THE MENU (FOR SOMEONE ELSE) Owls, hawks, coyotes, foxes, fishers, weasels, mink, domestic cats and dogs, large fish and large frogs all consider moles a tasty snack.
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Shrews Masked Shrew Sorex cinereus ; Water Shrew Sorex palustris; Pygmy Shrew Sorex hoyi (above)
Shrews are literally always eating, as they can only survive a few hours without food due to their extremely high metabolism. They are active mostly after dark, especially after rainfall and on very dark nights. Overall they are brown, grey, grey-black, silvery grey, reddish or orangish-brown, usually with lighter undersides. During winter the pygmy shrew turns whitish. They range from 99 mm to 5 cm in length and weigh between 2.5 g and 18 g, with the pygmy shrew being the smallest and the water shrew being the biggest.
HOME SWEET HOME Shrews occupy a wide range of habitats but are most common in open and closed forests, grassland, tundra, meadows, river banks, lake shores and willow thickets. They also do well in disturbed areas such as burned over and logging areas. Water shrews can dive and forage on stream beds and bottoms of ponds. ON THE MENU Menu items of all species include ants, larvae, flies, marine amphipods, budworms, sawflies, beetles, grasshoppers, spiders, harvestmen, centipedes, worms, slugs, snails, caddisflies, crane flies, mayflies, stoneflies and occasionally small fish, seeds and fungi.
ON THE MENU (OF SOMEONE ELSE) Weasels, foxes, coyotes, domestic cats, herons, hawks, falcons, owls, brook trout and other large fish all chow down on the various shrew species.
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Readersâ€™ Photo Album
Visitors find many ways of travel to Labrador, and this small aircraft was a welcome sight in Red Bay. ROBERT CARTER Conception Bay South, NL
Wild Times This bear was spotted on Lodge Bay Road in Labrador.
KIMBERLEY NORMORE Corner Brook, NL
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Out for a Row
This rower is enjoying a fall day at Paradise River. NORMA MESHER KNIGHT Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NL
Bucket oâ€™ Berries What bakeapplepicking time looks like in Labrador.
GERALDINE CURL St. Lewis, NL
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An outdoor photographer heads inside to the homes of Elders
BY TOBIAS ROMANIUK
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It’s been done before, photos of seniors in the community - but it hasn’t been done like this. In Rigolet, where Eldred Allen lives, the senior’s centre walls are decorated with images of Elders in their homes, showing how they live. The photographs are a great documentation of the person, says Eldred. But they weren’t the sort of photo he was interested in taking.
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the cover of an arts magazine. And Eldred wanted his images to be still he dove deeper, learning about creative. Artistic, even. studio photography and portraiture “It’s a way to document the Elders in lighting techniques. the community in more of an artistic While talking with his wife about way and take elegant pictures that photography, and his interest in show them as they are,” says Eldred of portraiture but lack of a subject, she his portrait project. Eldred, who owns Bird’s Eye Inc. – an aerial imaging company using drones – takes photos and videos for a living. But they tend to be more akin to data collection than creative image making. Then, partly out of interest and partly because clients were asking if he did groundbased photography, Eldred picked up a handheld camera and began a deep dive Max Allen into learning everything he could about photography. Lighting, composition, subject – he scoured the internet, reading lessons and tutorials and forums, learning to becoming a better photographer. The self-guided suggested photographing Elders in education, and the resulting wildlife the community. This type of photogand landscape images, got him raphy – with lights and backdrops and noticed – he’s been in exhibitions and a camera somewhat close to their had one of his images published on face – wasn’t the sort of thing people
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in the community were used to. “It’s not something they’re familiar with or might not be comfortable with,” says Eldred. So he began by photographing his grandparents. With the first subjects photographed in this style new to both the community and Eldred, he had something to present to potential
“You kind of like see the wisdom in their eyes and their faces, and it’s kind of artistic,” says Eldred. subjects, to say here, this is what the image would look like. The images are classic head and shoulders portraiture framing, with a single light placed high on camera right and a shallow focus that draws
attention to the eyes. The 50mmequivalent focal length, chosen for its common use as a portrait lens, gave him the room to work that a longer lens, say an 85mm, wouldn’t allow. “The focal length I was using and the size of the homes that I’d go and set up in, the traditional portrait headshot of shoulders up kind of worked really well,” says Eldred. These images, which look like studio photos, are created in each person’s home. The houses in Rigolet, says Eldred, aren’t large. He’s typically about five or six feet away from his subject, camera pointed at their face. The result is an image completely unlike those on the senior centre wall. “You kind of see the wisdom in their eyes and their faces, and it’s kind of artistic,” says Eldred. The photographs have been worth the effort, with people telling him they really capture a person’s elegance. Considering these are people who aren’t keen on having their picture taken, and are often quite uncomfortable in front of a camera, getting a photo that doesn’t look awkward is an accomplishment in itself. But Eldred has found that a repeatable process can help, along with a bit of friendliness.
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He chats up his photo subject from the time he arrives, making small talk and explaining what the backdrop and light are for, and what he’s going to be doing. Then, with his subject seated in front of the camera, he asks them to look down. Click. Then straight at the camera. Click. Then up and toward the light. Click. And that’s it – three poses, three images, maybe more if the person blinked. In 10 shots and about 25 minutes, the session is done. He packs up, then sticks around for a chat, sometimes leading to tea and pie. Grateful for their willingness to be photographed, and aware of how uncomfortable they may be, Eldred
doesn’t want to take up too much of their time. But he also doesn’t want to just shoot and run, so he’s more than happy to stick around for a visit if invited. Originally, when he began the project in the fall of 2019, Eldred had intended to photograph as many Elders in the community as were willing. He took a break from the project over Christmas, then we had a pandemic that made house visits unwise and the project has been on hold, although he’s hoping to pick it up again soon. He has nearly a dozen completed so far, with more planned. As for what will become of the portraits, he’s unsure.
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A skilled photographer, Eldred has captured stunning outdoor images.
It would, says Eldred, be nice to have an exhibition. But he’s not too concerned about putting on a show just yet. The project, after all, was more about capturing the faces of his community’s elders while exploring new photographic techniques. That exploration of technique has led him on many photographic adventures as he searches out new landscape and wildlife images. There have been many early mornings, with Eldred out on the water, camera at the ready, waiting for the sun to rise in the hopes of capturing something spectacular, like maybe a whale breaching or a bird catching a fish. Getting these images requires both quick action –
framing the image and pressing the shutter in a second or less – along with incredible patience. There have been days, Eldred recounts, where he has sat in position, waiting for wildlife, for seven or more hours. Eldred is, as his images attest, a skilled photographer with a good eye. And he’s found that has helped when his camera’s eye is far above him, attached to a drone. “Everything that I’ve learned and the deep dive that I’ve taken into learning my camera has completely transferred over into my drone operation and my drone photography. Because when you break it down, a drone is just a flying camera.”
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LABRADOR BY JOHN PYE â€¢ MOUNT MORIAH, NL
Janice Goudie photo
Is for Labrador, that great land of the North.
Is for our athletes that take part in every sport.
John Graham photo
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Is for the beauty that we witness every day.
Dominique Andrews photo
Is for the rivers that flow out into the bay.
Gene Greene photo
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Is for the Arctic ice that drifts down with the tide.
Tanya Northcott photo
Is for the danger that we all try to avoid.
Janice Goudie photo
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Eldred Allen photo
It stands for Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean blue.
Is for all our rights to stand tall, proud and true.
Melissa Russell photo
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Churchill River Churchill River, also known as the Grand River, is the longest river in Atlantic Canada. From the Ashuanipi Lake, through the flooded lakes making up the Smallwood Reservoir, it flows 856 km into Lake Melville and the Atlantic Ocean. In 1965 then-Premier Joey Smallwood renamed the river after Winston Churchill, a former British Prime Minister. The other Churchill River, which begins at Churchill Lake in Saskatchewan and drains into Hudson Bay at Churchill, Manitoba after travelling 1,609 km, was named after John Churchill, governor of the Hudsonâ€™s Bay Company from 1685 to 1691. The Churchill Falls was once an impressive sight. At 75m high, itâ€™s taller than Niagara Falls by 25m. But, unlike the famous southern Ontario waterfalls, the Churchill Falls is a mere trickle of its former self due to the hydroelectric generating station built at the falls in 1967 and opened in 1970. The formerly glorious falls can be accessed by a short hike from the Trans Labrador Highway near the town of Churchill Falls. Despite now being mostly dry, the river canyon is still a wondrous sight. 50
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How Big is the Big Land? Labrador is 294,330 sq km. If it were its own country, it would be ranked number 73 out of 195 on a list of the world’s countries by area, putting it between Phillipines, at 300,000 sq km and Ecuador, at 276,841 sq km. Labrador is bigger than the United Kingdom - you could put England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales inside Labrador and still have room to spare. It’s also bigger than North Korea and South Korea combined. And it’s a bit bigger than New Zealand.
The Biggest Bears Labrador has the world’s biggest bears – sort of. The polar bear is generally accepted to be the largest bear on the planet, weighing north of 500 kg. But Labrador doesn’t have the largest polar bear. That record goes to Alaska, where a 1,002 kg polar bear was shot in 1960.
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The Highest Peak in the East Stand at the peak of Mount Caubvick, in the Torngat Mountain range, and youâ€™ll be 1,652m above sea level. The mountain, on the Quebec border, is the highest point in Atlantic Canada, but not Eastern Canada. That distinction goes to Barbeau Peak (2,616m) in the far north of Nunavut, on Ellsmere Island. Mount Caubvick is difficult to get to, but people have stood on its peak. The first Canadians to reach the summit made the climb in 1978. This mountain is not for the casual climber. In 2003, two climbers died on their way down from the summit.
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WORD FIND ANIMALS OF LABRADOR
The words can be across, up, down, backward or at an angle, but always in a line.
ARCTIC FOX BLACK BEAR CARIBOU FISHER FLYING SQUIRREL GROUNDHOG LEMMING LITTLE BROWN BAT
J E H P F Y G S N K W X M E I J G T
E R H J E L N K M D U R H O K V A V
R A T Z A Q I K Z G D Q M M L B S O
X H X Q Y S M L S C Y U M Q N E E L
W E A S E L M D E F F G B W P O B E
F O J S S M E A I R V R O Q M M V A
B H A L V J L S R G R R L J X N Y L
T S F R Q O H N G T B I X I S Y S V
RAT RED FOX RED SQUIRREL SNOWSHOE HARE VOLE WEASEL WOLF WOLVERINE
LYNX MARTEN MOLE MOOSE MOUSE MUSK OXEN MUSKRAT OTTER POLAR BEAR
U W Y F K E E Q Y E E W U H W N A R
C O U U R X W B L S S N U Q O R F B
E N K J O O G T X O Z Q T O S E R N
R S Q K L B T P D O V M T F B D M Y
U E S F M I I L O M A Z Y C L F E X
T U T J L H W R G L H X U P A O Y R
M D D T N Y Y R A C A X M I C X V H
P W A E O M O C P C D R N H K F P M
K N L X A U C O N E Z U B Y B O L D
N V L F N U H D S Z B D D E E V J X
M Z I D I V V F O Q Z R B U A Z D M
Q O H Q W X O F C I T C R A R R E K
W O L V E R I N E B D T A R K S U M
G A U J D Y Y G A K H G L S U U D B
R T F U E C U D K L R F P O X Z P P
W E D I D O L O Y E U Q M O T G O G
F L Y I N G S Q U I R R E L B Q P N 53
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Readers’ Photo Album
A Moment Alone
“Me watching sunset over the lakes here in Wabush,” the submitter writes. DOMINGO DICHOSON Labrador City, NL
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Gorgeous Day on Clothes
My sister-in-law in Fox Cove, Labrador, breathing in the wonderful fresh smell of the Labrador air. LINDA OAKE St. Johnâ€™s, NL
Little Miss Courtney Fleming enjoys a beautiful spring day in Labrador by reading one of her favourite magazines. NICOLE FLEMING Labrador City, NL
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Painting by Aubrey Wells
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THE HUGE TWIN PROPELLERS
appear before me as I round a bend on my fat tire bike. In the August sun, curved blades, akin to gigantic metal flowers, blossom upon a swath of manicured grass. The weathered, patina bronze blades betray no marker, no monument and no memorial plaque. Why are they resting behind Memorial University’s Marine Institute in St. John’s, NL? Upon closer inspection, I spot a single salient detail in faded, hand-painted letters that have almost vanished from the surface. One blade bears the whisper of a ship’s name, the beloved, beleaguered and almost legendary MV William Carson. Derm Cullen, age 63, knows the Carson first-hand. As a young man in the 1970s he worked at sea, serving on the William Carson Port aux Basques to North Sydney run and “loved her,” he says of the ship. “She was a good ship handling in the water and was spotless.” In the spring of 1977, he was working at the CN dockyard in St. John’s when he got the call to head back to sea. “I joined the Carson at the end of Water Street for her run up through Lewisporte, to St. Anthony and on to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador. FALL 2020
All was pretty good and then a couple of days later we had our little night. She was going to terminate her trip at Goose Bay, but she terminated a little earlier than that.” The William Carson sank on June 2, some 18 miles off Squared Islands, Labrador, says Derm, who was an assistant steward on board the Carson at the time. “She was not only a ferry, but she was designed to be an icebreaker,” says Derm. “She would ride up over the ice and the weight of the ship would come down and break the ice. That particular night was calm weather and inside LABRADOR
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The MV William Carson in North Sydney when it was operated by CN between Port aux Basques and Nova Scotia Don Merritt photo beautifully clear. We were going through ice all day, but I never felt anything out of the ordinary or heard any unusual noises. I was in the mess room [dining location for crew] when I see a few fellows running by with life jackets. I guess our training kicked in,
and I didnâ€™t know if it was a drill or a real emergency, but I automatically ran to my cabin right over the stern of the ship, got on a bit of winter clothes from my locker and grabbed my life jacket. I put my head out a porthole to see if I could spot anything and we
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were totally dead in the water. I knew something was very wrong. I closed up everything and reported to the lifeboat station I was assigned to. When I shut the door on my cabin I never saw anything inside it again. Funny enough, my last duty on the Carson was to paint the mess room where I had been seated. I painted it the very day Carson sank, and you know what? The paint is still not dry yet.” Dark humour aside, Derm praises all the crew involved at the time for acting quickly, professionally and without hesitation. “We didn’t stop and think about it; everyone simply did what they were trained to do,” he says. “It happened about roughly 9:30 p.m., from what I remember, and we got above decks, uncovered the lifeboats, swung them out with the lines and lowered them down over the
“I closed up everything and reported to the lifeboat station I was assigned to. When I shut the door on my cabin I never saw anything inside it again.”
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A helicopter from the icebreaker Sir Humphrey Gilbert had to pluck some survivors from the ice. There were 129-158 people (accounts vary) on the Carson before she sank. side. She went down close to 2:00 in the morning. We were pretty worried when we got down in the ice that we might not be able to get far enough away from the Carson when she sank and we would be sucked down with her. You got to remember now, this ice is not what you see in a skating rink. This is ice that is piled up and down in high blocks and lumps in every direction. Some of the life boats could find a bit of open water to pick a route
away from the vessel, but the one I was in and the next one were just too tangled up with ice to move. So all the men jumped out on the ice and grabbed the painter [a rope running off the lifeboat] and would hop from ice pan to ice pan, pulling the lifeboats behind us up, over or around whatever was in our way. Of course, it is open water in places and you get your hands and your feet wet, but what choice did you have? It was either do
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that and get the lifeboats far enough away, or you were all going to get really wet when the Carson went down. “Eventually your hands would be frozen up, and we’d take our hands to get feeling back in them and dip them down in the open spots of salt water. That sting would bring a bit of life back into them, and we’d latch on again and kept hauling until we got far enough away that we figured it would be safe, and then bunkered down for the night. “When the Carson went, she dipped her bow, bobbed back up, and then she went right straight down almost on a 90-degree angle. All you could hear was the dishes smashing as they crashed down towards the bow. Another strange sound from the sinking is, when we’re on the ice, the music from the Carson’s PA system speakers kept coming on and off. Of course, nobody was left onboard playing anything, so I guess it might have been things bumping around or water causing stuff to behave strangely. The last song I remember hearing before she sank was by Jim Croce called ‘New York is Not My Home,’ and I think of the Carson every time I hear it.
Survivors being rescued by the icebreaker Sir Humphrey Gilbert. Retrieved liferafts were stacked on the deck of the Gilbert.
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Rescued passengers and crew depart the Sir Humphrey Gilbert in St. Anthony.
“The mayday got out perfectly, and search and rescue located us and helicopters started picking up the women and children first, bringing them to Mary’s Harbour. The Coast Guard icebreaker Sir Humphrey Gilbert eventually picked up the rest of us the next day. We got back to St. Anthony, caught a flight back to St. John’s and that was it. I never laid my lifejacket down until I got back in town, and since it served me so well I kept it all these years.” The experience did not turn Derm off from the ocean, though. “I sailed over the top of the Carson two weeks later on another ferry vessel called the Marine Cruiser. My uncle was mate on the Cruiser, and he sent someone to bring me to the
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wheelhouse to let me know when we were right over the top of the Carson. People say my nerve was pretty good, and maybe it was, but you had to make a living somehow and I enjoyed at sea. What can you do? You are not going to get paid sitting at home and looking out the window. It didn’t really bother me at all, I was young and it was just what you did. It was a sad loss of such a good ship, but it went so smooth: everybody did what they were supposed to, nobody was hurt bad and no loss of life. Really, that was the important thing.” Derm never met many folks from the Carson in the intervening years, but he did have one special moment. “When we were loading the life boats on the davits one young woman had a tiny infant in a big blanket. It was a very long distance to pass, and I was afraid to just grab the blanket in case
the baby would drop to the water. So I swung the life boat back and forth until I was close enough and took the baby in my arms, and I hopped and landed back in the boat with the baby cuddled in my arms so I knew I had the child safe and sound. I never thought anything else about it, but about two years later I was at Bridgett’s Pub on Cookstown Road in St. John’s and drinks kept coming over to me. It was the mother of the child, who recognized me and she wanted to say thank you, which was very kind of her. I don’t remember her name, but I often wondered what became of the child and was glad it all worked out.” For more information on the William Carson and some excellent archival photos of the vessel, former crew and the rescue effort, look up the Facebook Group “M. V. William Carson.”
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An Unforgettable Trip
On our travels in the summer of 2017 we went over to Labrador. This beauty was caught and etched in my mind forever. LORI PITRE Wasaga Beach, ON 64
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