QLF’s roots extend up and down the coast of the Quebec North Shore and Labrador. When QLF founder Bob Bryan landed his bright yellow float plane in the freezing waters of the northern Atlantic in 1959, few would have thought that his influence would still hold strong fifty years later.
Bryan spent his summers flying up and down the shores of Labrador and Quebec, interacting with children of the many small fishing villages that we visited. He brought dozens of teenage interns to these communities to teach the local children leadership, games and even how to swim. Many of the local children were deprived of this everyday knowledge that many of us take for granted. Resources were so limited in the region that the summer interns had to get very creative when interacting with the kids. 2012 Tour member and the first female intern to travel to the North Shore, Clare McMorris, explained that she taught the kids a game called spud… No you didn’t always have to use a potato in this game of catch, but when there were no balls, they had to make do.
The community service of QLF was well received up and down the coast. Towns would stir with excitement when Bryan’s plane appeared on the horizon. However, it was the bonds that were formed between local families and QLF interns that are even more important to note. Families would welcome the interns into their homes, becoming their host families for the entire summer. In many cases, the interns became part of the family. Doug Eisenhart (also on the tour), who interned on the Lower North Shore nearly fifty years ago, returned to his host village following the end of the tour. Not only did his host family excitedly welcome him back into their home, but a handful of townspeople who had moved away from the village returned just to see him. That’s a pretty cool relationship.
As I have said before, it really is the people that make the area. They are friendly, hard working and full of stories. They truly live off of the land and happily make due in one of the most beautiful places in the world. They care about the land and wildlife around them and thus, the environmental tie with QLF holds strong. QLF’s regional conservancy mission of aquatic wildlife is an important program to the area. Fisherman work with QLF to monitor whale, fish, bird and turtle populations. The data they provide helps form plans of how to protect these beautiful and often endangered species. It was so cool stepping onto the whale watching boat and seeing QLF produced information charts or sitting down at just about any restaurant and reading about a different local animal on a QLF funded informative placemat. QLF is truly dedicated to their presence in the area and it shows.
I hope to someday return to the Labrador and Newfoundland to see if anything has changed. And though I did not have the time to form the same type of personal relationships as those who came before me, I can be sure that I will still be greeted with the same hospitality that I was so pleased to find on my first trip.
Doug with some local children and their aquarium in Woody Point. (Photo: Kathy Omestead)
Señor… our crafty boat driver in St. Paul’s River. Señor has lived in St. Paul’s his entire life. (Photo: Beth Alling)
It’s been a bit of a shock, readjusting to the fast paced, loud and hot lifestyle of New England. I’m back at work out of QLF’s Ipswich office. Connor and I are doing a lot of work, putting together a slide show of from the thousands of photos that were taken on the trip. It’s great going through each photo and thinking about the stories that are behind each one.
Here is a shot taken by Larry Morris of me and some of the group standing atop the Arches.
Wow, what an incredible trip. I am back on US soil and missing it already. In the few moments that I have been home I have barely had any time to unpack, let alone sit back and think about everything that I have experienced in the past nine days. In the coming days and weeks, I will continue to debrief on my experiences and fill in the many gaps I have missed throughout the trip. There are just so many stories to tell. However, I’d like to take a minute to briefly reflect on the trip as a whole and thank all of those who made it possible.
This journey exposed me to the beautiful country of Canada for the first time in my life in a manner that fellow trip member Doug viewed as not only incredible, but also very lucky. And lucky I was. Traveling thousands of kilometers with some of the best people I have ever met, I was so fortunate to see what I saw and experience a land and a culture that was so beautiful and astonishingly diverse, yet so different from the place that I call home. Being in such a rural and almost out of touch place, enlightened me on the beauty and simplicity of, well, nothingness.
Chasing whales, searching for eagles and kayaking through million year old fjords were just some of adventures that Newfoundland and Labrador have to offer. And with only nine days to explore, I return home with a strong hunch that I will once again find myself hiking the barren hills of Gros Morne National Park.
Though this trip cannot fade away without recognizing all of those who made such an experience possible, both at QLF and Brooks. I could not have asked for better traveling companions. To the nine people who ventured into the wilderness with me, I thank you for your excitement, generosity and willingness to enjoy all that we experienced. I hope to cross paths with all of you soon when our planes touch down in Deer Lake. To Beth Alling, Larry Morris and Connor Hedges, thank you for welcoming me into the QLF community and providing me with the extraordinary opportunity to partake in such a once in a lifetime trip. I would also like to thank all those at Brooks who made this internship possible especially Dr. C and Mr. Palm who both knew that this opportunity would be a perfect fit, long before I did. And to everybody else who followed my travels and offered me kind words, thank you, I hope that you will all one day have the chance to experience the places that I travelled.
So, as I continue with my internship in Ipswich, I will continue to write about my experiences from Canada, especially all that I learned about the people and the keystone role that QLF has played in so many parts of their lives.
I will leave you with a few additional photographs from all over Newfoundland. Happy Summer.
The Icebergs off of Battle Harbor were easily one of the most incredible sights I’ve ever seen.
Dilapidated and abandoned homes such as this one, dot the shores of many withering fishing communities, struggling to survive after the harsh decline of the fishery.
A view from the replicated Viking Village.
Flat tires didn’t stop the group from enjoying every minute. Moral of the story… don’t buy a Dodge.
We were so close to the whales in Conche, that the lens wasn’t wide enough to capture the whole animal.
Battle Harbor is truly one of the most unique places that I have ever been. It’s like stepping into a time machine.
It’s been two long days without internet, what a tragedy. We have made our way up and down the coast of Labrador and accumulated plenty of stories and photos. I will start to catch up on everything as soon as possible. To start, here is my new friend Ellie. More pictures will follow when I have access to a stronger internet connection.
We have spent the last three days in Labrador, opposed to Newfoundland. It is equally beautiful here, but the amazing thing is that the geography is so drastically different then Newfoundland. I am consistently awed by the vast, tundra like landscape that stretches as far as the eye can see. There are very few trees here.
We spent Wednesday traveling by ferry from Newfoundland to Labrador. Upon arrival, we took care of our flat tire at a NAPA store with the best view of any auto garage that I had ever seen. Following our pit stop, we continued north. We stopped at a lighthouse overlooking the Atlantic. Once again, we were lucky to have clear skies and the view from the top of the 190 ft tower was incredible.
We spent the night at The Ocean View Inn with QLF friend and self proclaimed “Queen of Labrador,” Agnus. She showed us a great time and got everyone locked in a completive round of darts. I was even convinced to try a capelin. Capelin are small anchovy like fish, head and all… it wasn’t bad.
The next morning, we hit the road and headed north. Following a stop in Red Bay, an old whaling town, we encountered an 80km dirt road. It took about an hour and a half to drive. Our destination was Mary’s Harbor where we would board a small boat and head for Battle Harbour. On the boat ride out, we encountered two fairly large icebergs up close and personal. Being just feet away from the iceberg was incredible. Their colors are magnificent and their shapes intriguing. I will post pictures soon. After two hours of sightseeing, we arrived at Battle Harbor.
Battle Harbor is an island of the coast of Labrador. Nestled into the hills on a piece of rock about the size of the Brooks campus, the village has been restored to replicate the fishing harbor that it once was. A series of old fashioned buildings dot the hillside. There are no roads, no electricity and no internet. It is truly a historic site. I was nervous about our visit seeing that we were visiting this deserted island on Friday the 13th. However it turned out to be one of the coolest places that I have ever been.
After a home cooked meal in the island’s dining hall, we were invited to a chapel service in the 130 year old church. A summer resident and McGill University music student performed a series of poems, Oboe music and vocal presentations for us. It was wonderful.
Following our church service, the group made its way back to our little cottage where we sat around the wood stove (it was near 40 degrees outside) and talked. We were also invited to a Newfoundland party of sorts down the hill where five men were visiting with guitars and all. We had a great time singing along and learning some Newfoundland songs. The five men were also so kind to offer us some of their Seal meat stew. Seal meat surprisingly tastes like beef. It is very good.
Here is a rendition of one of our favorite songs from of the night: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIWnJWk40U8
After a fun night we headed back to the mainland of Labrador and embarked on an eight hour travel day, headed south. We passed through two time zones before we arrived in St. Paul’s River on the Lower North Shore of Quebec. Here we are today where the group will split up for both fly fishing and island exploration just off the coast.
I am sitting on the porch of a small Bed and Breakfast, blogging with Ellie. I can’t explain how peaceful it is here. the only sounds are the breeze, the birds and the water lapping the shore. They say here in St. Paul’s, that it is so quiet, if you listen closely, you can here tomorrow coming.
Check in later for pictures of the lighthouse, Battle Harbor, the Icebergs and much more!
I know I have been saying this a lot, but today’s experience was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Have you ever been so close to a whale that you could touch it? I have.
Today, the group toughed rough seas on a somewhat unorthodox boat tour. We left Conche on a small fishing boat, maybe 35ft in length. The trip was supposed to be cancelled due to 40+ mph winds, however the captain agreed to set sail. The ride out of the bay felt more like a roller coaster ride then anything else.
After two hours of sailing, we encounter a humpback whale. The whale seemed disinterested in the boat an continued on his way, allowing us to follow along as he surfaced for air, occasionally giving a flash of his tail fin. Within minutes, at least ten other whales could be spotted around the boat. It was incredible. We killed the engine and allowed the whales to swim under and around the vessel. Two whales got so close that you would have been able to reach out and touch them (video to follow). Their size is breath taking. It was the most exciting thing I have ever seen. After about 20 minutes of play, the whale headed in the other direction and gave us a wave of his fin back and forth 3 times.
On a more mundane not (kidding). We also saw at least 20 bald eagles…
More to come. Stay tuned.