The Labour Day long weekend gave the chance to get back to Southern Harbour for a few days. My family re-settled there in 1966 from Red Island, Placentia Bay (but we never accepted the government buyout so that means we still have claim to our part of that place). I lived there from 1966 until 1992 (that’s cheating a bit since it includes the period from 1978 to 1983 when I was really in full-time attendance at Memorial U in St. John’s). I taught in the k-12 school system there (now sadly closed, due to dwindling enrollment) from 1983 to 1992 but moved away in ’92 when I was seconded to the DOE, a position from which I recently retired.
No matter, it is still what I think of as home.
Sunday morning was calm and warm; an ideal time for a quiet walk. The first stop would be the headland near the point of the harbour. To get there you have to walk to the dugout at the end of the old abandoned ball field. Just behind it is a bog. This time of the year it’s particularly lush and beautiful.
Bogs like this one are common in Newfoundland. The spongy peat beneath the vegetation holds water for a long time and it soaks through shoes so you have to be careful where you put your feet. In August bakeeapples are abundant. Blueberries are almost ripe and, soon, so, too will be the partridgeberries.
Luckily there’s a path across the bog that leads up the hill.
The wind here keeps the trees small. They are hardy, though and just bend with the gale…like the people.
A short boardwalk takes you over the next bog but at the end of it you’re on your own–too steep for a proper path. Just watch where you put your feet…always good advice.
Rocky and weathered at the top. No trees here…
Not a bad view, especially this morning.
Looking East, some of the community is visible, although most of it is built down close to the harbour and is obstructed by the hills. The community centre is closest, just left of centre. To the right of it is the foundation–what’s left of it–of the former Our Saviour King Academy where I started my teaching career in 1983. It was closed in 1997 when school services for five local communities was consolidated into nearby Arnold’s Cove.
Maybe this is a pilgrimage…
I know…things change and we must move on. That does not stop me from casting a sad glance at the spot every time I pass the old school’s location. Every school day for nine years that was my place, my calling. Even more poignant today…
Turning to the South-East you can see the headland at the point of the harbour. The inlet that just starts at the far left leads to LaManche (not to be confused with the community by the same name located south of St. John’s). LaManche has a shaft mine that produced lead as well as copper, silver and zinc, even some gold, from around 1860-1950. There’s still lots of ore there but lead is no longer a commodity so the community and mine sit abandoned.
The fishermen knew about the lead deposit for centuries and went there through the channel (“La Manche” means “the channel”) to get the lead ore, Galena, which they would smelt themselves to make weights for their gear. My father-in-law told me that his great-grandfather sold the rights to it for a sack of flour and a pair of hard leather boots…
…which he had to walk to Placentia (50 km distant) to retrieve himself.
To the right you can see Placentia Bay and resettled Long Island (“Isle Longue”). My ancestral home, Red Island (“Isle Rouge”), also resettled, is hidden behind the headland. The French inhabited those islands–indeed, the whole bay–from the early 1500’s until 1713. Before that, who knows? There are known archaeological remnants…and many more to be found.
Looking Northwest you can see, besides my shadow, the head of Placentia Bay. Almost dead centre, Bordeaux Island divides Arnold’s Cove from Come By Chance. The French called this place “Baie de Carinole.” If you click the image and look closely at the right you will see Arnold’s Cove and, way back, some of the stacks from the Refinery. The Whiffen Head trans-shipment facility for Grand Banks Crude is just to the right of Bordeaux.
The refinery has quite a past. For a time it was the biggest bankruptcy in Canadian History. That was then. Presently it blends awful sour crude (often Russian Residual Crap) with some light sweet crude and makes excellent quality gas, much of which is sold in California because it meets their stringent standards. It changed.
The light, sweet crude from the Grand Banks is transported and temporarily stored at the Whiffen head facility, from which it is sold on the world market.
Lots of activity and decent jobs, everywhere you look.
Up here, though, it’s just the view, and the sweet smell of Newfoundland Summer; a magical blend of conifers, herbs and berries from the bog and, always, the scent of the salt water.
The walk is not finished. Time to go down by the shore…