Day 35-37 Bonavista   Leave a comment

Driving along the coastline is beautiful, if it’s not foggy. We’ve found in Newfoundland that the fog can come in within minutes and clear up within minutes. AND the Newfies seem to know when the fog is going to come. If the wind comes from the East, it will bring in the fog. But it can be foggy in one area and five minute’s drive down the road, it can be clear. The weather has not been the best since we’ve been in Newfoundland. The “locals” tell us they have been recording the weather since the 1800s and this is the coldest summer on record. Last year was the hottest summer on record. Figures….

There seems to be more ponds and lakes than Minnesota, but many of them are not deep and there are so many rocks in them that it’s difficult to navigate with a kayak.

Our arrival in Bonavista was perfect timing for “Bonavista Days,” which is the last weekend in July. At dusk on Friday night, the fire department sponsors a huge bonfire. It is the biggest bonfire we’ve ever seen!

They had a huge stack of wooden crates with an old boat on top.

It was so windy, it took quite a while to get the fire going. We LOVE Bonavista.

The Ryan Premises commemorates the fishing industry of 500 years. On the grounds is an orientation center, fish store, salt store, proprietor’s house. We received a great orientation at the salt store. Salt has been used to preserve fish and other foods for thousands of years. Methods for salting and drying cod were introduced into the Newfoundland fishery by Europeans in the early 1500s. These methods remained unchanged until the mid-20th century.

Unfortunately for Newfoundland, in 1992 a ban on catching cod was enforced as the waters were fished out. Today a boat of 3 men or more can catch 15 fish during the cod season. Needless to say, the fishermen and the people who worked in the processing plants had to be trained for other jobs. Today, Newfoundland depends on tourism to survive.

The proprietor’s house is the oldest and most ornate building on the premises. It is believed that James Ryan built it in 1861 when he was still a bachelor. His wife and 2 sons lived here until the family moved to St. John’s in 1909.

The Mockbeggar Plantation provides an intriguing glimpse of pre-confederation outport life. It is the oldest fishery plantation on the island of Newfoundland.

The oldest building in Newfoundland is the saltbox found on this property.

The Matthew Legacy features an authentic reconstruction of John Cabot’s 1497 vessel, but it was inside and difficult to photograph. John Cabot, seeking a western passage to Asia landed “somewhere” on the east coast of Canada on June 24, 1497. Local tradition records Cape Bonavista as the landfall.

The Cape Bonavista Lighthouse reveals the isolated lifestyle of the 19th century lighthouse keeper.

We also found more puffins on the rock across from the lighthouse.

The Dungeon Rock is a twin entrance sea cave with a collapsed roof. I’m not sure why they call it Dungeon Rock.

The view from the top of what is left of the caves is breathtaking.

The Port Union is the only union built town in North America. Founded by William Ford Coaker in 1916. Port Union had electricity in 1918 while parts of New York City remained in the dark. With its bustling harbor, branch railway, shipyard, factories, salt fish plant and retail store outlet, Port Union was an independent and self-reliant community. In its heyday, about 600 people lived and worked here. There was shipbuilding, seal processing, woodworking, salt fish exporting, printing, soft drink bottling, etc.

Below is a photo of the housing Coaker built for the fishermen which only cost them $8/month. They hope to renovate them for touring.

The merchants lived on the street below, on the waterfront and were charged $12/month.

The Factory was built in 1923 and home to the controversial newspaper “The Fishermen’s Advocate.” The building also included a wordworking shop and ice house.

Throughout the 19th century many attempts were made to design a machine that could replace traditional hand typesetting, a process that was both labor-intensive and slow. In 1886, Ottmar Mergenthaler, a German immigrant to NYC, finally found the solution. His linotype machine brought brass matrices (or molds) into contact with a molten but fast-cooling lead allow, and formed column widths of type.

The Fishermen’s Advocate was printed on the Duplex Press pictured below.

William Coaker formed the Fishermen’s Protective Union in 1908, founded a political party known as the Union Party, established the Fishermen’s Advocate newspaper, and was knighted for his achievements. He is one of Newfoundland’s most fascinating and controversial public figures.

We also toured “The Bungalow,” home of Sir William Ford Coaker. The house was built in 1917.

For its time, it was very modern when it was built.

Before leaving Port Union, we visited the Port Union “Railway” Museum.

It’s not really a “railway” museum, but it is in the old railway depot.

Today Historic Port Union offers evidence of a social and commercial experiment which tried to blend capitalism, cooperativism and unionism to provide a better life for all. Its successes and failures can teach lessons that are still worth learning.

The afternoon was saved to see the Puffins, the winds died down, the fog cleared out, the sun just about peeked through AND we saw blue skies. Elliston is home to more than 400- breeding pairs of puffins.

The Puffins are so amazing to watch. We didn’t see any baby puffin sticking their heads out of the nest, a hole in the side of the hill. They are born in May, the parents leave in Sept. in groups of about three and live on the ocean, the babies follow shortly after that, and then they return in April. They migrate in small groups during the winter because if they stayed in large groups, they would be easy prey.

Before we knew it, we were whale watching.

The Puffins Sanctuary of Elliston also has root cellars that we could tour. This community is known as the root cellar capital of the world. Elliston has over 134 documented root cellars, some dating back to the 1830s. More than 40 of these cellars have been restored to optimum storage condition. The restored root cellars illustrate the self-sufficiency and ingenuity necessary for survival in outport Newfoundland.

Before leaving Bonavista, our group was screeched. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to tell you how you get screeched, but here goes.

First you have to find a qualified Newfoundland to perform the screech in. Chris, our hospitable ex-campground owner did a great job. First you pass around pieces of cod, then you gulp, not smell or taste but gulp, screech and lastly but not least, you kiss the cod.

Chris made sure everyone got a chance to “kiss the cod,” but I think Dennis wanted to eat him!

YIKES, we’ve been screeched!


Posted July 26, 2015 by carolnbill in Travel

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