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Newfoundland: a real find.

The Canadian island-province of Newfoundland, 781 miles northeast of Boston, is a land of stunted-spruce forests, crystal lakes, puffins, rugged seascapes, miles of spongy peat bogs, hundreds of coastal villages (called outports), camping sites, fjords, northern lights and remarkable archaeological digs. Second only to its beauty is its impression of emptiness. Isolated Newfoundland is peaceful.

Sightseers have almost a better chance of spotting whales, icebergs or seals in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence than they have of seeing other people. They will probably see more gardens filled with potatoes, turnips, carrots and cabbage on the roadsides than they will other vehicles. Some garden owners live 25 miles from their vegetable plots. They have no reason to fear theft. Newfoundland is safe--night and day.

The hardy Newfoundlanders don't guarantee visitors a hot, sunny summer. They confess that much rain falls, fogs crowd in and winds can be chilly, but mean summer temperatures reach 60 [deg.] F. with warm spells rising to 80 [deg.].

What Newfoundladers do promise the CFAs, or Come from Aways, as they call tourists, is the already mentioned scenery, distinctive regional cooking, 60 provincial parks, two national parks, attractive campgrounds, rivers teeming with trout and salmon, whales, seals bird sanctuaries and woodlands where there are moose, caribou, 14-pound Arctic hares and black bears--but no deer, squirrels, snakes, chipmunks, skunks or orcupines. What Newfoundland doesn't offer adds to its allure: poison ivy or hay fever.

People dependent on the sea for their livelihoods in the 16th century settled--long predating the Pilgrims of Massachusetts--in small Newfoundland coves and bays, which offered shelter for boats and shore space for curing their catches. The population of Britain's oldest colony and Canada's newest province thus spread itself thin along the coast. Today this pattern of settlement remains--90 percent of the people living beside the sea.

Newfoundladers are a homogeneous group, 94 percent of English-speaking ancestry. About 95 percent of its inhabitants are native-born, descendants of Irish and west-country Englishmen whose inbreeding over the generations has created a distinct ethnic group with its own manner of speech. Some people say the lilting accent is Irish, but not quite; others claim it's the way Devonshire people sounded when the first colonists arrived during Shakespeare's time. They add h's to words that have none and drop them when they should be present. One man said he had to put "hair" in his tires as he pulled up to an air pump at a gas station. "Ow's you be?" means "How are you?" Like Brooklynites, their th's become d's. "Ders nar fish out der" translates to "There's no fish out there." Expressions unknown in other parts of Canada are part of the jargon. Newfoundlanders wishing good health say, "Long may your big jib draw!"

For years Newfoundlanders have been the butt of ethnic jokes throughout Canada. Jokes about "Newfies" (a derogatory term) are occasionally meanspirited, but often Newfoundlanders invent them themselves. Did you hear about the Newfie en route to Toronto who spotted a sign--"Clean Washrooms Ahead"--and scrubbed 35 of them before reaching his destination?

Some of the island's place-names reflect the unfortunate times Newfoundlanders have experienced: Breakheart Point, Misery Point, Damnable Bay, Unfortunate Cove, Bleak Island, Empty Basket, Malignant Cove, Rocks of Massacre and Dead Sailor's Rock. The early French-named Bay d'Espoir--meaning Bay of Hope--became Bay of Despair. Some names, however, bring to mind more upbeat feelings: Happy Adventure, Fortune, Heart's Delight.

Considering Newfoundland's depressed economy, one can understand why a pessimistic outlook might remain today among many of the 574,000 inhabitants. A new pride and hope flower among Newfoundlanders, however--petroleum is plentiful in its offshore continental shelf. Estimates place oil reserves at millions of barrels of exceptionally high-grade crude. Tourism, just beginning to establish itself, is another hope.

One thousand years ago Vikings discovered Newfoundland. Remains of a Norse settlement from A.D. 1001 are found in L'Anse aux Meaduws at Newfoundland's northwestern tip. The village's sod buildings are the earliest-known European structures on the continent; visitors explore the reconstructed, furnished sod dwellings.

The navigator John Cabot, who discovered Newfoundland for the British crown in 1497, reported fish so plentiful in the waters around Newfoundland that fishermen could catch them by simply lowering baskets over the sides of boats and scooping them out of the water. He had found the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, the world's largest fish breeding ground.

Fishing has been the main resource of the province since the 15th century. For hundreds of years the hunt was for cod, which Newfoundlanders caught, split, dried, salted and shipped around the world. Today visitors see split and salted cod spread to cure in the sun on weathered, wooden "flakes," raised drying platforms.

The island's menus offer many types of exquisite fish. Visitors eat varieties expensive in the States but reasonably priced on Newfoundland: salmon, shrimp, scallops, crab, lobster, cod, cod tongue (a Newfoundland delicacy) and char (similar to trout and salmon). For dessert ask for bakeapple parfait or pie.

The 750-square-mile Gros Morne national park extends along much of Newfoundland's western coastline. Wildlife abound: American bald eagles, osprey, 40 black bears, 2,000 sheep, caribou, weasels, silver and red foxes and moose (the best time to see them is early morning or evening). It takes about seven hours to climb the 2,644-foot Gros Morne (Big Hill), the second highest point on Newfoundland. Spectacular views of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and rugged fjords make the James Callaghan Trail a worthwhile trek to the 600-foot-deep Western Brook Pond.

Labrador is the mainland portion of Newfoundland. Virtually uninhabited and three times Newfoundland's size, it is the wildest, most remote and least developed of Canada's Atlantic provinces. Its draws are solitude, caribou, hunting, salmon fishing, Innuit villages and the largest underwater project in the world, at the Basque settlement at Red Bay. Divers there are excavating the underwater Basque whaling galleon San Juan. In 1565 it sank in 40 feet of water during a storm, but the 32 [deg.] F. water has preserved the vessel.

"This is the only mid-16th century ship available anywhere," says Robert Grenier, the chief of the underwater archaeology unit at Red Bay. Members of his team lead tours, which include boating to Saddle Island, where archaeologists have unearthed 40 graves containing the skeletons of 108 healthy Basque men.

Residents and visitors agree--Newfoundland lives up to its claims of superb scenic vistas, excellent fishing and hunting, quietude and extraordinary archaeological sites.
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Author:Crowley, Carolyn
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Oct 1, 1985
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