Friday, August 12

Battle Harbour

After Red Bay it was just a few miles down the road where I spent a rare two nights not sleeping in the van as I visited the Battle Harbour National Historic Site and overnighted in one of their historic buildings. Battle Harbour is a small island, village and harbour that share the same name, with the best guess that no major battles were ever fought there - but that the name came from a corruption of a French word describing the shape of the small harbour.

After a 45 minute boat ride we (myself and a mother/daughter from St. John's) arrived. Battle Harbour was established by English merchants in the mid 1700s, and the site tells the story of life in this small coastal fishing village. Only one building in the entire site is a reproduction, the rest are all originals - either restored, or awaiting restoration as part of the process that began in 1992 when the the last commercial owner (think of this place as the Canadian version of the "company town") Earle Freighting Service Limited gave the "place" to the Battle Harbour Historic Trust for restoration. It has since been designated a National Historic Site and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The story of Battle Harbour's decline from a thriving fishing town (and unofficial capital of Labrador) was many faceted - but the declining fishery and the Canadian governments "relocation program" (they relocated entire communities to reduce the cost of providing services) were key factors. One sidelight to the relocation story, some of the displaced Battle Harbour fishermen were later hired (and trained) as restoration carpenters who restored (and continue to do so) the historic buildings. It's also interesting that almost all of the current employees at the site once lived there - they actually lived the history that visitors are learning about.

The grey looking square in this photo is part of the "flake" - a platform used to dry the salt cod
The current "flake" is about a quarter of the original, in the "old days" it continued to the buildings in the distance
The building in the center is the Bunkhouse/Cookhouse where I stayed for my two nights. After just half a day I was know as the "bunkhouse guy" to the other guests.
I was the only one in the bunkhouse and really enjoyed the couch in front of the wood burning stove.
The "cookhouse" was in the far end of the bunkhouse, and the cook had his own bunk private bunk - important guy!

 

The large building was the company store. The upstairs is now the Loft, a gathering place for guests after dinner. Two other things of note in this photo - the teepee looking thing is actually a stack of firewood, they stack it that way so they can find it during the winter (a method still used today). Also, up on the hill is a Marconi Wireless tower (remember that).
On the bench is a salt cod (only 6 years old)
These wheelbarrows were used to haul the salt
Our guide was a retired schoolteacher (who grew up in Battle Harbour), the gentleman in the far left of this photo was her great-grandfather.
This is Robert Peary (most think he was the first person to reach the North Pole). His connection to Battle Harbour? After his accomplishment, Battle Horbour was where he held his first press conference with reporters from all over the world in attendance. Why Battle Harbour? Remember that Marconi Wireless tower - well that Wireless Station let those reporters file their stories.
 
Some photos from around the island.

 

2 comments:

  1. Another Amazing adventure that most people miss because they don't "TAKE THE LONG WAY". I'm enjoying this trip. Wish I was with you.

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