Basque Whalers, Icebergs, Labrador, Pinware River, Port Amour Lighthouse, Red Bay, Trans-Labrador Highway
When we started out on this summer’s adventure we always included Labrador because, well seriously how could we not drop in when this close? What we did not actually register until being up here in Newfoundland, is that they come as a team. This province is Newfoundland Labrador, and we now even have the flag sticker on the back of Whack-A-Mole Wheels to prove it 🙂
Driving to St. Barbe we bought our ferry ticket ($48.75 Canadian) for the 1 hour 45 minute ride to Blanc-Sablon which is actually in the province of Quebec.
However, literally a few miles up the road you’re in Labrador and shortly L’Anse au Clair. Not putting to fine a point on it, the roads are CRAP! We thought we’d seen the worst roads ever in Newfoundland but it turns out they’re running in second place!
Hey, it’s an adventure 🙂
In L’Anse au Clair we checked into the Northern Light Inn & RV. The “RV” part is actually just a gravel parking lot, with water, electric & sewer across the street from the Inn and restaurant behind another building, but it works and once again we pretty much had the place to ourselves.
Still being mid-afternoon we headed up 510 to see what we could find. The first thing that caught our eye was, L’Anse Amour. Well yeah, “Love Cove” is a place to stop! Turns out sometime back in the day the name was corrupted from the earlier name L’Anse aux Morts “Cove of the Dead” which probably is in reference to the many lives lost due to ship wrecks. Interestingly however, the oldest known ceremonial burial in North America is found here. Dating back 7,500 years is the stone burial chamber of a Maritime Archaic Indian adolescent. Carefully wrapped and placed face down, with a large flat stone on his lower back fires were lit around his body and offerings; a walrus tusk, harpoon head, painted stones and a bone whistle place alongside him. Clearly he, or his death, was significant but no one knows why.
Further out this potholed, narrow dirt road we came to the remains of one of the many shipwrecks in the Strait of Belle Isle. The sort of fun part about this one is that just pieces are what are left after the British blew it up!
On August 8, 1922 the HMS Raleigh was either: running too fast and hit the rocks avoiding an iceberg OR the ship’s officers were drinking in celebration of their impending salmon fishing trip with the captain asleep elsewhere, when they ran aground not 200 yards from shore ripping a great gash in the belly of the ship. Eleven lives were lost, but the remaining 680 officers and crew spent the night in every nook and cranny of the nearby Point Amour Lighthouse and surrounding buildings. For several years after, the ship sat there looking fine (except for the 360 foot long tear in the bottom) and newspapers would run critical and humorous stories complete with pictures, about the negligence of the British officers. Finally the Admiralty had had enough and sent the Navy to destroy it!
At the end of the road is Port Amour Lighthouse. The second tallest in all of Canada it was completed in 1857 and is 109 feet tall. We arrived to discover not one, but two tour buses! Being late in the day we chatted with the nice lighthouse tour guides about when they opened and said we’d be back in the AM.
The next morning after our visit with the light we headed on northeast along the horrible potholed 510. The Pinware River on its way to the Atlantic is a popular fishing challenge and we spent some time just enjoying its incredible beauty from the bridge high above.
Red Bay was our destination and we arrived just in time for an early lunch at Whalers Restaurant where the fish ‘n chips are pretty darn good.
Fortified with food, I told Ed what I really wanted to do was head out the TLH (Trans-Labrador Highway). Just under 775 miles long this is THE road in Labrador and vast amounts of it, particularly the eastern half where we were, are not paved and wild…. seriously wild, they’ll lend you a satellite phone if you’re traversing from one end to the other 🙂 We set out and WOW it’s pretty country!
Back in Red Bay we went to the Right Whale Exhibit Museum which is excellent and like so many places we’ve been, we had it to ourselves. Red Bay was a major and important 16th Century whaling station for Basque fisherman starting in 1530. For seventy years they came here in the spring hunted whales, processed the oil and returned back home for the winter! Can you even imagine?…
Labrador is basically uninhabited; really, we’re talking about 113,641 square miles of land with a population of 27,197 people! It’s wild and beautiful and empty, and someday we’d like to see it all, but unless we add a boat, plane, ATV, snowmobile and snowshoes to our collection and Inuit or Innu knowledge of the land it’s not likely to happen 🙂 For now however we suggest you put it on your MVL (Must Visit List).