Saturday, September 05, 2009


Location: Labrador, Canada

UPDATE 09/06/2009: Oops. Someone is suffering from Artifact Overload! The images of the village (John and The Wench, etc.) were actually a VIKING village in Newfoundland, not a BASQUE village in Labrador. Is my face red!)

Labrador is not a Canadian province by itself, but rather is a part of the province of "Newfoundland and Labrador." It has a little over 100,000 square miles in area, just over 26,000 people, 4900 miles of coastline, and 62 miles of paved roads -- every one of which we drove yesterday.

Here we all are at the border between Quebec and Labrador (I'm in the back row, center):

That single road leads you to Red Bay, a 1540-1610 Basque whaling village, and today a restored Basque sod house and interpretive center. The Basque are a people that live in the mountains between Spain and France, but are culturally and linguistically separate from both. Historically they were sailors and fishers, and came to the far reaches of the Atlantic in search of whales.

Here in Labrador, they lived in sod houses where they wove sails for the whaling ships, knitted hats and mittens with a one needle process called nalebinding, ate salted fish and flatbreads, and sailed the frigid waters off the shores of Labrador in search of those whales -- their oil to be sent to Europe to provide fuel for lamps.

This photo shows the sod house, currently under re-construction. The house is composed of bricks of peet covered with sod -- but only the front has been sodded.

In an interpretive village nearby, you can see a full-size Basque whaling boat and watch period-dressed artisans spin wool, weave rugs, or cook fish and flatbread (and samples are available!)


Or, if you are John, you can find your own wench -- a woman who can smoke a fish is a real find! They will barter their crafts for things you happen to have with you, so I decided to get some beads for John. Everyone says I made a really good trade!


We only saw a small part of Labrador, but it was lovely -- composed of rugged coastline interspersed with small fishing villages. Here are some additional images:

1 comment:

Richard said...

Thanks for sharing -- wonderful country and great photos. But leave before winter.