Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Clock Runs Out on Little Bay Islands

A sad tale of outport Newfoundland.

The provincial government has decreed that the isolated community of Little Bay Islands is over, finished. As of the 31st of December, all life support - ferry service, electricity and water - will be no more.

The province found it much cheaper to buy out the homes of the remaining residents and relocate them to more convenient, less costly towns. From The Guardian:

The tiny island community in Canada’s easternmost province, Newfoundland and Labrador, is home to 54 year-round residents, and more in the summertime. 
Most families have been here for generations, subsisting on the once-booming fishing industry. 
But on 31 December, electricity and water will be switched off and ferry service discontinued. Little Bay Islands is the latest isolated village to agree to resettle on the mainland as part of the province’s community relocation policy, which offers government compensation to people who leave remote areas.
Are we losing our connections to our past? It sometimes does feel that way.


zoombats said...

My wife and I visited Little Bay Islands in 1982. We hitch hiked up to St Anthony and took the C.N. ferry across the top Of Newfoundland and I will never forget our arrival in the village where there wasn't time to disembark but everyone in the town came down to the waterfront to meet the boat and partake in the activities. We were there long enough to extricate a few families who had been camping on tiny islands in the bay and salted cod over the summer. It was quite a sight as they hauled the family boats, gear and barrels of salt fish on deck and continued on to Lewisport. I often thought how lucky we were to have happened upon the C.N. ferry and took our meals onboard and watched C.B.C. television enroute. What a blissful time in Canada in the eighties to be in that part of the world. I thought years later that I had truly witnessed the real meaning of "Distinct" society long before Quebec coined the phrase. Sad to hear this news. A little part of me has died today.

The Mound of Sound said...

You had an amazing experience, Z. There are many similar wonders along BC's remote coastal inlets. I visited Minstrel Island in Knight Inlet. It was named after a band on black minstrels who called it home. They were escaped slaves from the US. The island had the remains of a cannery, long abandoned. You could go to an prominent cliff edge where human bones lay scattered on the rocks. It's said a cholera epidemic killed off most of the inhabitants at one time and the bodies were carried up to that rock to
keep them away from whoever survived. I guess eventually nature usually wins.

Tal Hartsfeld said...

Maybe it's another example of this "mandated collectivism" mindset that seems more and more to comprise modern western society
...in short, remote areas (particularly quaint ones) do tend to exude and espouse a somewhat self-reliant, unaffected, and independent lifestyle

the salamander said...

.. I probably mentioned my experience while researching Ann Harvey, her father, younger brother and their Newfie dog Hairyman. Ann was probably Canada's greatest marine rescuer and hero, along with her estimable father. He situated them on a small island near Isle Aux Morts. Isle of the Dead. The patron province of shipwrecks of course. My research was impeded by the fact that St John had burned several times.. most Catholic birth records lost forever. Harvey was of course a name that had evolved. George and his brother were Channel Island fishermen.. and knew to locate their home and families on the Grand Banks, offshore from roving bands of sailors left behind when wars ended in the early 1800's and salt cod was not needed to feed vast armies and navies. But wait, it gets worse for a researcher. Harvey came from Harvie which evolved from ?? A French or Norman name in Gaelic ? Then Newfoundland changed the names of the small fishing villages !! Various religions cherished the potential to save the souls of such heathen outcasts.. missionaries and priest and ministers travelled village to village by dory, baptizing, making birth records, christening and recording deaths or marriages. One man on a nearby island buried the dead that washed ashore, on the beach after or during storms. George Harvey buried the ones that arrived on currents in the opposite direction that came their way. Names were anglisized or mis-spelled - hand written - carried in wet dories, astonishing fogs..

Such is Newfoundland and Labrador.. an astonishing mix of heritages.. fishing outposts, legend, mystery.. Harvey's abound by the way !! But Ann's grave's wherabouts has been lost in the mist.. the gravestone lost. She and her family rescued most of the shipwrecked Irish survivors offshore on a tiny bit of rock island off Bad Neighbor, an infamous rock or 'sunker'. 10 years later she recued the entire crew of a Scottish cargo ship.. yes Bad Neighbor had struck again, and probably still does. Captain Cook had mapped this stretch in great detail.. yet who but a Queen or King's navy had such maps or access to his diaries or ships logs back then (I have seen them !!)

The Mound of Sound said...

Self-reliant and independent, yes, but also fragile. As an American, Tal, you probably haven't heard how our federal government, that has jurisdiction over fisheries and oceans, allowed the east coast cod stocks to be pillaged by the industrial fleet, domestic and foreign, to the point of collapse. After the horse had fled the barn the feds had no choice but to close the cod fishery and, with that, the livelihood of most of these outports.

Now they're doing something remarkably similar on the west coast where they permit fish farms that breed pests (sea lice) that then spread to the wild salmon stocks. Most of our population, like your own, are drylanders who tend to know little and care even less about coastal concerns.

Owen Gray said...

We call this progress?

The Mound of Sound said...

We may call it progress, Owen, but it's really expedience and nothing more.

e.a.f. said...

keeping the out ports open is expensive and the government wants to cut costs. had seen a documentary on the subject and at one time each of the out ports would vote, the majority rules. then either the town closed or stayed. its costly to keep a town of under a 100 people open. It may be he end of a past we once knew, but there isn't anything to prevent people from still living there. They just aren't going to have the mod cons they once did.

I'm sure these small places would make wonderful vacation resorts and could be opened in the summer. it is a shame to see these places disappear, but times change, towns close and open. We've seen it through out history.

Trailblazer said...

And this news came from the UK publication the Guardian?
No National Post , no Globe and Mail?
Quick get those media subsidies in asap so we Canadians cans get the news first.


The Mound of Sound said...

Well, TB, CBC did run the Little Bay story a couple of months back.

The Mound of Sound said...

e.a.f. - you're right but it is a loss of a link to our collective past. Coastal conditions aren't kind to man made structures whether it's an old cannery site, an outport or an abandoned Haidi or Nootka village. In those situations nature soon reclaims its own.

Danneau said...

Anyone been to Tofino lately? Or most of the Gulf Islands? Or Victoria's Western Communities? These are all places that are cut off from what once made them charming and quaint, with most of the "interesting" folks either long fled farther afield or eating grass by the roots. The soul of such communities has been cut off and shunted to the same dustbin of the past as the Outports of Newfoundland. But, then, most of the planet suffers the same fate. Too bad (for us, to for him) that Kurt Vonnegut is no longer with us.

The Mound of Sound said...

True enough, Danneau. I have friends, a couple from Tofino, who have had it. She was born and raised in Uclulet and lived her entire life on that side of the island. They built a lovely home for their retirement on an elevation looking over the town and out to sea.

Now they're selling out and planning to move to the east side of the island. Tofino has simply become too touristy and congested for them. It's no longer the place where they had wanted to live out the rest of their lives.

The Mound of Sound said...

Thanks for bringing up Vonnegut, Danneau. A man of uncommon wisdom and foresight. You led me to publish excerpts from his 1998 letter to humanity. Many thanks.

e.a.f. said...

Mound of sound, I think its really sad that these out ports are closing, because it is our history. I was simply outlining what many believe, in terms of finance. the villages look amazing. Its the lack of health care in the end which I believe contributes to the closing of these small villages. what the government could do is close them for the winter and open them for the summer for the tourist trade. In the Netherlands, there is a resort area named "the Hook of Holland". People have vacation/weekend places there. The whole "village" closes it the winter and is re opened in March.

these villages in NFLD. could do well for vacations, open for 4 or 5 months each summer. Europeans might just flock to them along with eastern seaboard americans.

the NFLD government most likely sees them as a financial burden. they ought to view them as a tourist opportunity, more like provincial parks.