In a province founded on the backs of fishermen there is no shortage of shocking tales about ships braving the high seas. Over the years we've honoured our seafaring history through in-depth interviews with survivors and historical accounts of sunken ships, brave sea captains and Navy heroes. Upon our silver anniversary, reminisce with us as we take a look back at some of the best sea stories from 25 years of Downhome magazine.
Mystery on the Water
In this shocking story, originally printed in the January 2000 issue of the magazine (then called Downhomer), two fishermen from Port Saunders, Newfoundland describe the day their boat was "attacked" by a whale. It's probably the tallest true tale we've ever heard.
Newfoundland Attacked by Submarines
At Downhome, we delight in bringing you stories "straight from the horse's mouth," so to speak. More than a decade ago, founding editor Ron Young chatted to a Bell Island man with childhood memories of submarines sinking ships near his home. This personal account was so palpable, in his wisdom Ron printed the interview uninterrupted, in its entirety.
The August Gale of '35
In this 2002 story, a man recounts the details of being aboard a fishing boat in Placentia Bay during the legendary August Gale.
Putting the Past to Rest
Today, most people remember the tragic Truxtun and Pollux shipwrecks off St. Lawrence for the inspirational tale of Lanier Phillips, an African-American man who was moved by the kindness shown to him for the first time by white people, the people of Newfoundland. But we found another man who survived that ordeal. His story might not be as well known, but we feel it is just as powerful. Edward Lewis' story appeared in the November 2006 issue of Downhome.
The Legend of the SS Ethie
In 1919 the Steamship Ethie ran aground near Cow Head, Newfoundland during a winter storm. While the ship's passengers had a scary journey off the sinking ship on a bosun's chair, an infant onboard endured a more perilous rescue. The youngster was placed in a mailbag and sent to shore dangling dangerously from a rope. Downhome found that "mailbag baby" 87 years later, and shared her story.
Sacrifice at Sea
When the Germans attacked a convoy of 37 vessels during World War Two, a single escort ship was left with the deadly task of facing the formidable enemy. Few survived the incredible ordeal, including Newfoundlander Art Taylor. He spoke to Downhome in 2008.
War at Home
The Second World War really hit home for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians when a German submarine torpedoed the SS Caribou, a passenger ferry carrying innocent civilians. An off-duty Navy man on his way home to Cottrell's Cove, Newfoundland was onboard that tragic day. He contacted Downhome in 2011 and shared his amazing story of survival.
A member of the Royal Navy during WWI, Oliver Batt's story is a special one. Not only is it harrowing, but the full details of what he went through when his ship was torpedoed were not found until after his death - in a haunting letter the Herring Neck native had written to his mother.
The Long Trip Home
A member of the Merchant Navy during the Second World War, St. John's native Thomas Goodyear shared his story of a brutal attack, an unlikely rescue and ultimately, forgiveness for the unthinkable, in the December 2009 issue of Downhome.
Downhome remains committed to honouring our province's brave seafarers. Do you have an incredible story of survival? We'd love to hear about it. Click here to send us a letter.
A leisurely drive through the small communities that dot the shoreline of Iceberg Alley in spring and early summer practically guarantees an iceberg sighting or two. And if you get really lucky, you won't need to bother hopping aboard a tour boat or peering through binoculars for a better view. Below is a selection of photos of some of the biggest bergs we've ever received.
A tour boat gets an up-close look at a massive berg that floated into Long Point, Twillingate, NL in July 2007. Submitted by Lisa Hull of Orangeville, Ontario
Spotted off St. Anthony, NL. Submitted by Joan Oliver of Newfoundland
According to the submitter, this is "the biggest iceberg ever in our bay!" Submitted by Norma Sacrey of Ming's Bight, NL
Alex & Joanne Coffin of Tillsonberg, Ontario took photos of icebergs at Goose Cove during their vacation 2011 summer vacation.
Huge bergs that visited the Greenspond area make the houses dotting the shoreline look like miniatures! Submitted by Cindy Blackwood; taken by Frank E. Blackwood
Tourists and locals alike were amazed at how close this iceberg came to the shore in Summerford, Newfoundland. Submitted by Angela Leyte of Regina, Saskatchewan
Folks came out in droves to view the monstrous icebergs that floated into Quidi Vidi Gut in 2012. Submitted by Tracey Sheehan
What this iceberg lacks in above-water length, it sure makes up for in height. Submitted by Arlene Talbot of Englee, NL
The submitter points out this berg looks a little like a cruise ship; we're betting it's not nearly as cozy, though! Submitted by Joyce Morgan of Port de Grave, NL
Downhome's Grant Loveys recently visited the workshop of a man we've dubbed the "Shoal Harbour inventor." Oliver Vardy spends his days thinking up and constructing new and unique musical instruments. Perhaps the most unique is an invention that Oliver calls the Melody Chord Harp. It is essentially a combination of guitar, harp and lap steel, with elements of each instrument working together in a totally new way. Its five individual sets of guitar strings are each tuned to a particular chord. Parallel to these strings is a single string that can be plucked with the thumb and a metal slide, providing a haunting melodic accompaniment to the strummed chords. It's a strange little machine, but it sounds wonderful.
Watch and listen as Oliver strums a tune.
For the full story on the Shoal Harbour inventor, see the May 2013 issue of Downhome.
Big waves, whales, icebergs, seabirds, moose – you get the picture. In the May 2013 issue, we explore some of the very best places to spot icons of Newfoundland and Labrador. Below is awesome video footage of some of our iconic treasures.
On windy days, the shores of Middle Cove Beach on the Avalon Peninsula are lined with folks eager to see amazing wave action. But in 2010, some wave watchers got a rude awakening from Mother Nature when a rogue wave washed ashore on Middle Cove Beach. Check out this YouTube video of local news coverage of the phenomenon.
While the waters of Witless Bay, as well as Twillingate and Southern Labrador, provide almost guaranteed whale sightings in June, July and August, tour operator Ocean Quest takes whale watching to a whole new level with its "Close Encounters" tour.
In a province where two communities (St. Anthony and Twillingate) lay claim to the title "Iceberg Capital of the World," folks eager to see and photograph these glacial wonders are right to come here in search of them – and each spring and summer they do, in droves. But a group of tourists visiting Twillingate in July 2008 got an extra special iceberg sighting, as a giant berg foundered and fell into the churning waters before their very eyes.
We scoured YouTube for cool video footage of a moose - and this tourist's close encounter atop Gros Morne Mountain was, we felt, the most impressive. (Warning! Some mild foul language in this video - and who can blame her?)
Residents of Buchans, Newfoundland will likely remember this very special 1980s episode of CBC's "On the Road Again," hosted by Wayne Rostad. The quality of the video isn't the greatest - but the quality of the story makes up for it!
*Note: For long-time readers of Downhome, the magazine's illustrator, Snowden Walters, used Clarence the Caribou as inspiration for a series of cartoon sketches that appeared in The Downhomer in the 1990s. Click here to check them out.
Our province's heritage breed are known as hardy workers, used to plough fields and haul logs. But the Newfoundland pony featured in the video below, owned by passionate pony promoter Liz Chafe of Cappahayden, Newfoundland, is blessed with a rather unusual talent - we're fairly confident he'd make for stiff competition on any soccer field.
Actors & Re-enactors
The folks acting at L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site have to reach far back in time to get into their characters. In reconstructed sod huts Viking re-enactors mimic the Norse ways of life that played out here more than 1,000 years ago.
Watch this video and come along for a tour of the Point Amour Lighthouse, the second tallest lighthouse in Canada, located at L'Anse Amour, Labrador.
Placentia-native and master boat builder Jerome Canning details the province's historic boat building tradition in the following video. With the help of the Wooden Boat Museum in Winterton, Newfoundland, locals with knowledge of the now rare art form are passing the tradition to younger generations.
Parks Canada cameras follow along as Inuit descendants visit the homeland of their ancestors, known now as the Torngat Mountains National Park.
Watching waterfalls cascade down over high cliffs surrounding this 16-km glacier-carved, land-locked fiord in Gros Morne National Park, you'll think you've been transported to another time.
The puffins of Elliston usually prefer to stick to a small island a short distance from the headland - but this one decided to wander over for some close-up camera shots!
Over the years we've heard from several readers who have shared stories of being healed by people who are sometimes referred to as "charmers." In particular, we are often regaled with tales of seemingly ordinary people who are said to have the ability to "charm away" warts. We recently revisited this topic in Downhome ("Their Mysterious Ways," October 2012 issue) inspiring reader Austin Elliott of Mount Pearl to call us with his own story of being healed. Click the play button on the audio file below to listen to what Austin had to say on our toll-free submission phone line.
The following are similar stories told to us by readers over the years:
“Around the late 40s I guess, or early 50s, both of my hands were covered with warts. I would have been 10 or 11. We had tried all the old-fashioned remedies, like rub some pork on the warts and throw it over your left shoulder and bury it in the ground. Beans was another method: You’d count the number of warts on your hands and take the beans and put them in a matchbox and bury the matchbox and the warts would go away. Anyway, nothing worked. So my mother knew about Mr. MacDonald, the healing hands of Mr. MacDonald. So one day she said to me, ‘My son when Mr. MacDonald comes to our house again, I’m going to get him to cure your warts.’ So lo and behold, one day Mr. MacDonald came to the house and she was telling him about my warts and of course he could see them just by looking – they were everywhere, I mean everywhere, lots of them – they were as plentiful as raspberries. So he said, ‘Ok come with me my son.'...I remember going out on the back step and he said, ‘Let me see your hands,’ and he had like this white powder and he rubbed the white powder over both of my hands and then he said, ‘I want you to forget about the warts.’ And I forgot about the warts and perhaps 10 or 12 days later I looked at my hands and they were just like they are today.” – Greg White, St. John's, N.L.
"I grew up in Deer Lake and I remember around the early '50s, when I would have been nine or 10, both my hands were covered in warts. One evening a friend of my dad (his name I can't remember) came to visit. Dad happened to mention to him my problem with warts. This gentleman told me to count the warts and then forget about them. A week or so later the warts had completely disappeared and never returned." – Karl Janes, Newmarket, O.N.
And in this instance, it seems, a reader stumbled upon a "cure" himself!
"Many years ago, when I was 17, I had warts on both my hands and tried everything. At this particular time I was pumping gas at the old Fort Motel gas bar on the TCH just outside St. John's to help pay for my first year at MUN. While sitting idle at the desk inside, I had a pen in my hand and drew a circle around every wart I had. As I drew each circle around the warts, I also drew a circle on a sheet of paper towel. Since I was a smoker, I also had a lighter on the desk, so I set fire to the paper towel and let it burn in the ashtray. A few days later, lo and behold, every wart was gone! Neat eh? Anyone with warts might like to try it. It sure worked for me." – Glenn Curtis, Clifton Royal, N.B.
Have you had a similar experience? Leave a comment on this article or share your story on our toll-free submission phone line by calling 1-866-640-1999.
An accepted culinary norm is that "what grows together, goes together." Things grown in a single area that come into season at the same time tend to work well together in a dish. Many have become classics - like tomatoes and basil, strawberries and rhubarb, peas and mint.
There are, however, times when flavours that are seasons and miles (even continents) apart combine beautifully. One such match is our Newfoundland bakeapples paired with tropical fruits such as pineapples and mangoes.
Newfoundlanders often find themselves trying to explain the unique flavour of bakeapples to people who have never tried them: apricots with honey, floral and earthy, musky tart-sweet. The nature of the berries makes bakeapples a perfect fit for shellfish such as lobster, scallops, snow crab or coldwater shrimp - all of them native to Newfoundland and more proof of the "grow-together-go-together" rule.
Another popular way to cook bakeapples is with a little sugar to make a simple jam or topping for ice cream and cheesecake. Our recipe below combines bakeapples with tropical fruit in a heavenly sauce that we like to use as a topping for cream puffs. The aromatic floral qualities of the pineapple and mango match perfectly with similar flavours in the bakeapples.
Bakeapple Cream Puffs
Pastry and filling
1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1 cup all-purpose flour
2-3 tbsp sugar
1 cup 35% whipping cream
1 cup bakeapples
1 mango, diced
1 cup fresh pineapple, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
In a medium saucepan, simmer 1 cup bakeapples with 1 diced mango, 1 cup chopped fresh pineapple and 1/2 cup sugar until fruit is softened and the mixture is thickened. Taste and adjust flavour to your liking by adding lemon juice if too sweet, or more sugar if too tart. Set aside mixture to cool. (Note: topping can be made a day or two ahead and stored in a jar in the fridge.)
To make pastry puffs, boil 1 cup water with 1/2 cup butter in a medium saucepan. When butter has melted, add (all at once) 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Stir with wooden spoon until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan, coming together in a ball. Remove from heat. Transfer to a mixing bowl and beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. The dough will be a bit sticky but will hold together. Drop dough onto parchment-paper lined (or well-greased) baking pans in 8 mounds, about 3 inches around and 1 1/2 inches high; leave 2-3 inches between puffs. Bake in a 375° oven for about 25 minutes until golden, firm and hollow-looking. Remove from oven; poke a hole near the bottom of each puff and return to the oven for another 5 minutes to dry out. Remove from oven and cool puffs on a rack. (Note: puffs can be made a day or two ahead and stored in an airtight container.)
Make whipped cream filling by whipping 1 cup 35% cream with 2-3 tbsp sugar until firm peaks form. (Alternatively, use Cool Whip or a ready-made whipped cream from a can.) Just before serving, cut pastry puffs in half laterally. Fill bottom half with whipped cream and replace top. Spoon bakeapple sauce over top, and serve with a little more cream on the side. Garnish with a slice of pineapple, mango or a sprig of fresh mint.
Did you know that bakeapples are a relative of the Rosaceae family, as are blackberries and raspberries? Bakeapple plants are male or female. Unlike other berries, they do not self-pollinate; plants of both sexes are required to produce fruit!
Ever wonder where bakeapples got their name? One theory states that an early French explorer asked, "What is this berry called?" or "B'en qu'appelle?" and the phonetic version of the name stuck. Called "cloudberries" in Scandinavia and Europe, bakeapples are so prized in these places that entrepreneurial residents are looking into ways to cultivate them to meet market demand.
Andrea Maunder and Mike Barsky are the dynamic duo behind Bacalao, a St. John's restaurant specializing in "nouvelle Newfoundland" cuisine. Visit www.bacalaocuisine.ca to see their dining concept and menus.
My Grade 5 class at St. George's Elementary in Long Pond was getting ready to go home when Hillary spotted Thomas's new rubber boots. She wanted to know why he was wearing fishing boots when it was snowing outside. Thomas looked at the boots and said, "These aren't fishing boots - they're diesel boots." Hillary asked him what diesel boots were. Thomas replied, "Sure dees 'el do, won't they?"
Submitted by Barbara Moores of Newfoundland
Do you have a funny anecdote to share? Leave us a comment (below, right) so we can all have a laugh.