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The adventure continues in Harbour Grace
Terra Nova National Park becomes a guardian of the stars
How and why the St. John's Regatta racing shells came to be
Determined to set a new flying record, Amelia heads to Harbour Grace This is the third article in my Downhome series, "Amelia Earhart in Newfoundland." Unlike the first two articles about Amelia in Trepassey, this one has a more personal connection. It began when I decided to write my family history and found Amelia hiding there. My father, Billy Ross, and my aunt, Ginny Ross, had died, but I still had many questions about my Newfoundland roots. I returned to Harbour Grace and began talking to my extended family and Ginnyâs friends. From their stories and old black-and-white photographs, I discovered that my great uncle, Harry Archibald, was the Harbour Grace airstrip supervisor. His sister, my great aunt Rose Archibald, owned the Archibald Hotel where all the pilots stayed, or at least rested, before their transatlantic flights. Uncle Harry and Aunt Rose met Amelia when she arrived on May 20, 1932, to make her solo transatlantic flight. According to Ginnyâs friends, she met Amelia, too.Following the Lindbergh Trail Amelia Earhartâs second trip to Newfoundland was four years after her 1928 transatlantic flight from Trepassey. Thanks to her husband George Putnam, whom she married in 1930, she had become a household name. George had joined the Trepassey team because of his skill in planning and then writing about expeditions around the world. After the Trepassey flight, he continued to keep Ameliaâs name in the public eye. In 1928, he published a book with her account of the Friendship flight, titled 20 Hrs. 40 Mins. Her growing reputation led to many speaking engagements, both nationally and internationally.Although sheâd jumped at the chance to be part of the Friendship flight, there was something about it that always bothered Amelia. âI was only baggage,â she said. Bill Stultz, the pilot, and Slim Gordon, the mechanic, had done all the work but she got all the credit. At times she had to pull them into photos because the press was more interested in her as the female passenger. From that time forward, sheâd thought about a solo transatlantic flight to prove her ability as a pilot.By 1931-32, the field of women hoping to do the same was growing. As with the Trepassey flight, her competitors announced their plans to the press. In the spring of 1931, Ruth Nichols was ready to âfollow the Lindbergh Trail,â in a solo transatlantic flight. On her way to Harbour Grace, a crash landing in Saint John, New Brunswick resulted in five broken vertebrae and a badly damaged plane. By the spring of 1932, she had recovered and was planning another attempt from Harbour Grace.Elinor Smith vowed to beat Nichols across the Atlantic. In an interview in April 1932, she announced her plans to fly âfrom Harbour Grace to Dublin, Ireland in early May.â A third aviatrix, Laura Ingalls, also threw her hat in the ring. She planned to follow âthe Lindbergh Trailâ from New York to Paris and had worked throughout the winter of 1931 and spring of 1932 to reach her goal.Amelia knew she had to act soon if she wanted to use a second transatlantic crossing to prove her credibility as a pilot.Preparations As they had done with her Trepassey flight, George and Amelia worked in secret. She carried on with her usual flights and speaking engagements to hide their transatlantic plans. They didnât want to put pressure on the competition to take off ahead of her, and it kept pressure from the press away from her. She wanted to focus all her energy and attention on the actual flight. George and Amelia hired Bernt Balchen - a pilot, navigator and engineer - to prepare a flight plan and modify her Vega for the long distance flight. Ed Gorski became their chief mechanic. Amelia stayed away from the airfield in Teterboro, New Jersey, while the two men prepared and tested her plane.They added braces that ran from one side of the fuselage to the other, replaced the passenger seats with gas tanks and added gas tanks in the wings. The Vega originally had two wing tanks that held 100 gallons of fuel. It now had eight tanks that held 420 gallons - enough for a 5,000-kilometre (3,200-mile) flight. For additional power, they added a new 500 horsepower Pratt and Whitney Wasp D engine. Bernt Balchen had previously been working with Lincoln Ellsworth to prepare for his flight to the South Pole. George and Amelia used this information to make it seem as if the Vega was being prepared for his expedition and not for anything she was planning. They had used the same tactic before her Trepassey flight, when they implied the Friendship was being prepared for Commander Byrdâs Antarctic expedition. It had worked then and they hoped it would work again.Throughout the preparations, Georgeâs talent for publicity came to the fore. He suggested Amelia leave Harbour Grace on May 20, 1932, the same day Lindbergh left New York for Paris five years earlier. Her red and gold Vega carried a registration number but no name. George wanted people to remember Ameliaâs name, not the name of the plane. She got in the habit of calling it her âlittle red bus.âAs the date for the flight drew closer, the weather was the ultimate unknown. According to Doc Kimball at the New York, US Weather Bureau, the forecast leading up to the 20th wasnât looking good. But on May 19, they got a break. There was clear weather over the Atlantic and the visibility was good as far as Newfoundland. âBy tomorrow the Atlantic looks as good as youâre likely to get it for some time,â Kimball informed George.Amelia hurried home and changed into her flying clothes. At 3:15 p.m., she, Balchen and Gorski took off for Saint John, New Brunswick. Balchen flew the plane while Amelia rested in the back. After spending the night, they left for Harbour Grace and George announced Ameliaâs transatlantic crossing.Ameliaâs Arrival Itâs at this point that Ameliaâs history and my family history intersect. As the airstrip supervisor, Uncle Harry was among the first people to learn that Amelia was on her way. He rushed to the Archibald Hotel to tell Aunt Rose and Ginny. Amelia landed at 2:01 p.m. and was welcomed by a local crowd. A few reporters and photographers had had time to get there, but not the usual number. Marjorie Davis, a classmate of Ginnyâs, remembered writing an exam in the morning and then being dismissed to see Amelia land at the airstrip. Marjorie recalled Aunt Rose standing at the railroad tracks with the bullhorn she used at most Harbour Grace celebrations. âHurry up now!â Aunt Rose shouted to them. âLift those knees and run! Youâre going to miss Ameliaâs landing!â Aunt Louise (Archibald) remembered similar details about Ameliaâs arrival and added, âThe day was overcast and cool.âOnce on the ground, Amelia spoke with Uncle Harry (the airstrip supervisor), Balchen and Gorski about the servicing and refuelling of the plane. The men decided to stay at the airstrip while Amelia left by car to file their flight plan at the customs office. A photo taken in the doorway at the courthouse is part of the historical record of Ameliaâs arrival.The local crowd at the airport saw Mike Hayesâ taxi arrive. They assumed Amelia was going straight to the Archibald Hotel, as most of the pilots did. Pat Cron, one of Ginnyâs friends, claimed that was where Ginny and Aunt Rose met Amelia.Ironically, Ginny never mentioned the meeting. Whenever she and I got together, we looked at family photographs and talked about her life in Harbour Grace, where she and my father lived with my grandparents and great-grandparents above Joe Rossâs store on Water Street. We followed lists of questions I had for her, but none of them included Amelia. At that time I knew nothing about early aviation in Harbour Grace. Our visits occurred over a period of about two years and then she died. Given more time, she may have included Amelia in her memories, but my questions kept us focused on our family history.Even without Ginnyâs confirmation, I believed Patâs story. I knew Ginny was working at the hotel at that time - and I knew Aunt Rose and Uncle Harry. Both were close to Ginny and looked out for her best interests. They wouldnât have missed the opportunity to introduce her to Amelia. -By Heather Stemp
Hundreds of years ago, people could turn their faces to the night sky and marvel at a clear view of the stars, like the constellations in the Milky Way. Today those sights are often obstructed by light pollution from sprawling cities. However, there is a movement to recapture the darkness by creating areas where artificial light is carefully restricted. Dark Sky Preserves have been gaining traction in recent decades, giving people a chance to see what the night sky might have looked like before the advent of electricity.And when people go camping, they donât want to feel like theyâre in the middle of the city. Those folks will be excited to learn that Terra Nova National Park in Newfoundland and Labrador officially received its Dark Sky Preserve designation in February 2018 from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.Simply put, âItâs an area where weâve established protective measures or plan to reduce artificial light pollution to increase peopleâs ability to enjoy the night sky, to try to reduce energy consumption, and to try to create both ecological and experiential benefits for people,â explains Adie Hayes, an interpretation officer working at Terra Nova National Park. âFor Newfoundlanders, I think we can become quite used to having access to open spaces and spaces that are less densely populated, where thereâs not as much light pollution,â says Adie. âThis kind of program is meant to maintain that and ensure that itâs protected and doesnât change over time. So whether itâs for campers in the park, or people who are living in local communities, or anyone in the region, anyone in the province. What weâre hoping to do is encourage them to manage light pollution around their properties and around their communities, in our parks, so that we wind up with a lower [light pollution] level as a whole.âThere are a few locations in the park that have been identified as observation sites, like Sandy Pond and the Blue Hill Lookout. Parts of the park will be accessible throughout the year so people can enjoy the preserve, even in winter.Coexisting with NatureDark Sky Preserves arenât just for humans, though; theyâre beneficial to animals as well. As Adie explains, âNocturnal animals and quite a few plant species, their natural rhythms are very dependent on light. So light triggers certain things that may help them with migration patterns; it may help determine when they feed, when they prey, when they eat, reproductive cycles, all those things. So artificial light can negatively impact those cycles for a lot of different species.â For instance, the park is home to two bat species that are federally listed as endangered. They also happen to be primarily nocturnal animals, so limiting light pollution helps conservation efforts.Dark Sky Preserves are an important part of coexisting with nature. We want to go into these parks, but we also donât want to negatively impact nature when we do so. âA big part of what Parks Canada does, in terms of protection and conservation, is try to find that balance with enjoyment,â she says. âSo weâre always trying to maintain the ecological integrity of our parks or trying to make sure things stay as close to their natural state as they can, so weâre not negatively impacting things that are here.âTerra Nova National Park is the countryâs 20th Dark Sky Preserve; more than half of those are found in Canadian national parks. To Adie, itâs a sign that the Dark Sky Preserve program is well aligned with Parks Canadaâs mandate, which is focused on conservation and environmental protection, as well as getting people out to enjoy the parks.Terra Nova National Parkâs preserve took several years to get off the ground. The process began in 2014, when the Park reached out to the St. Johnâs branch of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. The Park drafted a proposal to meet the societyâs Dark Sky Preserve program requirements and the St. Johnâs branch agreed to sponsor them.Adie expects to see more people visiting the Park for the purpose of enjoying the night sky, especially for events like meteor showers. âI think itâs going to continue to grow in popularity. I think thereâs a lot of interest around the sky, a lot of interest around how to experience it. So weâve had great engagement so far,â she says.âOnce people come and experience it once and they see how phenomenal the skies are here, and what itâs like to experience it alongside a group like [the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada], who are so knowledgeable about what youâre seeing, theyâre coming back the next year and theyâre bringing their friends and family with them. So I think itâs going to be an offer thatâs going to continue to grow.â
Feet strapped in, oars ready, the teams of six rowers plus coxswain wait for the starting gun at the Royal St. Johnâs Regatta. Itâs a scene that, with a few interruptions for war and whatnot, has played out for the past 200 years. For more than half that time, the race has looked remarkably similar to the way it does today, with six-rower teams in long, narrow boats reserved exclusively for Regatta practice, training and racing. The boats used today, handmade from wood and coated in fibreglass and epoxy, are based on a design from the early 1900s. But there was a time before that when the boats looked quite different from the modern shells, and even from each other. At Work & PlayThe 19th century was the waning of the golden age of sailing, and shipping was an important part of the St. Johnâs economy. This was before engines propelled boats - the first transatlantic steamship crossing happened after the first Regatta - so rowing was how sailors got to and from their ships, how they brought in fish, how they caught whales, and how people living in outports travelled their harbours. Rowing was part of daily life for the working sailor. And, like you would, the sailors wanted to know who was the fastest rower. So they raced, using whatever boat they had.The Regatta grew out of this work-related competition, explains Regatta board of directors president Chris Neary during a recent chat in the Regatta boathouse office. The boats were the working boats of the day - punts, jolly rigs, gigs, whaleboats and even sailboats.âThey were all working at this day in and day out. Anyone else at the time was like, âWhoâs the best at it? Letâs go prove it. Letâs go down to the harbour, letâs go to Quidi Vidi Lake, letâs take these boats that we use every single day and letâs see whoâs the best, the fastest at doing it,ââ says Chris.From the first official Regatta race of 1818 until the 1840s, they raced these work boats. In those days, the race was as much about the boat and its builder as it was the crew - perhaps even more so. The recorded history of the Regatta, available on the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries (NLPL) website, tells of a rivalry between Halifax and Newfoundland builders. It leaves the impression that building a winning Regatta boat was a matter of Newfoundland national pride as much as it was about winning races. In the 1830s, boatbuilder Samuel Loveys was making boats for the Regatta, but they tended to be working boats. Race organizers at the time were ordering boats from Halifax in an attempt to win races. This didnât sit well with Loveys, who took it upon himself to build a boat that would best the Halifax boats on the waters of Quidi Vidi Lake. (The Regatta started as a St. Johnâs harbour race, but by this time it had relocated to Quidi Vidi Lake.)Loveys based his new racing boat on the whaleboat, a double-ended design that generally held a crew of five rowers and a helmsman. Whaleboats were designed to be fast to keep up with whales. He named his boat the Ripple, and it was indeed a quick rower. But by 1843, the Halifax-built Lalla Rookh - a modified whaleboat design - was proving to be the better boat, with the Ripple placing second in every race against the Lalla Rookh that year.Loveys again took the challenge to his workshop, where he designed a longer, narrower boat intended purely for racing. He called his 36-foot-long craft the Lucy Long. âThis changed the style of boats used in our derby day forever,â states the NLPLâs Regatta history. âBy the conclusion of the two-day event, Sam Loveysâ Lucy Long emerged as the fastest boat ever seen on the pond. It became the model which both local and Halifax builders tried to emulate thereafter.âFor the next 50 years, the boats would follow Loveysâ design. Then everything changed again, thanks to H.H. Rendell, who borrowed the ideas of English racing boats and, partnering with boat builder Bob Sexton, produced the Glance, a 49-foot boat that ushered in the modern era of racing shells in the Regatta. In 1895, it won 13 out of the 14 races it entered, proving its superior design. Further proof of their boatbuilding mastery, the duo next produced the Blue Peter.The Blue Peter changed everything. Again. It was longer, at 50 feet plus a few inches, and it was faster than any boat yet seen on the lake. In 1901, the Blue Peter was used by the Outer Cove team to set a race record of 9 minutes 13 seconds. For the next 80 years, there was not another boat built, nor another team assembled, that could beat the time. Building on HistoryWhile the boats of today look the same as those rowed in 1901, the boatsâ evolution continued. After Sexton died in the 1940s, the Regatta Committee looked elsewhere for boats. Although they were all of a similar low, long racing shell design, the boats immediately following Sextonâs were slower. The Regatta Committee ordered boats from various builders through the years whenever they needed to restock their fleet. In the 1980s, the committee was once again looking to replenish their stock. One of its members, Terry Lindstrom, was a rower at the time and employed by the National Research Council. He was also interested in boats and woodworking. Now retired, Terry vividly recalls those days. There was, he recounts over the phone from his current home in Ottawa, a search for someone local to build wooden racing shells, but they couldnât find anyone. The discussion turned to replicating an existing boat, and they settled on the Blue Peter, believing it to be the best racing shell ever produced. The 1901 boat, it so happened, was hung up in the rafters of the CLB Armoury. Terry brought it to his lab at work, where he built a jig for it and lifted the lines off the boat by hand. (Lifting lines involves carefully measuring an existing boat at various points and recording those numbers in preparation for making plans from which another boat can be built.) With a lines plan of the Blue Peter, the Regatta Committee then searched out a capable builder. Hudson Boat Works of London, Ontario, was eventually chosen. The company was already building winning wooden racing shells for Olympic teams. Today, they continue to make some of the worldâs best racing shells for Olympic competition. Jack Coughlan, head of research and development at Hudson Boat Works, remembers working on the project, saying, âThey wanted a boat that would last.â The Blue Peter, he says, was a good shape. The replicas were made in â91 and â94, and although they could have built a lighter boat, the Regatta Committee wanted the new boats to be as close to the original Blue Peter as possible in all aspects, including weight. Jack hired boat designer and builder Skip Izon, of Shadow River Boats, to oversee the build. The boat, they decided, would be built using thin sheets of wood (veneers) glued together with epoxy and covered in more epoxy and fibreglass fabric. The result looks like plywood, but isnât. Skip, speaking on the phone from his workshop in Ontario, explains how the boats were built. First, he built a mould for the boats using the plans that Terry had drawn up. He remembers being impressed by the boat he saw in the plans. It was unlike boats he had seen before, he says, and the only racing shell he had seen with fixed seats. Using that mould, he laid four layers of mahogany veneer, offsetting the grain direction of each layer to maximize the hullâs strength. The shell was then sheathed in 10-ounce fibreglass fabric and epoxy. Itâs a bit heavier than necessary, but knowing they had to hit a certain weight, Skip figured it made sense to have all the weight contributing to the strength of the boat. In keeping with the Regattaâs focus on tradition, the finished product was the same length, size and weight as the original.But there is more than just adherence to tradition at work here - the Blue Peter was, as Skip says, an impressive boat. At 50 feet, and made for a six-person rowing crew, it was a near-perfect match of length to potential speed. The top speed of any displacement hull - sailboats, canoes, punts and racing shells, among others - can be calculated with a formula that includes the waterline of the boat. For a given length of boat, thereâs an optimum power needed to make it reach its potential top speed, after which the boatâs design begins to work against itself. For the power output of six rowers, 50 feet is about right. âWhoever figured it out got it close,â says Skip, complimenting the skills of Sexton and reinforcing the wisdom of selecting the Blue Peter of all the boats to replicate. Once built, the boats were delivered to St. Johnâs, where Terry put them in the testing tank to compare the results to similar tests done with the original Blue Peter. They were incredibly close, says Terry. In testing, where they were towed by a controlled machine in calm water and ideal lab conditions, the replica boats had the same drag as the original Blue Peter, and the committee had verifiable, scientific proof that these boats were similar to each other and the Blue Peter. In theory, each of the boats that Hudson Boat Works built (12 in all) was exactly the same as the original Blue Peter, but there are small differences, given that each boat was made by hand, as opposed to being made by robots and popped out of a mould in a factory.Out on the water, 20-some years after they were built, each boat has idiosyncrasies that an experienced rower can identify, says Chris Neary, back in the office of the Regatta boathouse. But, practically speaking, these boats are the same as the ones rowed back in the early 1900s. From the early work boats to the work of Samuel Loveys to Bob Sexton and H.H. Rendell, to Hudson Boat Works and Skip Izon, Regatta boats evolved to become, first, the ideal shape for racing; then the ideal length for six rowers; and, finally, an evolution in materials that made a classic design into something durable. The result is a combination that allows that original record of 9:13, set in the original Blue Peter, to still mean something today. âIn theory,â says Chris, âyouâre rowing in a boat very similar to what your grandfather rowed in or what that 1901 team did. Even today, if a team comes down and breaks that 9:13, itâs still significant because itâs such a milestone. Even 100 years later, itâs still a note of pride and accomplishment to break the 9:13.â-by Tobias Romaniuk
It's a sunny spring day in downtown St. John's, warm enough that Jerome Canning has left the door to his workshop wide open. A portable thickness planer is pointed at the opening. Behind it, an in-progress sideboard rests on the floor. It's a beautiful piece, well proportioned, thoughtfully designed and finely crafted. Worthy of an art gallery, it will be cherished for generations.Today, though, Jeromeâs attention is focused on the other side of his shop, where an overturned wooden punt rests on a stand. For decades now, Jerome has made a living working with wood as a furniture maker, cabinetmaker and boat builder. Lately, boats have taken up most of his time - heâs been teaching a boat building class at Memorial University over the winter and building the punt in his shop. In the summers, heâs the resident boat builder at the Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador in Winterton, where he instructs courses, builds boats, and shares his knowledge and stories with visitors. He built his first boat back in the â70s with his family to go fishing, then built more, then studied naval architecture at the Fisheries College (now the Marine Institute) and has continued to build boats through the years. One of them, a half-scale model, is in the lobby of a St. Johnâs office. That boat is where our story begins. Or rather, where we are going to begin our story, for it goes way back. This is the long row, a story that stretches out for centuries and goes on for miles.Jerome, despite building dozens of boats, doesnât own a boat - until he built this one, the boat that sits upturned, nearly finished, in his workshop. Itâs a traditional Newfoundland rowboat, a punt. That it be a rowboat was important - he wanted to feel connected to the water in the way that a motor couldnât provide. And he wanted to row a Newfoundland boat of his own design, built on the provinceâs deep boatbuilding tradition. âI knew if I could keep certain angles, certain types of dimensions, proportions, thatâ¦I could actually feel comfortable saying that I designed and built and am rowing a punt that is a Newfoundland punt,â Jerome says. The Path to the PuntBefore the design began, though, Jerome had to define for himself exactly what a Newfoundland punt really was. As people moved back and forth between Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New England and other places, they brought their ideas and boats with them. The Cape Island boat of Nova Scotia became popular in local waters. The Grand Banks dory made its way to harbours from Halifax to the Bay of Islands, evolving for the unique needs of each community. And so it is for the punt, whose shape evolved over time. Jerome would have to go to the source. He would build a boat using the same methods as 18th-century boat builders.The Newfoundland punt, like the Whitehall - that famous American rowboat of New Yorkâs harbour - has its roots in the workboats of England. The first settlers of Newfoundland brought their boatbuilding methods and their boat shapes with them using a technique known as the adjustable mould or whole mould method. It uses a notched, straight stick and two curved sticks to create the shapes for the frames of a boat. By using the whole mould method to design and build his boat, Jerome figured, he would be closer to building a boat like those of his forebears.âIf I use the whole mould method then I know for certain that the punts that came over here firstâ¦Iâm going toward that punt,â he says. He also looked at the boats in the Wooden Boat Museumâs documentation program. Each year, a crew from the museum heads out to gather the oral histories of the provinceâs boat builders and lift the lines off their boats, some more than 100 years old. It was during one of these trips that Jerome met Jack Casey, an old timer who showed Jerome how to use the whole mould method to get the midship bend. âBut I wasnât satisfied with that because I didnât want to do just one frame,â he says. He had heard of Samuel Andrews, a Winterton boat builder whoâd died in the 1960s, and how he used to get every frame for his boats using the whole mould method. Jerome knew it could be done and set about researching how to do it. .For the shape, Jerome chose a trio of boats - a Fogo Island gunning punt, a Samuel Andrews gunning punt and a Marcus French rodney - to base his design on, while also consulting other boats. He looked at the length to width ratio, the angle of deadrise, the angle of the transom, the shape of the hollow, and made sure his boat had similar lines as he shaped it up, beginning with models and plans before moving on to the build. The first couple of times, he didnât like the look - and in a boat, looks matter. âAnd all the time youâre looking at it, because youâve got to trust your eye [that] she was looking good,â Jerome says. âYou draw it on paper; you make a model. The boat had to look good, that nothing sort of looked clumsy, that it had a nice, suent look.âBy the third go, he had a drawing and a model he liked. But he wanted another opinion. He sought out those who spend time on the water. âIn particular, people who use row boats because this is a row boat,â says Jerome, âand everyone said âBây, sheâs fine.ââThis brings us back to the start. Jerome landed a contract to build a half-scale model boat to display in the lobby of Maderra Engineering, giving him the chance to see a larger version of the boat and assess its lines before committing to a full-scale build. âAnd the whole time building that,â says Jerome, âI was sizing it up, and a lot of people saw that boat and said âNice looking boat,â so Iâm hoping that thatâs what it will be. Only the water will tell.âHeâll have plenty of time in the water this summer, rowing Placentia Bay with his son, then on a multi-stop trip in Conception Bay or Trinity Bay - the details are still being worked out - in a series of short rows with various rowing partners. This boat, built from traditional shapes, is really a fishing boat; thatâs what the old boats were used for and that use affects how it handles. Used as a recreational rowing boat, it will need some extra weight in her to settle into the water the way she would if laden down with fishing gear. Mile after mile, along the coast, into each harbour, a couple of hours at a time, over several weekends, Jerome will get a good sense of the boat while sharing the rowing experience with folks heâs invited along to join his adventure of the long row. It is only then, out on the water, when he will know for sure what he has created. Because although good looks are important, a wooden boat must handle as well as any other boat when on the water.Which brings us to the final question for Jerome: Why? Why build a wooden boat in the age of fibreglass? Why cast back centuries for the build method? Why boats, instead of houses?âThe why is probably just sort of who I am. I came from this tradition,â he says. âIâm a Newfoundlander. Iâm building a Newfoundland boat and Iâm building it with a method that came over with our first European settlers. Iâm using the method they used. Itâs sort of a celebration, for me, of being here in this place. So Iâm going to try to reflect that in every way.âby Tobias Romaniuk
"That's all I've ever done. Fished. I'm fishing over 50 years myself now. I loved it from the beginning and nothing has changed. I still have just as much passion for fishing now as I ever did in my life. I'm the kind that goes on the water very early in the morning - probably two, three o'clock, that kind of thing - but when I get out I won't be the first to come home. I just like to be out there, right? Sometimes I say to myself, 'How lucky am I to be in a job for over 50 years and loved it and still do?'"These are the words of Michael Hearn, a fisherman from Petty Harbour who shared his memories of growing up in this small outport on the Avalon Peninsula and working in the fishery. Mike, born in Petty Harbour in 1943, grew up in a family of nine boys and three girls. His father and his grandfather both worked in the fishery, and Mike himself got his start in the fishery as a boy.Michael Hearn, 2014 (Terra Barrett photo)âWhen we were young fellas we used to catch codfish - well, not cod, tomcods we called them, about, oh, six to eight, 10 inches long. Especially in October, November you would get them a foot long. They would be in the harbour after the old offal,â he recalls.Aside from the fun of catching tomcods, Mike and other children in the community would also cut cod tongues, make fish and play around the flakes. âEven when we were young fellas, when fish was being spread, before I started going fishing we had to make the fish. They used to call it fish makers on the flakes. So you would get up early in the morning and a lot of fish would have to be spread on the fish flakes. You would get up and spread all that no matter what, cold or warm, as long as it wasnât raining. Then in the evening, we could be up swimming; but if we thought there was going to be a shower of rain and we were up to the pond, we would have to beat it home to get that fish in before the rain came in,â he says.âWe would [also] have sword fights. The fish flakes had all longers, we called them, all small sticks about as big [around] as a Pepsi can. And then the end of them was long and pointy, so weâd crack off one of them [and] nail a little piece on the cross. Itâs a wonder we all didnât lose our eyes.âWhen Mike got his start in the fishery, the main resource was cod. But after the collapse of the fishery and the eventual moratorium, the fishery diversified with the increase of the crab and lobster fishery. âWhen we started off it was all codfish. I started fishing with my father and then it was all salt fish, and then it eventually got into a fresh fish market, which was much easier,â says Mike. âNow when the cod moratorium came in â92, after the cod moratorium we got into the crab. We were fooling around with lumpfish and things like that, but the crab has been a big saviour now. Itâs an easier fishery, especially, than the cod traps. Hook and line is pretty easy, but the cod traps was a lot, a lot of work, hard work for what you were getting because you werenât getting any price for the fish. But now with the crab, the price is good and it is much easier - very easy compared to what we were doing. So the crab is the number one thing now. There is a few lobster now, but nothing that you would depend on.â - By Terra BarrettClick here to listen to the full interview with Michael Hearn.The Collective Memories Project is an initiative of the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador to record the stories and memories of our province. If you have a memory of old-time Newfoundland and Labrador to share, contact Dale Jarvis at email@example.com or call 1-888-739-1892 ext 2 or visitwww.collectivememories.ca.
A gorgeous day in May finds me driving at a snail's pace on a back road in the Goulds, hoping I haven't driven past my destination. Finally, I spot the yellow and white balloons tied to a tree I was told to keep an eye out for. I'm at Adelaide's Newfoundland Honey Inc. to experience the wildflower reserve and meet some honey bees. I'm getting a quick look at their Honeybee Hike and a tour of the operation in advance of its June opening.Paul and Brenda Dinn formed the business last year after three years of recreational beekeeping. Paul explains they got started mostly by chance. A friend mentioned their dog loved to run through fireweed, a plant that can grow six feet tall and is found all over the Goulds neighbourhood of St. Johnâs. Initially, Paul worried it might be an invasive species that would take over his land. âI started reading that fireweed produces one of the best honeys in the world and itâs highly sought after. So then I started thinking, âOh, I wonder if we should try getting into beekeeping.â And we did,â says Paul.Last year they made enough honey to sell, so they got mason jars and did up some labels and went to the St. Johnâs Farmersâ Market. They only expected to have a handful of customers, but they sold all 300 bottles in an hour. The next week they returned with the rest of their honey and sold out again. What had started as a relaxing hobby and a way to get their own honey-fix had turned into a successful company.When they first got into beekeeping, the Dinns had three colonies; now they have 20, and expect to expand to between 60 and 100 by the end of this summer. Adelaideâs has become Paulâs full-time job and when she retires, Brenda will join him. Itâs an âencore career,â as Paul calls it, something to do in their golden years.âYouâll never see beekeeping with us as this big industrial-style beekeeping, where theyâve got bees all crammed on a pallet and theyâre lifting them with cranes and hoist them around. Thatâs not us. We want to do as natural beekeeping as possible, and low-impact beekeeping, so the bees are benefiting by being here, theyâre doing well,â he explains. âWeâd rather leave them with the majority of the honey and just sell a little bit to whoever, ya know?âItâs an approach that makes sense. After all, if you introduce too many honey bees to an area, the surrounding flowers canât support them. Paul offers a peek inside hives during a tour of his honey bee operation.Amongst the BeesAfter getting sized for a beekeeping jacket, Paul advises me to pull my socks over my jeans so bees canât fly up my leg. And then weâre out the door and into the backyard. His family has owned this 10-acre property for over 100 years, he tells me, but weâll only explore a fraction of it. As we traipse along, I keep checking my feet to make sure I donât step on any bees. Paulâs cautioned me that they like to drink from puddles and dew on the ground.Stopping at a group of hives, I zip up the jacket and pull the hood with the mesh screen over my face. Itâs a precautionary measure, though; honey bees prefer not to sting people (and doing so kills them). âBees actually recognize people. Theyâll recognize our faces because they see us and they know weâre not a threat to them,â he says. Instead of stinging, they typically bump into you.With long gloves tugged up past my elbows, I watch the bees swarming, going in and out of the hives. Then Paul unpacks the smoker, a small circular can with a pump on the side. The smoke calms the bees, so itâs easier to check on the hives.Paul uses a smoker to help calm the bees.Paul slowly pulls out each frame to see how honey production is going. âDo you still have your spoon?â he asks. I hand it to him and he scrapes some honey off the frame and passes it back for me to taste. Itâs the best Iâve ever had.Paul is practically an encyclopedia of apiary knowledge. Every hive is different; some could have a strong queen, while in another the queen could be failing. Iâm surprised to learn that queen bees donât exactly rule with the divine rights of kings. If the queen isnât living up to the hiveâs standards, theyâll turn on her. âA lot of people think the queen is the one in charge. But the colonyâ¦act as one organism, and theyâll make decisions for whatâs best for the colony. So [if] that queen isnât laying as much as she should or if sheâs weak and not well, the colony will get rid of her and make a new queen.âBeekeeperâs LifeAs Paul explains, thereâs a lot involved with beekeeping. âIâll get up early in the morning and Iâll go down and Iâll just observe what the bees are doing from a distance. And if I see them just slowly coming out of the hive and not doing too much, itâs fine,â he says. âBut if you see all of a sudden thereâs a bunch of bees, maybe there was a mouse or a shrew or something trying to get in at the bees, at the honey. Shrews are actually the worst thing in the world for honey bees. In the wintertime, if they get in there they can actually kill an entire hive.âIf somethingâs disturbing the bees, Paul will hang back to figure it out and then intervene, but beekeepers mostly leave them alone. The Dinns check the hives every 10 days or so to see how the bees are doing.And in Newfoundland at least, the bees appear to be doing just fine. Cut off from the mainland, itâs harder for diseases and parasites (such as the varroa destructor, a disease-carrying mite that feeds off the blood of bees) to reach local bee populations. Since our bees are generally healthy, they donât need to be medicated, and that makes for great honey.âWeâre really lucky in this province to have healthy honey bees, lots of wildflowers, the weatherâs spectacular for bees. Weâve got all the right things that we really could do well from a business standpoint,â says Paul, adding continued success will depend on all local beekeepers taking appropriate precautions. âItâs a great thing going on, and itâs only going to grow and do well if people donât be in a rush to bring in equipment or bees from other places,â he says. Youâre InvitedThe Dinns arenât keeping their buzzing business to themselves. Theyâre opening their land as a wildflower reserve and hosting Honeybee Hikes, like the one I took. The small-group hikes occur three times weekly to avoid stressing the bees. âEverything we do is to be in the best interest of the bees, because the last thing we want to do is lose them,â says Paul. They also started an adopt-a-hive program, where people pay a monthly fee to get experience managing a hive. Itâs a way for people to find out if the hobby is right for them.It was definitely the right move for Paul. âTo me, itâs the best thing I ever did. I love it. I mean, itâs just a way of life. Itâs so relaxing. Weâll go down and listen to the bees, hear them and watch them going back and forth with pollen,â says Paul, adding the humming of the bees and the whiff of honey can be downright therapeutic. âWe really are lucky that this happened at this time,â says Paul. âThings came together for us.â - By Elizabeth Whitten
Free time isn't all it's cracked up to be. Lillian Saunders learned that lesson the hard way this winter, after a fire destroyed The Badger Diner, the restaurant she owned with her husband, Frank, for 35 years. "What do you do with your time when you got nowhere to go?" asks Lillian. "I tell you, it's not nice." So the recent reopening of the beloved eatery - an institution in Central Newfoundland, both for locals and drivers traversing the island - didnât just mark a return to work, it meant a welcome return to life as usual for the Saunders family.The FireIt all started on January 14, as Lillian was closing up shop for the night and heard a strange noise. When she went to investigate, she was horrified to discover the restaurantâs stock room ablaze, sparked by an electrical fire that originated inside the buildingâs walls. With the flames spreading fast, she grabbed two family heirlooms and fled her longtime place of business. Despite the best efforts of fire fighters, within a couple of hours the restaurant - hailed as serving the provinceâs best meal of fish and chips in a contest held by Downhome magazine in 2014 - was reduced to rubble and ashes.Lillian fled her diner in such a hurry, she left behind her coat, car keys and handbag. (Image courtesy the Saunders family)What was left of the Badger Diner following the fire (image courtesy the Saunders family)âThe only thing left standing was the chair that I sat on for the last I donât know how many years,â says Lillian. âEverything was flattened right around itâ¦I should have took a picture.âA few weeks later, Lillian turned 61 - an age when most folks are considering retirement. But instead of calling it quits, she and Frank decided to start over. Already, Lillian was missing her busy days, her staff and her customers. Back in BusinessWhile she says it wasnât feasible to rebuild from the ground up there was, in her opinion, an even better option, and it was just 20 minutes down the road in Grand Falls-Windsor. Lillianâs own parents constructed the building back in 1981, from which they ran a restaurant called Loungâs Garden (Loung being Lillianâs maiden name).âThey came here and they built it and they had an awesome business going,â says Lillian - until the divided highway went through and disrupted traffic flow to the business. Defeated, the Loungâs begrudgingly shuttered their eatery.âMom and Dad always said they wanted to see the place work again,â says Lillian. Although she and Frank eventually purchased the vacant building from her parents and ran it as a bar (called Frankâs Place), she sees its recent transformation back into a restaurant as the true fulfilment of their dream.However, making that dream come true meant a lot hard work - most of which was carried out by Frank and the coupleâs sons. In the months since the fire, the buildingâs interior has undergone extensive renovations. âWe wanted this nice family atmosphere,â says Lillian. âWe wanted somewhere you can bring your family for special occasions.â The newly renovated dining room of The Badger Diner Bar & Grill, located in Grand Falls-Windsor (image courtesy the Saunders family)Itâs a bigger space than the former venue, and itâs got a bigger name to match: The Badger Diner Bar & Grill. âThe town says that they feel I should keep the âBadger Dinerâ because itâs kind of my signature mark in the restaurant business,â says Lillian.Over time, sheâs considering adding some additional menu items, including Jiggsâ dinner on Sundays - but one thing customers can rest assured will be staying exactly the same is her prized fish and chips recipe. âIâm not going to part with that for nothing,â says Lillian proudly. She admits being named the purveyor of the âvery best fish and chips in Newfoundland and Labradorâ four years ago was a boon for her small business. Her award was lost in the fire, but a replacement now sits on a shelf in her new establishment, alongside the two family heirlooms she managed to escape with. Frank and Lillian Saunders pose in the new Badger Diner Bar & Grill. On a shelf behind them sits their award for serving the provinceâs best feed of fish and chips (decided by popular vote in a 2014 contest hosted by Downhome). Beside that is a vase Lillianâs late mother crafted and a Chinese figurine gifted to her by her late father - two precious items she saved from the fire.Several of her original staff members have reprised their roles in the restaurant, for which Lillian is extremely grateful. Sheâs also grateful for the tremendous support sheâs received from her customers. âI canât believe the messages that I got. People messaged me all the time: âWhen are you going to open? Canât wait to see you. I miss you,â and all this,â says Lillian. A contest for restaurant gift certificates held on The Badger Diner Bar & Grillâs Facebook page shortly before opening drew more than 1,000 entrants, and hundreds tuned in to watch the live draw.Back at work since mid-May, she imagines her mother and father, who both passed away six years ago, would be pleased and honoured to see their old restaurant back in business. And it looks like it might just remain in business for at least a few more years yet.âIâve been peeling potatoes since I was five, been working in a restaurant since I was 14, and Iâm 61 now. I might be there till Iâm 70,â says Lillian. âIâm going to give it my all.â - By Ashley Miller
To read the first installment of this series, click here.The tri-motor Fokker 7 seaplane, Friendship, with Amelia Earhart, Bill Stultz and Slim Gordon on board, landed at Trepassey Harbour on June 4, 1928. The crew planned to spend the night and take off for England the next day. But as they sometimes do, plans changed. Next morning a northwest wind gusting to 30 knots kept them moored to the buoy. Trepassey Harbour was very narrow, with high hills on the western shore opposite the town and at the head of the harbour. The only way the plane could take off was down the length of the harbour into a southwest wind. They would need a northwest wind once they were in the air, but not before takeoff. All their observations made them uneasy. The wind continued from the northwest and by afternoon was blowing a gale. Stultz and Gordon used the time to work on the plane. The radio had been cutting out and the oil tank had a small crack. Amelia sent telegrams to George Putnam regarding their progress.On the one hand, they had only lost a day of flying. On the other hand, the delay gave Mabel Boll and Thea Rasche a chance to get into the air ahead of them. The two women were flying âlandâ planes that didnât have the problems a seaplane had with the takeoff. Land planes were faster, could carry heavier loads and were free of the heavy pontoons that had the tendency to âstickâ to the surface of the water, especially when it was calm. It was enough to make the Friendshipâs crew wonder if theyâd chosen the right aircraft for their mission.Although Thea Rasche prepared quietly for her flight, Mabel Boll was all about the publicity. She was loud, flashy and bold - the exact opposite of the woman Amy Guest wanted as the first to cross the Atlantic by air. A few months earlier, something had happened that increased Bollâs determination to beat the Friendship into the air.Bill Stultz had been hired by Boll and her backer, Charles Levine, to fly them in their plane, Columbia, from New York City nonstop to Havana, Cuba. Following the flight, Boll claimed she had hired Stultz for her proposed transatlantic flight and she thought he had accepted. What transpired between them is speculation. What is known is that Commander Byrd encouraged Stultz to accept Amy Guestâs offer because he felt it had a better chance of success. Stultz himself said Bollâs enterprise âsmacked of the circus and unprofessionalism.â Whatever the true story, Amelia, Stultz and Gordon knew Boll was a threat.They also knew she wouldnât sit still for long. She and Levine hired Oliver Le Boutillier as their pilot and Arthur Argyles as copilot to fly the Columbia. On June 5, while the Friendship sat at Trepassey Harbour, the Boll crew waited at Roosevelt Field in Boston for the weather to improve. They planned to take off for Harbour Grace, Newfoundland and then on to England.June 6 was sunny and crisp, but the wind in Trepassey Harbour still blew from the northwest. It began to swing to the south, but James Kimball, at the weather office in New York, reported heavy rain, fog and high winds off the coast of England. They werenât going anywhere that day. Later that afternoon, a New York Times reporter in Trepassey told them Boll was planning to take off from Roosevelt Field the next morning.Although the weather had improved by the next day, a new problem arose for the Friendship crew. They discovered a hole in one of the pontoons. Once it was repaired, they made three attempts to take off, but all failed. Back on shore, they got the news that the Columbia had taken off from Roosevelt Field but had turned back due to fog. Worse, in Ameliaâs mind, was the news in the St. Johnâs Telegram. Thea Rascheâs plane was being delivered to Curtis Field on Long Island and within three days, she would be on her way to Berlin.The next few days brought no improvement in the weather in Trepassey. Amelia wrote in her log, âOur competitors are gaining on us by delay. Rasche is the one to fear. I wish weâd have a break.â They didnât get a break and, in fact, it seemed as if a pattern had been set. When the weather improved, there were problems with the plane - a leak in the oil tank, saltwater in the motors, and pontoons that refused to âlet goâ of the water. When the plane was ready to go, the weather closed in.Just when it seemed things couldnât get worse, another problem arose. Some reporters in Trepassey had alcohol with them. Stultz and Gordon began spending the evenings with them and wandering home in the wee hours of the morning. If the weather kept them on the ground, they slept most of the day. Ameliaâs mood was very low. She wrote in her log, âJob had nothing on us. We are just managing to keep from suicide.âThe worst news came on the evening of June 12. Boll had landed in Harbour Grace, where she was greeted by the whole town and taken to Cochrane House for dinner and a reception. Her pilot, Oliver Le Boutillier, announced theyâd rest for a day or two, then âtackle the Atlantic.âOn Wednesday, June 13, the Friendship made four more attempts to take off. Even with a lightened load of gasoline, the plane couldnât lift off the water. They briefly considered a shorter flight to the Azores, which required less fuel. They could refuel and continue to England. But the organizers and crew felt there were too many unforeseen dangers to implement that option. One piece of good news arrived that day. A dispute over the ownership of Thea Rascheâs plane had forced her to pull out of the transatlantic race.Another three days of bad weather kept the Friendship moored. During this time, Stultzâs drinking remained a concern. Amelia wrote, âJust now the boys are at Paddy Mortonâs and I know the liquor flows.â Then on June 16, Kimball opened a small window of hope. He reported a storm over the Atlantic, âslightly to the south of their route.â He gave them a conditional okay to start the next day.The following morning, Amelia concluded it was now or never - even though Stultz was hungover from the night before. She and Gordon filled Stultz with black coffee and she practically dragged him into a dory and onto the plane. Reporters at the scene overheard her arguing with Stultz, but all agreed Amelia appeared firmly in control.At 11:15 a.m., after two unsuccessful attempts, Amelia decided to lighten their load even more. Byrd had suggested 830 gallons to reach England, but with a tailwind Stultz and Gordon agreed they could cross the Atlantic with 700 gallons and reach Ireland.On the second run with their lighter load, Amelia watched the airspeed indicator as it slowly climbed. âThirty - forty - the Friendship was trying again,â she wrote in her log. âA long pause, then the pointer went to fifty. Fifty, fifty-five, sixty. We were off at last.â At last, on June 17, 1928, the Friendship left Trepassey Harbour. Finally, Mike Jackman could send Ameliaâs coded telegram to George Putnam. âViolet stop cheerio,â meant they were on their way.When Boll heard the Friendship had left, she was stunned. Her pilot had considered the weather report to be only fair and decided to wait for a better one. Boll claimed James Kimball had given them a different weather report than the Friendship received - something Kimball denied. The weather report had only been fair, but Amelia was the difference. On Bollâs plane, the pilot made the decisions. On the Friendship, that responsibility was Ameliaâs. Twenty hours and 40 minutes after leaving Trepassey, Newfoundland, Amelia, Stultz and Gordon landed - not in Ireland, but in Burry Port, Wales.But Amelia wasnât finished with Newfoundland yet. She had only been a passenger on this flight. Next time she wanted to fly the plane herself. Four years later, on May 20, 1932, she would be back in Harbour Grace to do just that. - By Heather StempTune in next month for the details of Ameliaâs solo transatlantic flight from Harbour Grace.