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Dennis Flynn dabbles in a time-honoured, tastebud-approved hobby.
Clever innovations are enhancing experiences for those exploring NL.
Tired of bullying by anti-sealing activists, this group fought back - with biting humour.
The unexpected source of curious cages discovered in the forest.
Rifle through your bag or check your back pocket and, if you're like most people, you'll find a slim phone buried in there. Handy for checking email, taking photos and updating social media - or making a plain old phone call - these devices have certainly changed from the large bricks they used to be. And while they're increasingly criticized for disconnecting us from the real world around us, two innovations are designed to bring us closer to it. A recent visit to Newfoundland and Labrador from the Google Trekker and the creation of the Neighbours app are both aimed at encouraging folks to get out and explore the province - using their smart devices.You Are Virtually HereLast year, people hitting the trails in Maddox Cove and the Codroy Valley might have seen a hiker with a strange contraption towering over her head. That hiker was Megan Lafferty, a conservation biologist with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC); the contraption was the 50-pound Google Trekker, a camera that constantly takes 360Ë photos to create a visual panorama for Google Street View.âOne of our mandates with the Nature Conservancy of Canada is to connect Canadians to nature and weâre always looking for new and diverse ways of doing that,â Megan says. âAnd this seemed like a really great opportunity to partner with Google and kind of get the word out about our properties and allow people to experience them across the country.â Two local trails - the part of the East Coast Trail that runs through Maddox Cove, and the Codroy Valley walking trail - can now be seen on Google Street View.Megan was accompanying another NCC staffer who was travelling through the country mapping trails, and together they shared the responsibility of carrying the large, cumbersome camera. Megan admits it took some getting used to.NCC staffer Luc Thomas helps adjust the Google Trekker on Megan's back. (NCC photo)âIt extends so high above your head, you definitely are a bit more tippy,â she says. âAnd also, because of the way the cameras are set up, if you need to duck to get under something, you canât lean forward âcause thatâll change what the cameras are looking at. So instead you have to do kind of a squat.â And while a change in the weather can dampen any hiking adventure, it really throws a curveball for hikers toting valuable equipment, as Megan can attest.âAt one point we did get some rain and I remember crouching on the path with all of our raingear covering the Trekker as we got soaked, which was kind of funny,â she chuckles.Of course, the Google Trekker drew some inquiring looks from passing hikers. âMost are just curious about what youâre wearing. And itâs funny âcause when youâre wearing the camera you donât really want to stop, âcause again, itâs constantly collecting images,â she says. Anyone with questions about what they were doing were waved off and told there was someone behind her that would explain what she was wearing. Meganâs adventures with the Google Trekker were more than worth it, however, since she believes having the trails virtually accessible online will entice more people to them. âI think itâs aboutâ¦bringing these landscapes to as many people as possible. And so some people may want to see the beautiful landscapes but donât really want to slip and slide along mud on a mucky day.â Now, hikers can see what conditions to expect. âIt can be an information tool or a viewing tool, depending on the audience.â She also hopes that folks from around the world will see the stunning vistas and be compelled to visit.Furthermore, using the Google Trekker and posting trails online is an incredible opportunity to showcase landscapes that might otherwise go unnoticed by both tourists and locals, says Megan. The Grand Codroy Estuary, for instance, is a wetland of international importance, but a lot of people get off the ferry in Port aux Basques and just drive right by it, she says. And for individuals who arenât physically able to get out to these trails, this technology can help them feel like they arenât missing out.Megan still recalls the thrill of hiking the rugged coastline in Maddox Cove for the first time after moving here. âI couldnât believe that I was hiking this trail at the edge of the continent,â she recalls. She hopes her work will entice more people to get out and experience the same thrill she gets in the great outdoors.Meet the âNeighboursâWhile the NCCâs partnership with Google is focused on getting people onto the provinceâs trails, the Neighbours app promotes sites of historical interest around the capital city. Created by Memorial Universityâs Research Centre for Music, Media and Place (MMaP), the app provides intimate glimpses of the cityâs past. As people walk around downtown, the app - which uses GPS - displays a map with icons that, when clicked, share a story about the area where theyâre standing. (Like Google Street View, it can be accessed anywhere.) Thanks to an oral history project that started back in 2009, the MMaP team had an archive of interviews to draw from for the app. They enlisted Chris Brookes, an award-winning radio documentarian, to work on the project. More than 90 interviews were whittled down to 27 stories, each under two minutes in length, and accompanied by community portraits, videos and archival photos. âIt sheds a different light on some of the places we know really well,â says Meghan Forsyth, a professor at MUNâs School of Music who co-produced the app. For example, thereâs an entry about Alexander Pindikowsky, a Polish painter who was serving prison time here in 1880. In exchange for a reduced sentence, he painted the ceilings of the Colonial Building and Government House.Plenty of tales are about local music, culture and tradition, while others highlight the provinceâs diversity. âThereâs this idea about Newfoundland, that itâs always been sort of quite homogenous,â Meghan explains. âBut, in fact, itâs been a place for people whoâve always kind of come and gone. But that part of our history isnât really widely known.â Downtown St. John's (Shawna Holloway photo)The app includes a story from former St. Johnâs resident Bob Button, as he recalls the Portuguese White Fleet and how the sailors got their messages across the language barrier. Bob shares how he made a few bucks procuring wine for the sailors and fetching their stray soccer balls from the water.Meghan says they tried to create a balance in the stories being showcased. Some depict the challenges immigrants faced in NL. Some have a comedic element to them, like the tale submitted by Fumiko Ishiwata, who immigrated to the province with her husband years ago. She talks about how difficult it was to find the groceries she needed to make familiar Japanese food, so she resorted to using Minute Rice. Others arenât so easy to listen to. Near the National War Memorial is the story of an Iranian woman who came to NL for school. âHer story is about her experience wearing the hijab in St. Johnâs, and both the negative aspects that she experienced and also the positive responses that she received,â says Meghan.Users of the app will hear some well-known voices, including politician Lorraine Michael who talks about a store her family owned. Local historian and musician Allan Byrne shares the story of his late aunt and a missed romantic connection with a British naval officer that happened in Bannerman Park. With its myriad of stories, the Neighbours app can serve as an introduction to St. Johnâs for new citizens and tourists, while also helping long-time residents get to know their city more intimately. Itâs free to download and is available through both the App Store and Google Play. - By Elizabeth Whitten
Over time, cod has been tagged with many names - humble, homely, lowly, iconic, famous, mighty and even currency in Newfoundland and Labrador. Then, there was that time when codfish were declared "The Voiceless Ones."It was January 25, 1979, when members of the St. John's Rotary Club announced the formation of the Codpeace Foundation following the clubâs weekly meeting. It was led by businessman and former city councilor Miller Ayre (afterwards known as the Codfather) and John McGrath, plus Craig Dobbin, Bora Merdsoy, Burf Ploughman, Clarence Button and others. They had had enough. Anti-sealing protesters, such as Greenpeace and celebrities like Brigitte Bardot, had pushed too many culturally sensitive buttons by maligning the province and its people. It was retaliation time - with satire. Codpeace became hell-bent on making a mockery of anti-sealers and even high-minded mainlanders. The cod was held up as a cultural image against the cuddly seal and those who vehemently objected to seal hunting as inhumane. Members pledged they would not rest as long as one cod life was in danger. The cod warriorsâ motto was âIn Cod We Trust,â and âNewfoundland is Codâs Countryâ was often used as a slogan.In a recent phone conversation with Miller Ayre (pictured left), now retired and speaking from Florida, he recalls his Codpeace days and how the foundation and his fiery speech that spawned it were really âaccidental.â The designated speaker that day, Premier Frank Moores, had bowed out at the last minute and Ayre was called upon to fill in. The topic he chose just happened to be top of mind.âMy friends and I had been chatting about how to respond to all the activities thrown at us by Greenpeace and other animal rights groups; and having watched the serious academic responses going nowhere, as it wasnât dealing with emotional concerns,â he explains. What was intended as a frivolous satirical response, however, grew into a grander plan and Codpeace became a household name.âIt got a lot of publicity at the time and it just took off, with Codverts calling to volunteer and donate. Those who believed deeply in Newfoundland culture and were angry and upset by Greenpeace and others finally saw some opportunity to blunt the continuous abuse and negativity our province was getting on the international scene.âThe movement garnered a lot of attention across Canada and Ayre was continuously doing newspaper and radio interviews. âEven though it was satire, it had a serious intent and people got the point,â he says.Codpeace held a news conference on February 3, 1979, in which Ayre strongly asserted his CODmandoes were âcategorially and inalterably opposed to the barbaric atrocities committed against the magnificent denizen of the deep - that sentient, intelligent, loveable creature, the cod - being savaged by these seals.â A classic example of Codpeace satire (Courtesy Jim Winters)The cod warriors also unveiled an underwater video, entitled "The Jaws of Death," which showed seals mercilessly attacking the provinceâs cod daughters. In Shakespearian mode, they warned, âBeware of the hides of March.âThe young Ayre rallied supporters to dig deep to fight the despicable seals and send in their âmotherâs allowance, your social assistance cheque, your unemployment cheque, widowâs allowance, pocket money, your piggy bank and cash under your mattress.âMembership in Codpeace was open to anyone with a âlove of the noble codâ and the $5 required to help finance various cod-preserving projects. Members were subscribed to a humorous newsletter as well as bumper stickers and buttons. They were also guaranteed their names would be shouted out three times before a seal is killed, and in the spring theyâd be invited to Festival of the Easter Seal and the Yum Flipper Feast.A real media circusOnce launched, the movement went into high gear, even engaging in outlandish stunts to protect the precious fish. They invented spokespersons to make public appearances: Dr. Cod au Gratin, Captain Jacques Codstew (and his Cod-lypso ship) and the Codfather himself. One of the most outrageous capers was the landing of Dr. Cod au Gratin on the seal front, 140 nautical miles offshore from St. Anthony, in top hat and tails to act as ring master of the media circus surrounding the seal harvest.While the dramatic scene easily made intentional press, Ayre explains he had four hours to get a top hat and tails to the ice floes. He ended up calling a funeral home in Corner Brook. âIt was that kind of response Codpeace got, no hemming and hawing - you just called someone and it got done,â he says.Codpeace is still remembered in some parts for its cod-kissing contest and a public kiss-off. Among its celebrity supporters was flamboyant St. Johnâs Mayor Dorothy Wyatt, who posed for a smooch with a real codfish. Then St. John's mayor Dorothy Wyatt kisses a codfish for Codpeace in 1979. (Courtesy Jim Winters)The cod warriors took the show on the road, delighting audiences across the island with the hijinks of Cuddles, their giant pink baby cod mascot, pursued by the voracious Eric Von Harp Seal. Tommy and Connie cod were also part of the larger cod family, which included Codfather, Codmother and, of course, The Fairy Codmother.Whenever Cuddles (a costumed member of Codpeace) appeared, the Codpeace Song was sung to the tune of âOde to Newfoundlandâ:How can you be so cod-descendingThe protest groups slander us with such seal;They cry that the harp is so helpless and lovelyDonât you know the codis their favourite mealOn the surface they might look cute and cuddlyBut deep down underneath, theyâre savage and cruel.Oh, the sea it is filled with the tears and sad storiesHeartbroken codfathers and codmothers, tooCodpeace and the White House In the three to four months that Codpeace lasted, there were many memorable and zany moments.In a recent interview, St. Johnâs resident Jim Winters (pictured left), who refers to himself as a periphery founding member, recalls two of his favourite memories from the many far-out antics pulled off by the Codpeacers. The first was the tuxedoed ring master on the ice during the seal hunt. The second was a call placed to the White House in Washington, DC during an ACODemy Awards Dinner at the Holiday Inn. Codpeace threatened to steal into the capital and capture the great Presidential Seal of America if then President Jimmy Carter (Codder) didnât overturn a congressional resolution condemning the annual seal hunt off Newfoundland.âOf course, the staff at the White House couldnât risk that this was not a serious scheme and so, kept the conversation going,â Winters says. âThat telephone conservation was absolutely hilarious!â Winters also remembers attending a publicity stunt with his young daughter, Keilan, where a bright yellow helicopter landed in Bannerman Park. Out came perky Cuddles carrying the great American seal. Codpeace informed the crowd the seal (a round plaque about a metre in diameter bearing the eagle symbol) had been removed from the nearby door of the former US consulate building. (Of course, it was just a replica, used in the satire.)One publicity stunt had Codpeace airlift their mascot "Cuddles" into Bannerman Park via helicopter to make an appeal to the American president. (Courtesy Jim Winters)At the park, Codpeace issued a diplomatic request to the American president: âIn the spirit of goodwill, the president is asked to return the sealskin coat confiscated by his customs officers from a recent Canadian delegate to the US. If the president does not comply with the request of Codpeace, the great seal of the United States will spend the rest of its life juggling balls in a travelling circus somewhere on the East Coast of Canada.â (Telegram - February 23, 1979)Assessing Codpeace Codpeaceâs run was over before 1979 was, but it made its mark in history. In the years since, Ayre had an impressive career as an esteemed businessman and publisher and he was bestowed the Order of Canada and a Doctor of Laws degree from Memorial University. His involvement in Codpeace was noted in the oratory speech at the MUN convocation in 2007. The Codfather was applauded for catching âthe attention of the worldâs press using his wicked, satirical wit to expose the sensationalist rhetoric of the celebrity seekers of the day.âFrom his vantage point, Winters concludes that the success of the club at the time lay with the fact it stood up to challenge a cultural wrong. âThese groups and individuals need to be combated forever and a day in quest of our dignity of character. No people should have to put up with being vilified.âToday, though, it seems Greenpeace and its supporters are still getting the last laugh. Greenpeace survives with the whitecoat still as its potent mascot, while the 1979 Codpeace uprising is but a memory. Further, seals have multiplied, while cod stocks have suffered a near-collapse, as they simply were not cuddly.Still, the Codpeace days are regaled as Newfoundland politics at its best - when even the elite townies were cheering for the dignity and sustainability of our noble cod. It was a time when our beloved fish was revived as a proud cultural symbol to fight the good fight. And it is tempting to imagine that had the cod commotion been sustained, it may have successfully thwarted the ecological and cultural savagery inflicted by the cod moratorium and delivered âThe Voiceless Onesâ their long-awaited peace. - By Kim Ploughman
"Poachers," my brother said as we sized up the array of cages tucked into the underbrush a short distance off the trail. We had hiked past the location once already, but now, as we were making our way back down the trail, something caused us to glance off to the side.Newfoundland is a perfect location for a good mystery; with a history as diverse as ours, set on an island, how can it not be? When you go for a walk in the woods and find something completely unexpected, what you first assume to be true has just as much likelihood of being wrong as it does of being right. This was the case last August, when a hike on a trail in Central Newfoundland introduced us to something truly mysterious.We pushed through the brush to get a better view of the cages, some tall and round, others rectangular and much closer to the ground, all of them apparently homemade from small pieces of lumber and chicken wire. âIf it is poachers,â I said, âtheyâre teaching it at MUN now.â Tucked into the wire mesh of the cages were laminated cards explaining that what we had stumbled upon was not the illegal taking of animals as it certainly appeared from a distance, but in fact an experiment being conducted by the geography department of Memorial University of Newfoundland. Scott Lilley photoThe most curious element of what weâd discovered was that the cages werenât there to contain animals; they seemed geared more towards keeping them out. Along with twigs and dead leaves that had fallen from the forest canopy, they held fibre flower pots half-buried in the ground. Some pots looked empty while others contained a seedling of some sort - new green life pushing up through the detritus of the forest floor. We also found more flower pots similarly dug in nearby, outside the cages. Along with crediting the work to the university and a request that the site remain undisturbed, the card contained contact information and an invitation to get in touch if curious. We definitely were that and soon fired off an email to Piers Evans, the name on the card. Piers, we learned, is working towards his masterâs degree in biogeography, the study of plants and animals and how they are distributed and move through a landscape. This field of study has risen in importance with the growing evidence of climate change, and this is what forms the basis of Piersâ work. Under the guidance of his supervisor, Dr. Carissa Brown, and as a part of the team at the Northern EDGE (Ecology of Distributions at their Geographic Extreme) Lab at Memorial, his research is focused on four species of trees: yellow birch, black ash, eastern white cedar and sugar maple. It is believed that with a warming climate, plant and animal species should be able to move northward into higher latitudes. âThe climate of Newfoundland is arguably sufficient to support populations of these species, so my work is to try to understand what else might be keeping them from being successful at germinating and surviving their first growing season beyond their native range,â explained Piers in an email. To that end, he is studying the types of forest and soil the trees are planted in and whether or not the seeds are being eaten by wildlife. This explained the pots that were placed outside the security of the cages. The Northern EDGE Lab is involved with other joint studies in Europe, Australia and South America, and although they are not a part of his current work, Piersâ experiment does cover a fair bit of ground. With the help of field assistants, Piers placed the first of his cages in 2015 and has since expanded theterritory he is studying to include eight locations across the island. His studied area extends from a site near St. Johnâs on the east coast to the Stephenville area on the west coast, with six others in between; the one we happened to find in central Newfoundland was not far from the town of Badger. Heâs been collecting the data generated from his experiment since 2016, and the preliminary results are indicating that the cages are needed for the survival of the species - the seeds outside their protection are being eaten by squirrels, mice and other animals. âIn the case of the sugar maple, this is almost certainly due to the fact that the seeds are so much larger and more nutritious than boreal speciesâ seeds,â Piers writes.Scott Lilley photoNewfoundland, being an island, is isolated from many of the influences that may affect similar species on the mainland. In spite of this, the results that Piers comes up with will be valuable, not only in understanding the Newfoundland environment but further afield as well. âMy results will also be applicable to the ongoing research around the world into how organisms (trees included) may redistribute themselves with changes in the environment due to climate change,â he explains.Since my brother and I made our discovery, Piers has removed most of the cages and begun the detailed data analysis. For us, the solution to our mystery was easily revealed with an email to Piers. He now has a much more difficult one to solve. âCurrently I am working through the data to identify the key drivers that are inhibiting these speciesâ ability to germinate and survive their earliest stages of life. Once I have figured out the story these seeds are trying to tell me, Iâll write it up, and that will be the final chapter of my thesis,â he writes.As climate change progresses, changes to the environment and the creatures that call it home will be inevitable and the work of scientists such as Piers will help us all have a better understanding of whatâs going on and possibly whatâs ahead for the forests of Newfoundland and beyond. - By Robert Lilley
Man O'War Ridge is silent under deep blue skies as it looms beyond the craggy crevasse known to locals as Crow's Gulch and, as far as the eye can see, not a breath of wind disturbs the placid waters of Colliers Harbour. It is a proverbial large day in mid-March (2017) - and the perfect conditions for my planned activity. I watch as 74-year-old John McWilliam, clad in the ubiquitous red-plaid shirt of woodsmen everywhere, pours off the harvest of maple sap from his six tapped trees. Streaming into a larger bucket, the liquid will be boiled down over several hours into maple syrup. John recalls being gifted the trees as very skinny seedlings back around 1984. He planted them himself, and today the largest of those maple trees tower above nearby telephone poles.We while away an enjoyable afternoon going through the process (along with Johnâs daughter, Tina). It is the very first time any of us have made maple syrup. Nursing warm cups of coffee in the lee of the trees while the fragrant sap boils away on an outdoor burner, John remarks, âIt is really something; I never would have believed that when I planted those little trees all those years ago they would grow big enough to make maple syrup from them. It is not all that hard to do, just check the buckets daily so they donât overflow, really, and then boil it all down when you have enough. It has been fun.âJohn McWilliam and his daughter, Tina, with the maple syrup they made from their own tree sap.At the end of the season I check back and learn that John and Tina continued collecting sap until April 9 - and ended up making about 5.25 litres of delicious syrup, which they gave to grateful family and friends. Thatâs a whole lot of maple syrup - but itâs only a drop in the bucket when you consider how much of it is mass-produced in Canada: 40 million litres annually, enough to fill 17 Olympic-size swimming pools. According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, that boils down to approximately 75 per cent of the worldâs maple syrup supply. Itâs produced on more than 10,000 maple farms, more than 70 per cent of which are in Quebec.Regardless how much of it you make, however, the rudimentary process remains the same and is referred to as âsugaring.â It involves boiling sap from trees to evaporate most of the water content, thus creating concentrated sugar syrup. A simple candy thermometer will tell you when the syrup is ready, and consumer kits provide very straightforward directions for beginners.Maple Syrup SchoolTo find out more about the local syrup scene I attended the third annual Maple Festival at the North Bank Lodge in Pippy Park last April, where I met organizing committee member Steve McBride. The St. Johnâs resident is passionate about food security, and is perhaps best known around town as the owner of several goats, beloved pets kept for fresh milk and companionship. Thanks to the Maple Festival, Steve is also becoming known for making maple syrup.âWe have been making our own syrup in St. Johnâs for the past eight years, but about four years ago we began working in cooperation with Pippy Park to teach maple syrup workshops, and that has now culminated in a celebration of maple syrup culture, which is the festivalâ¦âPeople can come and we teach them about maple syrup and how to make it, the tapping process, what the equipment looks like, how to tap a tree, and it is really a back-to-basics approach,â says Steve. âWe hang a bucket on a tree just like they used to do in the 1800s, and that is the method we use up here in Pippy Park in our community maple grove. We tap about 70 trees here, which is enough to make the syrup that we share at the festival.âA crowd gathers in Pippy Park for a maple tree tapping demonstration.Maple tree sap is boiled down to make syrup during the 2017 Maple Festival at Pippy Park in St. John's.Steve says the provinceâs weather makes it a good place to practise the hobby, even though Newfoundland and Labrador typically doesnât have the really large sugar maples found in other provinces.âOn the mainland the tapping season lasts about two weeks, but here the conditions [below freezing at night and above freezing in the day] linger and we can have a tapping season as long as eight weeks. So the trees are smaller and the flow is slower, but the longer season makes up for it.âHe says any type of maple tree can be tapped - not just the sugar maple (though sugar maples are generally better at sap production). A typical yield, he adds, is about 40 to one, meaning 40 litres of sap will result in one litre of maple syrup. âThis explains why real maple syrup is so expensive to buy in a store. It is a little bit labour intensive and does take a fair amount of time to make,â he says. Given all of this, I wonder why so many are drawn to making their own. For Steve, a variety of factors make the effort more than worthwhile.âI like the fact that it connects you to the trees. I like the fact that it tastes better. Of course, here in Newfoundland March is a kind of tough month for people. We have windstorms, we have snowstorms,â says Steve. âMaking syrup kind of fills that gap while we are waiting for winter to end and allows us to get outside and start doing things.â And since store-bought syrup costs three times more than tapping your own, he points out itâs also economical. The Friends of Pippy Park sells six taps (called âspilesâ) for about $20, which can produce enough syrup to last all year. Many local businesses and mail order companies sell starter kits complete with several taps, buckets, hangers, covers, the proper drill bit and instructions for $100-$200.While the resulting maple syrup may be reward enough, festival patrons share with me multitudes of other uses for the sweet stuff: maple butter, maple wine, maple taffy, plus recipes for maple-based waffles, pancakes, popcorn, salmon and chicken - just to name a few. Among the unconventional uses for maple syrup - wine.Maple syrup makes many things taste better, including salmon.In addition to the demonstrations, last yearâs festival featured free hot chocolate, samples, a tasting competition (open to members of the public to enter their syrup for good-natured judging) and a performance by The Teddy Bear Man, Terry Rielly.The maple syrup workshops and festival are free to attend, though donations are graciously accepted. Future plans for the park include a new sugar shack, where folks can prepare their maple syrup in a communal setting.Whether boiling it down in your own backyard, or enjoying the sweet atmosphere of fun and friends at a festival, makers of maple syrup have really tapped into something good. - Story & photos by Dennis FlynnFor news on this year's festival, visit: facebook.com/friendsofpippypark.
Like his father before him, Ray Dalton is a fisherman. At the age of five he earned his first paycheque catching capelin, which he used to buy hockey equipment and school clothes. Growing up there was nothing Ray wanted more than to go fishing, and that passion hasnât waned with age.âFishing has never really been like work to me. Thank God I was able to make a living out of it,â Ray says from his home in Witless Bay, NL. His life is committed to the fishery, but he isnât sure where the industry is headed with the threat of climate change hanging over his head. âOur quotas are really diminished now compared to what we used to have. It has a lot to do with climate change. Itâs all to do with it actually, I think.âFishermen are talking and worrying about climate change, he says. âItâs always coming up. And we see it, like with our crab and our shrimp. Our crab is diminishing every year âcause the water's getting warm. Crab needs colder water, thatâs what they reproduce in. And the waterâs got to be a certain temperature and weâre not reaching those temperatures anymore.â He warns,ââ¦if we lose the crab, thatâs our fisheryâ¦we canât make it.âThe Newfoundland and Labrador fishery has already faced near devastation. Years of overfishing the prime resource led to the province-wide cod moratorium in 1992, ending 500 years of fishing and putting about 30,000 people out of work. It forced a restructuring of the industry in order to save it. Now the focus is on climate change. âEveryoneâs trying to figure it out, but I mean itâs just no one really knows because I guess we havenât dealt with this before,â Ray says. In a province where approximately 5,400 people make their living from the fishery, climate change poses an environmental and economic disaster.A Looming ThreatThe reality of climate change is something that keeps Brett Favaro (pictured below) up at night, and during the day he studies it. Heâs a research scientist at the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland and author of The Carbon Code: How You Can Become a Climate Change Hero.Heâs not surprised that fishermen like Ray are worried. âPeople who live off the land are the first ones to see changes in the land. And itâs such a powerful thing when somebody was a multigenerational fishermen and theyâre seeing these problems,â Brett says.As the ocean heats up the ice melts, which increases the amount of freshwater in the ocean and causes water levels to rise. Warm water also takes up more space, so the ocean is also getting deeper. And through chemical reactions, the ocean is becoming more acidic.âAnd thatâs bad news if youâre a crab, because crabs, and all crustaceans, have a calcium carbonate exoskeleton,â Brett explains, âWhich in English means something that dissolves in acid. So if the water gets more acidic, it gets really hard for them to form their shells. And thatâs bad news if you like to eat crab, and itâs really bad news if youâre a fish and you eat crustaceans to survive, because your whole food web is disrupted.âThereâs also deoxygenation to contend with. Fish breathe oxygen like do humans, just with gills instead of lungs. âWith climate change, itâs actually sucking the oxygen right out of the ocean,â Brett explains. So fish have to work harder to get that single breath. âTheyâll move. Theyâll try to find that cold water, right, becauseâ¦fish arenât stupid. They arenât going to sit there and die.âAnd thatâs bad news if youâre a fisherman, because chances are that thing you were trying to fish is now moving further offshore, itâs moving away. Itâs going somewhere other than where it was before.âAnd what happens when fish have to work harder to get a breath, or a crab has to work harder to make its shell? The environment is changing faster than it has in the past and these creatures might not be able to adapt quickly enough to survive. âMaybe a crab can survive acidification, but can it survive acidification and warming? Can it survive acidification and warming and a lack of oxygen? Can it do all these things while weâre fishing it?â Brett asks. âThis is the issue.âRay Dalton and his crew catch crab off the shores of NL. (Courtesy Ray Dalton)Humans have had a huge impact on the health of the ocean, from the amount of fish thatâs been caught to the plastic and carbon thatâs ended up in the water. We canât blame everything on climate change, he explains, but it does mean we have less room for error.Brett recently wrote The Carbon Code, a guide for how individuals can confront climate change. People can reduce their carbon footprint through actions like eating less meat and biking to work, but he also wants people to talk about it, like telling people how great it is to bike to work and not have to pay car insurance. âYou can get excited about this stuff. Itâs not about ânotâ doing things, itâs more about doing things, but doing them better,â Brett says. And it doesnât have to be super expensive, it can be sound, sensible infrastructure investments that save money, like building houses with more insulation or using LED lights.âI think just the most important thing here is whatever people are good at, whatever they do, whatever interests them; figure out how you can bring that skill to the climate fight. I donât care if you write poetry, if youâre an engineer, if youâre a finance person. Thereâs something you can do better than a lot of other people, and you need to figure out how to bring that in because this is a siege.âThereâs no easy way to combat climate change; itâs going to require a huge societal change, from how we produce our food to transportation to energy production. âThese are all things weâre going to have to reexamine if weâre going to make it through the next century with a high standard of living,â Brett says. - By Elizabeth Whitten
On an average morning during the work week, Maxina Hunt shepherds her five dogs into the back of a Jeep for the drive to Clarenville's Community Vet Hospital, where they'll spend the day with her at work, âCan you believe it?â she laughs. âI am pretty lucky there.âA vet with almost 20 years experience, Maxina was lured to Newfoundland and Labrador from Ontario seven years ago through a tourism campaign. Luckily, there was a temporary vet position in Stephenville, so Maxina decided to head there for a few weeks. âI wasnât even off the boat in Port aux Basques and I said, âThatâs it, Iâm dying here,ââ she recalls. She returned to Ontario, closed her practice and relocated to NL until 2013. After a couple of years away, she was lured back again.A lifelong lover of animals, in 2016 Maxina (pictured left) founded North Atlantic Remote Veterinary Services (NARVS) and recently spoke to Downhome about the organization. It all started a few years ago when she got involved with Chinook, a group based in PEI where veterinarians, along with final year vet students, head to remote areas up north to spay and neuter dogs. Maxina wanted to create a similar group in Newfoundland and Labrador, and NARVS was born. Their first excursion was to Hopedale, on Labradorâs remote north coast, in 2016. âOur group basically provides the fundamental basics for people that otherwise canât afford it or are geographically isolated,â says Maxina.âIf I won a million dollars tomorrow, Iâd be doing this full time. Because you go up there and people are so happy that youâre there, they are so grateful that youâre thereâ¦theyâre so happy that, you know, finally their dog can stop having puppies.âMembers of NARVS volunteer their personal time to travel to Labrador to set up clinics, each of which is authorized by the Newfoundland and Labrador College of Veterinarians. Over the course of a few days, theyâll spay and neuter dogs, as well as administer vaccinations and deworming treatments. They also treat any minor ailments, like ear infections, they discover. To accomplish all that, they must bring with them about $15,000 worth of equipment, including an $8,000 anesthetic machine.NARVS doesnât charge any fees for the care they provide, so Maxina and her team are always looking for donations. Theyâre continually raising funds through efforts like raffles and online auctions, the details of which can be found on the groupâs Facebook page. Maxina hopes NARVS will have charity status soon. Maxina and a vet assistant spay a dog at a no-cost spay/neuter clinic organized by the Clarenville SPCA. (All photos courtesy Maxina Hunt)Itâs a lofty undertaking but, considering the alternative, itâs more than worth it. Tragically, when isolated places become overpopulated with feral canines, sometimes communities resort to dog shoots. After a dog bit a child in Natuashish in 2013, for instance, a cull was organized. It was eventually called off (due to public outcry), and a number of dogs were evacuated and re-homed. One of those dogs went home with Maxina.âHonestly, this dog, heâs the sweetest dog you could ever have,â she says. In addition to their work in Labrador, NARVS has also partnered with Feral Felines Rescue and Rehabilitation, a group that cares for cats that live near dumpsites. Captured cats were brought to the clinic and neutered/spayed. And in the fall NARVS and the Clarenville SPCA hosted a low-cost spay/neuter clinic for low-income pet owners in the area.In March, NARVS will turn its attention back to Labrador, with a clinic planned for Natuashish. Dogs are a big part of family life in the north, and Maxinaâs hope is that if enough of these dogs are spayed and neutered, the population can be controlled - and dog shoots can become a thing of the past. âItâs scratching at the surface,â says Maxina. âBut weâre scratching.â - By Elizabeth Whitten
Everything in Newfoundland and Labrador begins with cod. It is the most important thing. At least, that's the patriotic mantra of social entrepreneur Zita Cobb of Fogo Island Inn fame. And she might be right.For one thing, even the popular, yet controversial, Screech-in has a direct lineage to our famous fish. For centuries, Newfoundland and Labrador's salted fish went to the British West Indies on schooners as part of the historic triangular trade. On the return run, back came the Screech rum, which became the traditional drink of Newfoundlanders.The rum eventually served as the sacred potion in the Screech-in ceremonies carried out, tongue in cheek, to bestow Come from Aways (CFAs) with honorary Newfoundlanders status. And if it werenât for the Screech-ins, Newfoundland and Labradorâs fifth premier, Clyde Wells, would not have had to issue a decree about the indignity of kissing the dirty olâ cod. It resulted in the shredding of about 4,000 Screech-in certificates and created quite a stir at the time. Not in My NameIn the early 1990s, Newfoundland and Labradorâs premier was a respected corporate lawyer. Premier Wells had many serious matters to contend with - severe provincial economic hardships, the Meech Lake constitutional battle and a looming resource crisis - all of which he tackled head on. The codâs head was no different.St. Johnâs native Simon Lono was a young staffer in the newly minted administration. He recalls how the famous story unfolded.âI poked around the office registry and discovered a huge stack of official Newfie Screech-in certificates. I was told by the office registrar that the practice was to have them signed by the premier and send them out upon request to anyone who asked. That policy had been in place for as long as she knew,â he says, noting that sheâd been working there a long time.A rare photo of a gathering of five premiers, taken in 1990. (l-r): Tom Rideout, Frank Moores, Joey Smallwood, Clyde Wells and Brian Peckford (Kim Ploughman photo)As soon as Wells became aware certificates were going out in his name, he gutted the practice, ordering all of them destroyed. Wells, apparently, had always found the ceremony offensive and belittling to tourists, not to mention that it could be perceived as government endorsing the glorified role of alcohol in our culture.When Lono dug deeper, he discovered the certificates were, in fact, sanctioned and issued by the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation (NLC). When Wells was informed of this, he also demanded the NLC shred the âRoyal Order of Screechersâ certificates that bore his signature. It is not known how many were issued before the command was sent out from the premierâs office. Edsel Bonnell, now 82, was Premier Wellsâ chief of staff and remembers the Screech-in policy change. He was in the premierâs camp on this directive. âI recall that the previous government had made Screech-ins virtually an official ritual, ordained by government, which poor unsuspecting (and many timid) visitors had to endure,â Bonnell says. âWhile civic organizations and bar-owners have every right to hold Screech-ins if they so desire, we felt it was inappropriate to make visiting VIPs and unwilling tourists kiss a cod and slug down a heavy shot of rum (especially if they may be allergic to fish or are non-drinkers or recovering alcoholics).â He adds that they didnât outlaw Screech-ins, the government just removed itself from any formal association with them. History of Screech-InsThe story is that the Demerara rum coming from the south was given the name Screech after an American swallowed a sip and reacted to the alcoholâs bite with an ungodly screech. As for the ceremony, today it is well acknowledged that the Screech-in was invented sometime in the 1970s.Credit for popularizing the rite is often given to a teacher, Merle Vokey, who was looking to entertain a conference of Atlantic teachers in 1976. He devised a ritual that involved a shot of Screech, eating a Newfoundland food (usually bologna), swearing an oath and smooching a cod. Vokey, however, has credited the ceremonyâs roots to the American bases in Newfoundland, with staff at the old Bella Vista Club designing the original ceremony for their Tourist Night. Names associated with the Bella Vista ritual include Joan Morrissey, Frank Healey and Joe Murphy. Former CBC journalist Roger Bill wrote a doctoral dissertation on the subject, and credits Fred Walsh, who worked for decades at the Argentia naval base, as one of the main founders.By the 1980s, the NLC adopted Merle Vokeyâs Screech-in ritual as a way to market its Newfoundland Screech rum.The 1990 Backlash After Premier Wells got fired up about the certificates and the ceremonies perpetuating Newfoundland stereotypes, it sparked a war of words in opinion sections of local newspapers.On the opposing side were folks who, like Wells, felt the Screech-in was a mockery of Newfoundland culture. The rite has been described as hateful, degrading, insufferable, loathsome, embarrassing and corny. The Heritage Coalition of Newfoundland, headed by Lieutenant-Governor James McGrath, raised concerns about the public display of the Newfoundland image, calling upon government to find a replacement rite in a March 26, 1990, Telegram article.A decade later, the arguments against it roared on. In a 2001 Telegram letter to the editor, author and former talk show host Bill Rowe described Screech-ins as âcliche-ridden, shallow, boozy, stereotypical tripe.âThere have been others all along, however, who agree with a former editor of Downhome, Vince Hempsall, who upon his farewell editorial in 2001, proclaimed his passion for the quirky custom.âI love Screech-ins! I love getting Screeched-in. In fact, I have no less than four Royal Order of the Screechers certificates and Iâve attended dozens of ceremonies. Iâm the most honorary Newfoundlander you can find and I take pride in the title. So I find it surprising when real Newfoundlanders say they detest the tradition.âWhile the ceremony is still highly contentious, it is also hugely popular and has become a boon for the bars, especially those on George Street. Says Lono, âSure there are always the bars that highlight them, but I think tourists are more sophisticated today. They look at Newfoundland and Labrador differently than they did 28 years ago.â - By Kim Ploughman
The Heart's Content Lighthouse was erected on Northern Point in 1901. Connected by a covered passageway was once a dwelling house, which was home for those who kept the light. John Warren grew up in Heart's Content and hails from a long line of lighthouse keepers. In fact, his father, Hubert Warren, was born and raised in the dwelling house (demolished in the 1940s). John, a retired teacher who holds a Master of Arts in Folklore from Memorial University, recounted his familyâs lightkeeping heritage one afternoon in his home in Heartâs Content. âBarzillia Budden, he was my grandfatherâs brother-in-law. He was the first lightkeeper. And when he relinquished the post, he passed it over to my grandfatherâs other brother-in-law, Robert Piercy. My grandfather, John Warren, after 25 years he retired from fishing in Labrador, and he assumed responsibility for the lighthouse in 1911. So then after he passed on, my dad Hubert Warren took it over in the â40s. Then my dad passed on in 1958, and my mom Selena Warren took it over,â explains John.John Warren of Heart's Content, NLJohnâs father died young, so John doesnât remember his fatherâs stories of the lighthouse. He does, however, recall the stories his mother and others repeated that Hubert told to them.âWhen Dad was a young boy and Grandfather took over the lighthouse, see, there was a flag down there on the lighthouse, and you put the flag up every morning. And ships came back and forth here all the timeâ¦so Grandfather went up the harbour, and he told Dad, who was a young boy, to put up the flag. And Dad, I suppose not used to it, he put the flag up upside-down - which is an international sign of distress,â says John. âSo Grandfatherâs walking down the harbour and he saw this big ship stopped just below the lighthouseâ¦And when he got closer he saw the flag was upside-down. Well, boy, he was mad. Apparently a good thing he never found Dad that day; Dad would have got a trimming.â John has vivid memories of the tasks his mother, Selena, did regularly after the lighthouse was hooked up to electricity in 1931.âWhat she used to do, there was those old-fashioned light switches, like a square âu,â remember the old-fashioned kind? Thereâd be one in the kitchen. Every evening sheâd pull along a chair, get up in the chair, push up the switch and turn on the light on the lighthouse. Every evening just before dark - duckish, weâd say. And then every morning when she got up, the first thing sheâd do is get up, push along the chair, pull the switch down. And she was at that until the late â60s, I think, when she passed it over to Herb Crocker,â recalls John.Although John never had the opportunity to man the lighthouse himself, he was responsible for helping his mother with various tasks, as was common in many households in the past.âWhen my mom had control of the lighthouse and I was a young man, I suppose young teenagerâ¦the government would send out the polish, to polish the brass, because thereâs a lot of brass up there, which helps reflect the light. And that used to have to be polished and cleaned. So she used to send me down with the rags and the can of stuff to clean the brass.â Today, the Heartâs Content Lighthouse is fully automated. It was designated a Recognized Federal Heritage Building in 1990 because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental value. Click here to listen to the full interview with John Warren (via MUN Digital Archives).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 firstname.lastname@example.org, call 1-888-739-1892 ext 2, or visit www.collectivememories.ca.