If ever there was a place that made humans earn the right to live amid the natural beauty, it is Newfoundland.
Even in late June, a chill wind can blow dense sea fog onto the coast, and thick gray skies hide the sun. Laundry whips on backyard clotheslines. Icebergs glide to the Atlantic coastline. Shrinking within layers of outerwear, an off-islander has to contemplate the tenacity of the early settlers.
For a couple of centuries, hundreds of villages of two- and three- room houses were occupied along the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Atlantic coasts. Fishers worked there during the spring and summer, from before dawn to after dark.
The men would row out in their small, open dories, putting in and taking out lobster traps, putting out and hauling in nets of cod and salmon. Wives and children worked on shore, salting and drying the cod to preserve it, gathering wood for the fires in the dozens of tiny coastline salmon canneries.
“It was cod that brought them here, it was cod that kept them,” says Newfoundland native and motel operator Bill Maynard, speaking about the island’s Gulf of St. Lawrence coastal residents.
But now, because of overfishing, there are too few cod… Consequently, more than 20,000 former commercial fishers from Newfoundland are receiving subsidies from a government program that already has cost $1-billion more than estimated.
Other fishermen have taken mining or petroleum jobs thousands of miles away, in the western provinces. And many of the island’s teenagers also consider their futures may be found by leaving the island their elders call “The Rock’.