Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Landing In Gander

Gander developed as a refuelling stop for transatlantic flights across the Atlantic and road names such as Alcock Crescent, Earhart Street and Lindbergh Road reflect the importance of its aeronautical history. The increase in modern long range flights which did not need frequent refuelling stops led to a decline in the air traffic landing in Gander, and the former 'Crossroads of the World' has become a relative backwater.  However it came into its own during the 9/11 crisis when North American air space was closed.  Thirty eight civilian and four military flights were ordered to land there, and the town was faced with hosting over 6,600 passengers and air crew who were forced to spend up to six days grounded there.  The local population came up trumps, opening their homes and providing food, accommodation and entertainment.
In my case I landed in Gander to be royally hosted by Marion Quinton-Brake, shown here with her horse Magnum, by the famous Newfoundland pony Skipper of Avalon (see back for photo!) out of a quarter horse mare called Lady....
Marion has written some lovely children's books about Newfoundland ponies and even one about Lady, a chestnut mare like mine, so I had to buy a signed copy!
Albert's front shoes were worn and cracked, though to Dean Rose's credit they were still tight.  Fortuitously Dean was passing through the area, so on Wednesday morning he came to hot shoe both the ponies..
The shoes may have been hot, but the weather was most definitely cold, with sleet and even some flakes of snow. But to prove how changeable Newfoundland weather is, the next day was sunny and even warm at times. 
I had arranged a visit to Change Islands to meet up with journalist Carolyn and visit the Newfoundland Pony Sanctuary there.  Marion and I set off early to catch the morning ferry, but en route Carolyn texted to let us know the ferry had been cancelled.  A big disappointment, but it gave me the chance to tick off another location on my bucket list, which was the Beothuk settlement site at Boyd's Cove.  
The Beothucks were the native inhabitants of Newfoundland at the time the Europeans arrived, and were quite literally the original 'Red Indians' who traditionally daubed themselves with red ochre. Unfortunately by the middle of the nineteenth century they were completely wiped out as a result of contact with Europeans, either directly or indirectly through a combination of persecution, starvation and disease.  With no access to firearms, they stood no chance against attack from European intruders, or the Miqmaq Indians who also frequented parts of the island.   The last known living Beothuk was a young woman Shanawdithit, who died of tuberculosis in 1829.   Sick and starving, Shanawdithit, together with her mother and sister, had sought help from a British trapper, but all subsequently died of disease.  In the woods down to the settlement site stands an evocative statue of Shanawdithit by Newfoundland artist Gerald Squires....... 
The site itself is in a glorious tranquil location on a level piece of land where a small rushing river empties into Notre Dame Bay. In the photo below it can just be seen ringed by trees -
 The three hundred year old site contains the archaeological remains of eleven Beothuk pithouses, which were dwellings composed of a wigwam within a depression.  We basked in the sun at the edge of the site, absorbing the atmosphere and eating the sandwiches which Marion had thoughtfully prepared -bliss.
There was also time for a whistle stop trip up to Twillingate - 'Iceberg Capital of the World'.  To be honest I have seen enough icebergs to last a lifetime, but I suppose one more ...
Marion rounded off my stay in Gander with a little surprise courtesy of her sister-in-law and husband who are actors - they performed a Screech In ceremony to make me an Honorary Newfoundlander. I will not go into full details here, but among other things it involves knocking back a shot of 'Screech' or Newfoundland rum, and kissing a cod, or in my case biting the head off a capelin (not a live one I hasten to add)
Marion and one of her amazing breakfasts...

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