Sunday, 25 August 2013

A Poor, Bald Rock

It's early here in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. I awoke even earlier, driven out of slumber at 4:00 AM by the pain in my shoulder and a full bladder. Fortunately I managed to get back to sleep for a few more hours. Here in Corner Brook I am in the Newfoundland Time Zone, that odd little snippet of standard times zones, the system of time adjustment developed by Scottish-born Canadian Sir Sanford Fleming  in 1879 in order to solve scheduling problems for the CPR.

In Canada, thanks to the CBC's unwillingness to do a time adjusted schedule for this thinly settled province, everything is "half an hour later in Newfoundland"; it's time zone is UTC - 3:30, three and a half hours earlier than Greenwich, England and a half hour later than the rest of the Maritimes. Canada's other time zones are Atlantic, Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific; each of them separated by an hour. In other words, 7:30 AM here in Corner Brook is 3:00 AM back in Vancouver. It's a big country and I am closer to London right now than I am to home.

Joey Smallwood, the premier who negotiated the permanent ferry link as an article of Newfoundland's joining the Canadian Confederation in 1949, famously, or infamously if you will, described Newfoundland as "my poor, bald rock". "The Rock" has become permanentem referuntur here in Canada when discussing our eastern-most province. It's an apt description that springs immediately to mind as you arrive on the ferry from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to the small outport of Port aux Basques, NL. The solid rock shore rumbles up out of the Atlantic, sparse and bare at the shoreline, covered with only a bit of moss, some short grass and a few frightened bushes swept hard by the incessant winds. Not all of Newf is barren like this, just lots of it.

As you leave Port aux Basques the highway weaves along the coast, just enough inland to find a fairly steady run of rock and bog on which to build a road with minimal bridging. One of the advantages of moving inland is that there are trees, safe from the battering wind. Here, as in the rest of the Maritimes, the trees are short, spindly affairs suited only for pulp. In fact the main industry here in Corner Brook is the pulp and paper mill, a struggling survivor often held aloft by direct government subsidy over the years in order to provide employment to the folks on the rock, especially after the cod fishery collapsed.

I plan on exploring up to L'anse aux Meadows today. It's where the Vikings landed sometime around 1,000 CE, around the same times as others of their ilk were ravaging much of Europe. They didn't stay here long. Like Joey said, it's a poor bald rock.

1 comment:

  1. I always wondered where that half hour time shift came from.