Monday, 26 August 2013

L'anse aux Meadows

I am a bit of a control freak. Some of you who know me well may be laughing right now; I get it. Still, if there is anything I have learned in the last few years it is about the chimera of control, the myth that you can actually make things happen or not happen. ALS in particular is teaching me more and more about that every day. At best I can influence things, nudge them along, shape them somewhat; true control is impossible and even partial control is rare. Mostly we just careen through life, bouncing off of events and occurrences as they happen. Yesterday I drove from Corner Brook to L'anse aux Meadows. Nothing happened; it was just a great drive. And I saw a moose, finally.

To understand the geography of Newfoundland, take your left hand, palm up and make a fist. Then extend your index finger, pointing straight out. This, in gross oversimplification, reflects the shape of this island. Port aux Basques is in the bottom left, at the base of the ball of your thumb. Corner Brook is at the beginning of the crook of your thumb. L'ans aux Meadows is all the way at the tip of your index finger, on a peninsula ridged by the Long Range Mountains. St. John's, the capital of the province, is on the other end of your fist, tucked in just where your little finger touches your hand, at then end of a superbly protected Atlantic harbour. It is as far from Corner Brook to L'anse as it is to St. John's, about 500 kilometers either way.

The road to L'anse aux Meadows follows the coast almost all the way, the ocean ever on my left. At the very tip of the road, just as it is about to run into the Belle Straits, where the coast of Labrador comes into view some 25 miles away, the road crosses over from one side of the peninsula to the other, taking you to St. Anthony and L'anse aux Meadows. It is a six hour drive with amazing ocean views all the way.

L'anse aux Meadows has always called to me, ever since first hearing of it in grade school. It is the only documented Viking site in North America, an overwintering station where the traders of Greenland and Iceland came to stay while gathering wood, a precious commodity on their treeless islands, and trading with locals for furs. They stayed for only about a decade, then retreated first to their home islands and eventually into history.

The name "L'anse aux Meadows", the conflation of English and French that you see a lot of here on the rock, is most likely an Anglicization is "L'anse aux Medea", Medea or Medee being a common name for French fishing vessels. This area is called the French Shore; through treaty it was where fishermen from Quebec and France could land on English soil. It's an interesting place with interesting people and interesting history.

1 comment:

  1. You are a good teacher RIck. Lesson learned.