Day 11 |
Sep 18, 2013

St. Anthony, Newfoundland

By Dr. Colleen Batey, Archaeologist

Co-ordinates: 51° 30’ N – 55° 18’ W
Weather: Breezy with sunshine throughout the day
Air temperature: 8°C, 46°F
Wind: 15 knots

A zodiac transfer to the sleepy town of St. Anthony, on the northern peninsula of Newfoundland, brought us to the HQ of medical pioneer Dr Wilfred Grenfell, who was based in the town from 1892 onwards. The doctor, who is world renowned for the work he undertook to bring modern medicine, the Christian Mission and social services to the poverty- stricken people of Southern Labrador and Newfoundland, is still greatly respected in many circles. He raised funds first for a hospital ship, then for three small hospitals with nurses in communities such as Red Bay and Battle Harbour in Labrador through contacts he had with major politicians in both the US and UK. The Visitor Centre provided a most engaging video presentation about the man and his work, and the displays complemented the theme. Modern-day crafts, with origins in the Grenfell Mission stations, were readily available for purchase. Next, we moved onto the pretty wooden mansion house he had lived in with his wife next to the hospital he founded.

Our lunch ashore was to be Viking-themed, setting the scene for the visit in the afternoon to the Viking settlement of L’Anse aux Meadows. Held in Leif’s Budir, on the outskirts of town, several Newfie delicacies were enjoyed – moose stew, jigs dinner, and cod cheeks were followed by partridge berry pancakes and washed down with local beers.

Then we were back to the busses for our drive northwards to L’Anse aux Meadows, with its UNESCO World Heritage Site designation received to distinguish this remarkable site. This was the first European settlement on the North American Continent and was home to the Norse who explored with Leif Eriksson and then settled briefly from the main colony in Greenland around the year 1000 AD. An arc of 8 buildings around a former water inlet marked the location where Norse vessels were brought in for repair and maintenance, perhaps en route for settlements further west in the Gulf of St Lawrence. The domestic finds were displayed at the Visitor Centre and the way of life re-created on site in three buildings made of sod in the fashion of the Norse houses in both Greenland and Iceland. Around the blazing fires, stories were told and music was played. It was pretty cozy in the turf long house, which would perhaps have been home to a boat crew far from home. Further re-enactment was enjoyed at nearby Norstead. All in all a great day, with sunshine for most of it!