Saturday: Fog and Bears

At breakfast this morning I sat with a woman named France (yes, she’s French Canadian.)  She had heard a story about a Inuit family who was taken to Europe and put on exhibit.  They would live in a traditional house and do their thing as people looked at them through a fence.  Of course, they died from small pox, but one of them knew how to write and recorded a diary of what happened. Their bones are in a museum in Paris.  She began to research the story and help to repatriate the bones to the Inuit people.  She wrote a book about it and made a film and we will be seeing it on the trip.  There are about 200 people on board and every meal or zodiac trip or just sitting in the lounge brings the opportunity to meet new people and hear interesting stories.

When we woke today, in Cape Porcupine, we were surrounded by fog and there was some question as to if we would be able to land.  There was a bit of a delay, during which we had our bear safety lecture.  There are black bears in this area and there will be polar bears as we go farther north.  The guidelines are essentially this:  Don’t go past the spotters in the orange vests.  They create a perimeter in which we need to stay.  In this situation with the fog, that is another complication, since the fog not only makes it hard to see the shore it also makes it hard to see the bears.  Because of the fog if we are able to go ashore the perimeter will be very small and we will stay on the beach.

In the end they got around the fog by sending the zodiacs in groups of four, navigating by GPS.  We were on the Wonder Strand, a long stretch of beach on the coast of Labrador near the community of Cartwright.  Pete (a woman from Cartwright) was doing a “Boil up” meaning cooking us some food on the beach.  We had “flummies” a fried biscuit, topped with berries or “bakeapple” which is a traditional jam, actually made from a local berry.  We were able to walk along the beach and a little way up onto the land.  There were lots of interesting rocks and stream meanders.  I found what the geologist identified as a piece of sedimentary gneiss.  She was really excited about it, because she said that was unusual for this area.  There was even a picture of me holding the rock on the evening wrap-up.  The archeologist with us found (with the help of passengers) 3 possible sites, a possible ship wreck, an old cabin, and the possible remains of a sod house.  Lots of stuff to see, even in the small area the bear spotters gave us!

After the return and lunch, I finally got my siesta, which had been taken off the schedule because of the fog.  Later in the afternoon I went to a talk about the Moravian mission settlements in Labrador.  The Moravian Christian missionaries were successful, they think, because they learned Inuktitut, and respected the native timing of hunts and other traditions.  Where they were less accepting was musically.  They banned the use of the native drums, and pressed forward with their Moravian hymns, which became very popular and integrated into the music of the community.  The music expert (now you see why we have these guys) told us that there is a local radio program that takes requests and 50% are requests for Moravian hymns.  I’m really looking forward to visiting Hopedale, one of these communities tomorrow.  It is also the legislative capital of Nunatsiavut, which is an area of Inuit along the Labrador coast that became self-governing in 2006.

At dinner we sat with Mike, from California, who was a teamster, and most recently drove for the TV show “Scandal.”  He also worked surveying the oil fields in Alaska when he was about 20 and traveled all over the place before getting into trucking.  Another meal, another interesting person!

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