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HARRINGTON HARBOUR part IV

lower north shore gulf of st lawrence grenfell mission cairn cartier harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

The highest point of the island is out on the western extremity further up the hill from the cave and so I continued my climb to see the view. First thing that you will see is the Grenfell Mission Building way below us there to the left, and to the right of the building on top of the little eminence is the cairn that we visited.

This will give you some idea of the elevation of the spot upon which I'm standing and I'm by no means right at the top just yet.


lower north shore gulf of st lawrence harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

Here's another view of the village, taken from the same spot as the previous photo but a little further round to the left.

You'll notice the little bridge down the hill to the left of the photo, and over there to the right of centre is the harbour and its installations.

As for the circular object in the centre of the photograph, I was intigued by that too and so I resolved to go down and have a look at it on my way bagk to my diggings.


I talk quite a bit ... "you, Eric? Surely not" - ed ... in certain places about the effects of cloud formations. We noticed in Labrador and in a few other places too that clouds seem to hang over a range of mountains, due to the air being obliged to rise in order to pass over them. As the air rises, it cools down of course, and so any moisture in the air condenses.

lower north shore gulf of st lawrence warm front cloud formation harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

This is a phenomenon that is particularly true of coastlines where the prevailing winds are pushing the air onto the shore. One of the ways that ancient mariners used to be able to detect shorelines when well-out to sea would be to look for these tell-tale cloud formations.

Here is quite a spectacular example of this phernomenon. You don't need to be told where the North Shore of the Gulf of St Lawrence is.

As an aside ... "ohhh no" - ed ... another trick that ancient mariners used to perfom involved birds. They would take a pile of birds with them on each voyage and every now and again they would release one.

If the bird flew back in the direction from which they had sailed, the mariners knew that they hadn't sailed sufficiently far from their homeland. If the bird did a few laps of the ship and then came back down to land on board, then they knew that they were hundreds of miles away from anywhere.

If however the bird took off and flew onwards, they knew that land was somewhere within the range of the bird, and so they would follow the bird.

And I should know. After all, I've been following birds for many, many years - although not any kind of bird that ancient mariners would be releasing from cages on board a ship.


lower north shore gulf of st lawrence rolling fog bank harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

But hang on a second. This is starting to look just a little ominous. In the period of a matter of just a couple of minutes (I could tell that by the times of the two photos) the weather has dramatically changed.

It looks as if the wind has changed direction and is heading this way. The cold water in this neck of the woods is causing the moisture in the air to condense and so we now have a typical Grand Banks fog heading this way with the wind.

lower north shore gulf of st lawrence ice floes pack ice harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

It's a good job that I was up and about early this morning to do what I have to do and I hope that I can do it all before the fog arrives and brings my little walk to a shuddering halt.

I can turn my attention to the coastline in the immediate vicinity and we can see some more ice floes and pack ice that have been crammed into the mouth of yet another creek. Winter is far from over around here.


lower north shore gulf of st lawrence rolling fog bank harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

Looking over my shoulder however, because I need to keep an eye on the weather if I don't want to be stranded up here way off the beaten track in unknown territory in a mountain mist, I can see that the fog has developed.

The sun has warmed up the sky and so we are now having a layering effect of the cold condensation hovering just over the ice floes and, one imagines, the cold Labrador Current being pushed by the tides and currents into the Gulf, a clear sky just a couple of hundred feet above it, and then the clouds that have formed over the shoreline.

lower north shore gulf of st lawrence harrington archipelago harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

Further round to the west the fog isn't threatening the shoreline just yet so that I can continue with my panorama. More than 600 islands, I said earlier, and here's a few more of them.

In the days before diesel engines, the local inhabitants would leave the island as soon as the ice melted and go off to live alone or with their immediate family on another island much farther off the coast for the summer.

That way they would be much closer to the fishing grounds and there would be less competition for the catch from other fishermen.

With the proliferation of reliable diesel engines, this practice has pretty-much died out. Nowadays, one can set out from home and fish wherever one likes, and be back home at nightfall, with the catch off to La Tabatiere the same evening in the company's boat.

The days of sailing vessels and salted cod are long-since finished.


Now, I wonder if this photo will come out properly?

lower north shore gulf of st lawrence iceberg harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

I've travelled all of these miles and all of this time in the hope of seeing an iceberg and there drifting its way up the Gulf of St Lawrence is one of the afore-mentioned.

We know that icebergs can be immense but this one doesn't look as if it is big enough to sink the Titanic - in fact it would hardly be big enough to sink the Mecatina II I reckon ... "you've said that once" - ed ... but nevertheless that's the first proper iceberg that I've seen at anything like close quarters, if you can call this "close quarters".

I have, by the way, ruled out any possibility of encountering a polar bear on this journey. I don't suppose that one can have everything.

What you can't see in this photo, but which are there nevertheless, are the high-tension power lines that bring electricity across to the island from the mainland. Harrington Harbour doesn't generate its own power.

While I was there, though, Quebec Hydro was delivering four huge diesel generators to the island. It seems that the power lines are to be taken down and refurbished.


Having now seen an iceberg, it's time to head back down the hill. I'm going this way for a purpose because I wanted to check out the water supplies here.

My landlady told me that very few of the houses here have piped water. There's a man-made lake high up in the hills where water is collected, and this passes through filters on the way to five holding tanks down hear the inhabitants. From the holding tanks, the villagers pipe it off with fire hoses into their own private water tanks.

I'm interested in things like that of course seeing as how I use rainwater here and that is stored in settling tanks and then filtered, so I set off to track it down.

lower north shore gulf of st lawrence water reservoir man made lake harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

Judging by all of the man-made concrete walls and things like that all around there, it's a very good bet to suggest that that is the local reservoir where the water is stored before it is filtered.

What further convinces me are the notices pinned to it - eau potable (drinking water) and camping interdit (no camping). It didn't escape my notice that these signs are written in French.

In fact, camping seems to be interdit almost everywhere on the island, judging by all of the signs that I have seen. I suppose that the signs might be a reaction to the actions of the tourists who have just discovered the price of the accommodation.

This might also explain the presence of a hospital here.


You may remember just a little earlier that I talked about a mysterious circular construction on the island and that I resolved to go for a closer look. Well, as you might have imagined, ice hockey is the favourite pastime on the island and with the weather and temperatures that they have around here, it seems to me that they can practise it for about 6 months of the year.

lower north shore gulf of st lawrence ice rink harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

Our mysterious circular object is the island's ice rink and I suppose that as soon as the weather drops below freezing point, probably some time around the end of August if you ask me, the inhabitants flood it, and that's how it stays until the beginning of May. And a Good Time is had by all.

Also in the photo, but you can't see it because the resolution of the phone's camera isn't that good, is the village's swimming pool. It's said to be heated and that the temperature has reached as high as 80°F - which for those of you working in real money, is about 30°C - and maybe even a little more on occasion.

Still nothing like warm enough to entice me in.

lower north shore gulf of st lawrence mural ice rink harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

Taking this photo out of order, thie is the wall of the ice hockey ... well, stadium, I suppose.

You can see that the local inhabitants have used the wall profitably to paint a mural thereupon, depicting the important elements of local village life, such as the ship that brings in the provisions, the boardwalk and an artist's impression of a whale.

It's not quite a Picasso or a Matisse (or even a Métis, seeing as how we are in Canada) but nevertheless, full marks for the effort.


And I am right about the fog - it's beginning to close in rapidly now. I've planned my journey just about right.


lower north shore gulf of st lawrence new house built harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

According to the census of 2011, the population of 261 people lives in 102 houses. This will very shortly be 103 houses as you can tell from this photo, as another one is in the course of erection.

This makes a pleasant change from what I have seen along other parts of the eastern coast of Canada. Most places seem to have as a characteristic several deserted and derelict houses as the occupants have abandoned them in order to head west to find employment in the oilfields. Seeing a new house being built in an isolated locality such as Harrington Harbour is something quite impressive.


lower north shore gulf of st lawrence harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

So having finished my tour of the island, I'm heading back to my digs for a hot mug of coffee. And to keep you all entertained during our walk, I'll tell you a couple of amusing little anecdotes.

Just down the hill here I bumped into a man whom I recognised as having knocked at the kitchen door earlier that morning.
"is there any bread for me?" he asked, and he told me his name.
There on the kitchen table were two loaves with a piece of paper underneath, with his name written thereupon.
"These must be yours, then" I said, handing them to him
"Tell her that I've taken them" he said. "I'll come by later" and so I duly made note.

At this point, I should perhaps interject that my landlady seemed to spend every spare moment of her day baking bread, and I will thoroughly recommend her bread to anyone - it's the best that I've ever eaten.

On one occasion she asked me whether I would mind going into the cellar and bringing up a small bag of flour. After a search of a couple of minutes I said that that I could only find a couple of 35kg sacks. "That's the one" she said. Good job she didn't ask me to bring up a large one - I would have needed a crane.

She also had a huge stack of wood outside her house and yet, as we have seen, there's not a single tree worth recording on the island, so this aroused my curiosity. You might not think that this is relevant to the story of the bread, but you will see how it develops as we go along.

I asked her about the wood - where does it come from? - and she replied that in winter when the Gulf is frozen over, everyone leaps onto his snowmobile with his chainsaw and tows a pile of trailers over to the mainland where as many trees as you like are to be had, simply for the cutting.

I expressed surprise that she could keep up with this rigorous routine because, although it's a rather delicate subject to discuss a lady's age, she was not as young as she used to be.
"Oh no" she replied. "I bake the bread for ... " whatever his name was who had knocked on the door earlier, and for a couple of other people too "... and they bring me my wood".

I'm not sure who has the best end of this deal, but it's a perfect example of the symbiosis that is needed to make a complete success of living in an out-of-the-way place like this. If only other people in other places could co-operate like this, the world would be a much better place.


We ended up having quite a discussion about snowmobiles, and she told me the story of one resident of the island who had travelled on his snowmobile all the way along the frozen Gulf as far as Havre-St-Pierre one particular winter.


lower north shore gulf of st lawrence harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

Have I told you yet why the island is so named? That might be a good idea.

The Harrington concerned in our story is Charles Stanhope, who was 3rd Earl of Harrington. He was a captain serving in the Grenadier Company and was at the relief of Quebec in May 1776 following its capture during the American War of Independence.

It doesn't seem to be clear though, what his actual connection with the island might be.

The island does have some kind of modern claim to fame as the film Seducing Dr. Lewis was filmed here on the island. And if you sit through the film (because it really isn't my particular cup of tea) you'll see much more of the island that I can ever show you.


lower north shore gulf of st lawrence barge crane workmens equipment harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

My stay on the island is coming to a close. The Nordik Express will be back in a couple of hours. So dragging my suitcase and my possessions behind me, I make my way down to the harbour.

I nip around the corner to have a quick look at this barge that is anchored here. It's the enormous crane that has caught my eye and with all of the equipment on board, they are clearly in for some heavy work.

Perhaps it's to do with the renovation of the overhead electricity cables. I've not seen anything else going on that would require a crane quite like this.


nordik express lower north shore gulf of st lawrence harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

Here comes the Nordik Express into harbour. They haven't forgotten me or been bribed to leave me stranded here as I was fearing.

There's a two-hour wait while the crew unloads and reloads the ship here and during that time the fog closes in to such an extent that it's not possible to see the other side of the harbour.

I really was lucky with that period between about 10:00 and 15:30 when the fog lifted sufficiently for me to be able to have a good exploration.


icebreaker pack ice lower north shore gulf of st lawrence harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

At 20:15 we hit the road - or, at least, the Gulf - and the darkness quickly closes in. My journey eastwards from Montreal is now finished - at least for the time being and that's rather a depressing thought.

Just one more task remains, and that's to photograph the pack-ice that the Nordik Express is busily smashing its way through. The camera on the mobile phone is, unfortunately, not up to as much as I would like it to be, but it does the best that it can.

Given the circumstances, I can't complain too much.

icebreaker pack ice lower north shore gulf of st lawrence harrington harbour quebec canada  mai may 2012

I am surprised that the photos worked as well as they did, and here is the proof that I did encounter pack-ice on my journey. It was one of the things that I had come to see, so that's another one of my aims in life that has been ticked off the list.

As we sailed back through the darkness to Natashquan, I found a suitable power point on the ship and so I watched a couple of old black-and-white films that I had downloaded from www.archive.org . Always a few of them on the laptop.

Meantime, I gave due consideration to changing my name to Nanook of the North. I had seen the pack-ice and an iceberg or two, and lived to tell the tale.


But although I am on board ship heading back towards Natasquan, this is not the end of the road. There's still some more of Highway 138 to see and although we had to wait until 2014, we did make it there in the end.


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