Saturday, August 18, 2007

Newfoundland hospitality and a sea view

Thousands of air passengers were forced to land in Newfoundland when America closed its air space on 11 September 2001 and they were stranded there for days. They were treated so kindly that some of the passengers have returned and bought summer homes on the rugged island that is the size of California but has only half a million people.

The people of Newfoundland are mainly of British origin, with the majority coming from four western counties in England - Devon, Dorset, Somerset, and Cornwall. Perhaps 20% are descended from Irish settlers. In villages along the 10,000 miles of Newfoundland’s sea-sculpted coast, the 17th century accents of West Country people and Irish can still be heard. Outside the modern university capital of St. John’s, the houses so attractive to Americans and expat British are built of two-frame construction, painted in bright colours and scattered in safe harbours near wharves and fish-drying platforms.
The British also developed a system which combined light salting for a short period, followed by thorough washing, and drying in the open air. The result was the lightly salted product for which Newfoundland became famous. Everyone used hook and line, an old and environmentally friendly way of fishing.
As fishing modernized, demand and greed drove huge foreign catches off the Grand Banks. The foreign fleets were no longer using hook and line. They were making huge kills, including young fish, and they were underreporting catches. As a result the young cod never reached adulthood when, around the age of seven, they spawned. The destruction of the fishing grounds will sound eerily familiar to British fishermen whose livelihood was destroyed by the European Union. Changes in water temperature were also said to be a factor.

The extent of the catastrophe was plain in 1990. In a desperate effort to save the industry, Canada shut down fishing. Overnight, 40,000 jobs in Newfoundland were lost. This was a terrible blow. The moratorium was lifted in 1994.

There has been a recovery, but the housing market has stayed flat. Newfoundland, after all, is a bit off the beaten track. However, It attracts those who love beauty and the hospitality of Newfoundlanders.
They remain welcoming and helpful. For most of their lives they have never locked their doors.

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