Wednesday, February 21, 2007

square dancing with eagles (sorry, no pics)

(photo credits: Alison Dyer except last beautiful photo of island with Newfoundland bonsai - by Lewis Greenland)

One of our trips a few summers ago was in Trinity Bay from Chapel Arm to Dildo. I wrote a short tip report - about eagles & eager kayakers: (for other photos from kayak the rock, check here)

When an armada of kayaks (particularly one in the pink, white and green), surge into a small Newfoundland community it is not unusual for a few locals to gather and hurl questions and suggestions to the group. On one trip to Chapel Arm, Trinity Bay, [i] a Mr. Otto Warren went one step further. While scrambling to zip up, buckle shut, and snap down, I became absorbed by Mr. Warren’s description of eagle preying behaviour (we had spotted one hardly a stone’s throw from the slipway). Within moments, he was reversing his car with a promise to bring the group some frozen mackerel. Before our entire group of lucky 13 had launched from the slipway, Mr. Warren handed me the bait in a plastic shopping bag. Tying it on behind the cockpit, I slipped into the Arm, looking forward to some eagle training.

Directly after leaving the slipway I paddled over to the eagle’s perch, and flung out some bait. An immature slipped into the air eyeing it and us. It circled, took stock and returned to its perch. Obviously I was too close. Trainer zero, bird zero.

We paddled up the eastern side of the Arm which for the most part has fairly steep cliffs without any decent take-out places until the barasway at Little Ridge Rock. But the rocks, however, are worth a closer look. There are many examples of pillow lavas – a volcanic rock that is deposited from submarine lava flows.. There are a couple of interesting sculpted overhangs and one or two arches that are not passable in low tide.

About half way up the Arm is Little Ridge Rock, a narrow rock formation, that offers more places to scoot around. At the tip of it we turned south and headed for the pebble and slate beach. Once the community of Little Ridge[ii]... Although we had paddled for only a little over an hour, this was an ideal location for lunch and a cook-up. It was also obviously a favourite with locals and we found several old fire pits on the beach. Paul toed one, found it still smouldering, and quickly got a fire going for a rabbit and tea boil-up.

We pushed the kayaks back in the water around 1:20pm and paddled north toward the tip – McCleod Point on the topo, Southern Point on the chart! Paddling along one can clearly see, across the Arm, the steep cliffs stretching from Norman’s Cove to Chapel Head. Like a bad case of sunburn, the cliff has a wide horizontal strip of red. The sedimentary rocks at Long Cove are a designated site of interest (noted in the Newfoundland & Labrador Traveller’s Guide to Geology). The rocks exposed in the cliffs comprise westerly dipping Cambrian quartzites, sandstones, conglomerates with apparently excellent crossbedding overlain by red and green shales, and red and green limestones, all apparently deposited on a shallow continental shelf. Both sides of Chapel Arm are bounded by Cambrian rocks that were deposited about 525-550 million years ago. As you paddle along the shore, there are numerous faults and igneous intrusions.

Rounding the McLeod or Southern Point, one has a good view around Trinity Bay. The coast from Southern Point to Martys Cove Point is bounded by more Cambrian sedimentary rocks, and has several pocket beaches and offers more in the way of rock-hopping. There are also good examples of the Newfoundland evergreen bonsai perched on a pinnacle of rock, giving the impression that soil is not a prerequisite for vegetative maintenance or growth. And some of the rocks, with their jagged edge and face a smooth steely grey, appear like two-dimensional paper cutouts.

We had only the slightest of waves, good visibility and could clearly see the partly wooded Dildo Islands off to our left. As we paddled over to Burn Point in the middle of Spread Eagle Bay, I saw a dark mark high above some paddlers out in front and remembered the thawing bait behind me. I was too far away to go for it.

Between Burn Point and Southern Spread Eagle, the shoreline rocks change from Cambrian to Proterozoic across an important geological unconformity ... Spread Eagle[iii] is cabin country, but it used to be a permanent settlement until 1967. As we continued paddling between Spread Eagle Island – a small island, partially wooded of low relief – and Old Shop Point, the houses of Dildo, Broad Cove were clearly visible on the other side of the bay. We paddled parallel to the coast to Old Shop, over to Lynch’s Point, and down to South Dildo[iv]. A few locals were out in the water picking mussels. We finished the paddle at 2:50pm. Arriving at low tide, we had a bit of slippery rockweed to navigate across. Finally, cramming into Dan’s van, we ferried back up to Chapel Arm.

Oh, so what happened with the eagle training you wonder? Paddling around Lynch’s Point it dawned on me that I had, tied onto the back deck rigging, a shopping bag of rapidly thawing mackerel and no winged takers. With Sue’s help, we released them into the water. In conclusion then, trainer zero, bird zero, but marine biomass five!

[i] Entry for Chapel Arm in Lovell’s 1871 Directory:
“A fishing settlement at the bottom of Trinity Bay on south district of Trinity; New York Newfoundland and London Telegraph Co. has an office here; Distance from Dildo 8 miles by boat.; Mail Weekly; Population 230.” The census lists all as fishermen except one telegraph operator. The family name Warren is also listed.

[ii] Little Ridge, TB – notes from the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland & Labrador:
- Population 53 in 1935.
- Likely that the first settler, John Cooper, came to Little Ridge from New Harbour area.
- Little Ridge first appears separately in census in 1884 with population of 15.
- The Coopers of Little Ridge were supplied for the inshore fishery by merchants of Norman’s Cove (“on a dead calm day you could bawl back & forth” across the Arm).
- First families began to move from Little Ridge to the Little Gut area of Chapel Arm in 1939. By end of WWII, only a handful of people were left and they relocated soon after.

[iii] Spread Eagle, TB – notes from Encyclopedia Newfoundland & Labrador
- Community was located in western bight at the head of Spread Eagle Bay which was noted for its fine beaches.
- Residents fished for salmon, herring, and cod.
- Population reached 30 in 1891 – Reid, Hillier, Smith.
- School built in 1901 for children of these families.
- Logging supplemented shore fishery and by 1930s there were 2 sawmills providing local employment.
- Pothead whaling took place in area.
- Spread Eagle also enjoyed a reputation as a fine trout fishing area.
- With a population never exceeding 80, Spread Eagle was resettled in 1967.
- Since Spread Eagle remained accessible by road from Old Shop, several families continued to keep summer homes there.

[iv] South Dildo, TB – notes from Encyclopedia Newfoundland & Labrador
- population of 272 in 1991
- Nearby communities of Dildo and Old shop qqv were settled by the early 1800s – no record of settlers in South Dildo prior to 1866 when family of Edward Lynch was recorded.
- Most men worked chiefly in lumbering, but there was at least one schooner from South Dildo involved in the Labrador fishery.
- Turn of century – small lobster factory began and there was one full-time farmer.
- Pothead whaling also played a part [as well as shore fishery] in local economy until industry ceased in 1972.
- Whaling station opened in nearby Dildo in 1947 [processed primarily Pothead & Minke whale meat and oil in part to provide food for local mink and fox farms].
- South Dildo received families from Spread Eagle and Harbour Duffett during resettlement programs of the 1960s.


Michael said...

If it's any comfort, Alison, I'm in Pennsylvania this evening, it's cold, sleety and yucky. I'd rather the nice dry snow I left at home this morning!

Alison Dyer said...

Ok, feel slightly better :)