Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Operatic paddle for November

[Photo credits: Neil Burgess]

The sky gathered blue behind us, like a bride trailing her veil.

Act One:

We begin at Little Harbour East, at the head of Placentia Bay, after a car shuttle to Fairhaven where we'd end the paddle, about 22km to the south. Readying the boats for launch, we chat with a few older locals. One fellow talks about his grandfather, Robert Hann who, around 1900, ran a lobster cannery in Little Pinchgut Cove.

By the crack of noon we slice into the water, paddling out the harbour to face the march of cliffs along Long Island and Merasheen. Far out in the bay courses a fishing boat, haloed with seagulls like fleas around an old dog.

Some miles out, near Long Island and Merasheen, an oil tanker sails fast.


[Scudded with over 300 islands,160km long by 130km wide, where fog plays a leading role two days out of three, Placentia Bay is renown for its fishing grounds and bird sanctuaries. It's also one of the busiest oil handling ports in Canada. Tanker traffic is fairly intense. And it's about to get a lot more tense. The Bay may now host a second oil refinery as well as a LNG terminal. Traffic congestion and lack of emergency preparedness could well spell disaster for this naturally and culturally distinct area.]

Act Two

A pair of loons rehearse an aria. A pair of moose on a ridge stand guard. We paddle around Pumbly Cove and Great Pinchgut and enter Little Pinchgut for lunch. A view as wide as imagination. And, sadly, a beach choking on plastic.


[Salt meat buckets, oil containers, fishing nets, shoes, pop bottles. A commonly held perception is that our beaches and coastal environment is 'pristine' and 'untouched'. Sadly, that's a myth. Many beaches, particularly on the south coast of Newfoundland, are eyesores and some are hazardous to marine wildlife. Where on earth does all this garbage come from? Certainly a number of sources but the short answer is - us. ]

Act Three

Paddling into an operatic light. Crepuscular rays from a silver sun spotlight the salt water and yellow-dressed larches, cast promise across the knobbly hills. A sea in repose. And cradling rocks, a many tendrilled kelp rises and sinks beneath the ocean's breath, a benign monster.

Act Four

Rounding the last headland, we're off the water by 5pm as dusk starts eating around us.


Brian Newhook said...

Nice touch with the opera theme!
Marine garbage sucks.

Alison Dyer said...

Hey Brian, yup it does... as a beachcomber in another life, I couldn't resist taking a bucket (kind of functioned like an open parachute on the last leg though!)A

Brian Newhook said...

....I was wondering what the bucket was for on your back deck, haha. When I was a kid and we'd go beachcombing as a family, my dad would offer $5 to the first kid who could find a piece of garbage from a foriegn country. I remember finding a shampoo bottle once that was all arabic language. It was a fun game to play though, you never know what might wash up on our shores.

Alison Dyer said...

That must have been fun (and lucrative!) When we lived in Port au Port in 98-99, we built the kids a funky treehouse from stuff we found on the beach, bits of wooden crates etc. in various languages. A