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Thursday, February 17, 2011

RV Celtic Explorer Newfoundland & Labrador Fishery Survey: DAY 18

Blog Day 18: Celtic Explorer Newfoundland & Labrador Fishery Survey

Date 16/02/2011 Time: 22:00 hrs (UTC)

Position: 51 deg 22.9 N 55 deg 33.7 W, Speed 0 Knots, tucked away, safe from the storm.

The Northern Newfoundland town of St. Anthony (photo by Antony Hobin)


After a rough night of attempting to stay ahead of the hurricane force winds and seas during the crossing from the Hawke Channel off Labrador, by first light the Celtic Explorer entered the calmer sheltered waters of St. Anthony Bight and the town of St. Anthony.  The people of this region lived by fishing and hunting seals, and by and large they still do. Until the 1960s there were few or no roads to many Newfoundland outports (remote coastal settlements). Transportation was by boat in summer and fall and dog team in winter. Dr. Wilfred Grenfell established a ‘Mission’ in St. Anthony in the 1800s to serve the medical needs of many of these isolated communities. Before that there were no doctors and little medical care. Grenfell wrote several books about his experiences ‘on the Labrador’ and became a legend in this region. Many of his nurses and medical people are revered to this day along this rugged and isolated coast, with many people owing their lives to their dedication and humanity.

On entering St. Anthony harbour, the initial plan was to dock alongside the shrimp plant until the storm passes. But this plan was quickly put aside as sudden incursions of sea ice made such a plan risky – as more ice crammed into the harbour an easy escape might become impossible, and would require either an icebreaker or waiting until spring! On the wise advice of Newfoundland fishing master Captain Cecil Bannister and concurrence from our English-Irish crew who wanted to see the old country before spring, we left the harbour without touching shore – preferring to wait out the storm by holding position further out the Bight, away from the encroaching ice. 
The Celtic Explorer approaching the dock in St. Anthony (Photo: Jim Parsons, St. Anthony)

The down time has at least one silver lining, that is to organize the many biological samples collected prior to the storm with the specially built Campelen research trawl (designed to catch small but representative samples of most demersal - near bottom living – species).

The hardy Irish deck crew and the hauling in of the research net from waters with temperatures of -2 C the day prior to hurricane force winds. Such waters will freeze the hands in seconds (photo: Antony Hobin)

Fishery biologist Wade Hiscock and Technician Gordon Adams, both well seasoned Newfoundlanders, doing some final work on fish samples in the wet lab (photo: Antony Hobin)


Despite the storm, the day ended with some beautifully clear skies and a wonderful sunset.  It feels strange, but is a great relief to both scientists and crew, to be on the Celtic Explorer in calm waters after many stormy days. We wait in patience, the greatest virtue of all, for peaceful seas.


The rugged shores of northern Newfoundland as photographed from the bridge of the Celtic Explorer, as we hold position in St. Anthony Bight. Eric the Red and his band of Vikings landed near here about 1000 years ago – their longhouses uncovered by archaeologists some decades ago and now a Canadian National Monument. Several battles were fought with the Inuit people and Eric abandoned his settlement. His women, in true Viking style, fought right along with the men, and from the Sagas perhaps were fiercer (Photo: Kate Barley)

Until tomorrow ….

Blog by Kate Barley and Dr. George Rose

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