The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Outports Of Newfoundland—The Heart of a Village

If you look closely at a paper chart of the south coast of Newfoundland surveyed in the 1940s, you will see little black squares indicating houses in virtually every crook and cranny of this convoluted coastline, with symbols for churches and post offices dotted about. And on the ordinance survey maps the line with intermittent little boats designating a ferry route scallops its way all along the coast. But that was then and this is now, and much has changed in the meantime.

To fish for cod is why Newfoundland, a barren rock in the stormy North Atlantic, was first inhabited by Europeans back in the 1600s, and the need to be as close to the fishing grounds as possible was the deciding factor in where fish harvesters located their settlements. Today, cod still controls the life of the settlements on the south coast of Newfoundland, except that these days it’s the scarcity of cod that’s the driving force.

Sure, there was a spontaneous consolidation of people into more central communities after engines were developed (no more rowing to the fishing banks!) and then a government-sponsored further consolidation of communities to facilitate the provision of medical and education services occurred in the 1960s. And yes, there are young people who don’t want to live isolated from the rest of the world anymore, which is part of the reason why these settlements have been closing up one by one since the 1960s. But if the cod fishery was still booming and money was still flowing into these communities, maybe they could have survived.

Because now, in 2012, there are only six outport*—isolated, nonroad-served—communities left on the south coast of Newfoundland. And the attrition continues: The business that collected the fish from two of those communities and transported the catch to the processing plant just closed yesterday—a further blow to the few fish harvesters left on this coast.

So being able to visit these isolated, nonroad-served communities in Morgan’s Cloud is an experience that we are cherishing, knowing that this opportunity may not be here forever, may not even be here ten years from now. We hope that our posts and photographs will express our support for the inhabitants as they try to keep their communities alive and we hope that our words and pictures will provide a window into a fascinating way of life for those not fortunate enough to visit here.

*Note that outport was originally used in the way I refer to it in this post; these days it refers to any isolated coastal community in Newfoundland, even if road-served.

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