2014 Aug 24 – Day 66 – St. Anthony, NL (L’Anse aux Meadows)

It was almost midnight before I completed yesterday’s blog for all of you faithful readers and we did not have a jam-backed schedule planned for today so we slept in!  Yea!  Well, until 9 anyway.  But by the time we were all washed and fed and John had caught the end of the FI race it was almost noon before we left town.

We drove about 49 km to the tip of the northern peninsula to L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site.  In 1960 Helge Ingstad, a Norwegian, came to L’Anse aux Meadows in pursuit of authenticating some of the Norse Sagas that told of journeys by ship to new lands – Helluland, Markland, and Vinland – in search of resources not available in Greenland. (Helluland was Baffin Island, Markland was Labrador and Vinland was Newfoundland)

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He asked all the locals if they knew of any unusual mounds in the area.  Everyone said no except one fellow who told him about the old Indian Village.  When Mr. Ingstad saw the mounds he was sure he had located a Norse settlement.  The next year he brought his wife, Anne Stine, an archaeologist back to L’Anse aux Meadows to begin a dig.  They discovered iron nails and other artifacts irrefutably from 1000 AD Norse culture. Thy had discovered the first authenticated European settlement in North America that could very well be Lief Ericsson’s short-lived Vinland camp.

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The dig lasted 7 years and told the story of a camp used by the Norse as a re-supply center and boat repair facility while they explored the North American coast southward in search of iron ore and wood and other resources they needed.  They built a forge here and used bog ore to cast about 100 – 200 ship nails (the first know example of iron smelting in the New World).  The evidence showed that they only used the place for about 10 years then they gathered up anything of use or value, set fire to the peat-sod huts and departed.

Parks Canada took over the site and did archaeological studies for 4 more years.  The exciting thing for archaeologists was that this site was the last link in the chain of human migration around the globe.  It is not only a Canadian National Historic Site it is was also the first cultural site to be inscribed on the UNESCO list of historically important places.

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The Interpretive Center up on the hill.

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IMG_7761 IMG_7763Parks Canada have built some replicas of the sod buildings like the Norse would have used.  You can also see the restored site mounds that unraveled the story.

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IMG_7788 IMG_7789After we had checked out everything we walked the 2 km trail along the coast back to the parking lot.  The day was sunny and the views were gorgeous so the cameras were clicking this way and that all the way around.

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They even had some of those nice red chairs to sit in and watch the water.IMG_7816 IMG_7823 IMG_7819

We were going to go to Norstead, a tourism replica of a Norse trading center with people portraying the explorers but, while we were debating about going in a big bus came along and disgorged 50 people.  We decided to go back to St. Anthony.

When we arrived in town we went to the Sir Wilfred Grenfell Interpretive Center.  Dr. Grenfell came to Labrador in the late 1890’s as a physician and missionary. He was very moved by the poverty and ill health of the people in the many scattered little fishing villages.  TB especially was rampant at the time.

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Over the next 40 or so years Dr. Grenfell opened 4 hospitals, 7 nursing stations, 2 orphanages, several training centers, and had 2 hospital ships.  He did extensive fund raising in Britain, Europe, the US and Canada.  He was knighted in 1928 for his work.

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We didn’t have too long to read everything as it was near closing time but this man was a visionary who radically changed the lives of thousands of people.  The International Grenfell Society is still in existence and working with the Labrador and northern Newfoundland people.  After NL joined Confederation in 1949 the government took over all of Grenfell’s medical facilities for the price of $1; which is on display in the museum – signed by all the people involved in the transfer.  He was an amazing man who is still revered in this area and all along the Labrador coast.  The hospital here in St. Anthony was started by Sir Grenfell and is the major medical facility in the area, used by those from the northern peninsula and from Labrador.

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