Let me start with a caveat. You can’t credit Columbus, or anyone else, with “discovering” America when he encountered millions of indigenous people already living here. (and then generously introduced them to all sorts of germs and diseases that just about wiped them out, but that is another tale.) When I was young I had a poem drummed into my head as part of my history lessons. You know, “In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue… I won’t bore you with the full text you can go here if you are interested. It’s what I was taught. Christopher Columbus discovered America; we have a national holiday and tons of parades attesting to that fact. Except we had it wrong and it took a trip to Newfoundland to correct my misinformed self.
We were enjoying our tour of the Maritimes and had just finished driving the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia. We realized Newfoundland is just a ferry ride away so why not take a side trip? After learning it would cost almost $1000 to bring the RV we opted to leave it in Baddeck and tour Newfoundland by car. We took an early morning ferry and arrived mid afternoon at Port Aux Basque harbor. Through the dense fog we caught our first glimpse of this huge island. It looked cold, rugged and barren. It was spectacular.
We spent just over a week driving north to St. Anthony along the west coast in growing awe of Newfoundland’s beauty. Towering cliffs drop down to coastal plains and rugged, rocky coastlines dotted with small small fishing villages. Gros Morne National Park‘s remarkable beauty alone was worth the trip. Newfoundland is sparsely populated but the people you do meet are incredibly friendly and you get the impression if your car broke down they’d take you home, give you a hot meal and get the car repaired for you. Our trip was sort of spur of the moment and we had no reservations. We found places to stay but it was August and choices were limited. The weather was as varied as the scenery. Fog, rain, sun, and that was just in the morning. Bring a warm fleece and rain slicker.
It was at the northernmost point that we found L’Anse Aux Meadows, a historical site where the first known Vikings, most likely Lief Erikson, had a base camp for exploring North America and the St. Lawrence seaway. It is a pretty spot just across from the Labrador coast. It’s certainly where I would land if I were a Viking. The museum at the site has relics found during the archeological dig and replicas of what the sod houses probably looked like.
This group of vikings were there for 10 years sometime around 1000 AD. That’s 500 years before Columbus sailed. Irrefutable proof, Columbus didn’t “discover” America. Of course this site wasn’t found until 1960, so I can’t blame my teachers for misleading me. They taught what they knew at the time. Although I haven’t heard of any movements to start celebrating Lief Erickson day.
Here’s aslideshow of some of my favorite shots from the trip.