Idly letting the eyes wander over scattered map notes

Paul Sparkes
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The “Traveller’s Guide” which this province issued five years ago had a sort of a jaunty flavour to it. On the cover was the phrase “Lost and Found.’” Inside, a picture of a lonely piece of coast, with one rock and one girl proclaimed, “Lost: my hang ups” and “Found: the art of hanging out.” Nothing stilted about the approach even if the phrases were somewhat incongruous when superimposed over pictures of Newfoundland’s unparalleled scenery.

Loggers, fishermen and even John Cabot have all fallen from their places of prominence since Newfoundland marked the 450th anniversary of Cabot’s mapless meanderings. This artwork is from a special envelope designed to be fixed with Newfoundland’s 1497-1947 anniversary stamp. — Submitted image

A photo of the bird rocks at Cape St. Mary’s bears the question “Is it possible to feel at the same time — lost and found?”

A little further in and we find this piece of wild advice:

“Try standing, for instance a mere 20 metres from the aptly-named bird rock at Cape St. Mary’s. Try just standing there because the inconceivable abundance of accessible avian traffic passing by will make you wish you could sprout wings and join them for a flight, up to the heavens, down to the sea, and back again.”

This week, I browsed through a collection of maps, tourism folders, posters and booklets. This column was assembled from some of the pieces that caught my eye.

From a 2005 booklet, Guide to the Killick Coast:

“The people of Bauline were part of a daring rescue on September 27th., 1942 as Flight Sergeant Guy E. Mott of 125 Fighter Squadron, RCAF, was forced to bail out of his Hurricane fighter. He was seen by five men who immediately manned a boat and went to his rescue. Sergeant Mott was later involved in the invasion of Europe and was the first to cover the progress of ground troops of the Allied forces on their way to Berlin. In 1989 a bronze plaque was installed in Memorial United Church to honour the rescuers and the people of Bauline.”

From a 1998 map of Physical Earth, published by National Geographic: “Along transform faults, plates haltingly slip past each other, their bursts of motion triggering earthquakes such as those that occur in the San Andreas region of California, or at the fracture zones perpendicular to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.” (Fair to guess this action is what gave us the earthquake and tidal wave of 1929?)

From an undated Parks Canada brochure on the Port au Choix National Historic Site: “The modern town of Port au Choix is a recent amalgamation of three once-separate communities, Old Port au Choix, Gargamelle Cove and Port au Choix. One of the earliest records of a permanent English settler is Jason Layvis from Totnes, Devon, who lived here in 1821, fishing and care-taking of French fishing premises.”

A road and rail map of the Atlantic Provinces was issued by Esso (“Always Look to Imperial for the Best”) in 1969. It promoted “Free travel Service.” “Expert travel counsellors will show you the best roads for your trip … whether business or pleasure … most direct or most scenic … ask your Esso dealer for a handy request card.” One curious point — no reference to Mount Pearl (for one) is to be found anywhere. Mount Pearl was incorporated as a town in 1955 — but not as a city until 1988.

From the province’s official highway map, 1991 (23 years ago): “In many of the towns on the Avalon Peninsula you will feel you are only a step away from Ireland. The charm and wit of the British Isles is preserved and eagerly shared.

“We have over 1,000 years of history and culture to celebrate, a history older than the colonial English, Irish and French who settled our shores four centuries ago. Newfoundland and Labrador is an old, and refreshingly new experience that our visitors rediscover every year.”

From a 1980 map of Newfoundland and Labrador (and Quebec), published by National Geographic: “Along Newfoundland’s lonely south coast, with many an outport still untouched by a road, author Harold Horwood found a wilderness, ‘where the air was filled with eagles and the waters were filled with whales.’”

The 1999 “Walker’s Map” issued by the Grand Concourse included a selection of photos and text on wildflowers and shrubs that would “add to your enjoyment of the Grand Concourse Walks.” Included were Labrador tea, sweetgale (bog-myrtle), trailing juniper, woodland chervil, wild mint, cuckoo flower, tall meadow-rue, chuckley-pears, northern wild raisin, meadow sweet, mountain holly, and indian pipe.

The “Walker’s Map” also advised that there are birds “on the wing, on the barrens, in the woods and on the water” … “From Signal Hill to Octagon Pond a wide variety of habitats is home to many different species.” And among this picture-and-text segment of the map, there were shown the Common (Northern) Flicker, Yellow-rumped Warbler, House Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow and Savannah Sparrow; Green-winged Teal, the Pintail Duck and the Black Duck. In the poster-map “The Boreal Forest” published in 1996 by the Canadian Forest Service of Natural Resources Canada, we learn that — “Axes have been replaced by chain saws, which in turn are being replaced by mechanical harvesters capable of gathering thousands of trees a day. Logs that were once moved to the mills along waterways in great spring drives are now trucked from the forest year round. An estimated 50 per cent of Canada’s vast boreal north is now accessible to the forestry industry via highways and logging roads. While Canadians have not always been as considerate of the forest as they might have been, the forest has been constant in its benevolence to Canadians.”

The “Bird Migration in the Americas Map” (National Geographic, 1979) notes, “the Arctic Tern migrates from near the top of the world to the bottom — Antarctica. Counting the return flight in spring, it may travel 25,000 miles, the earth’s circumference.” Here in Newfoundland & Labrador, the Arctic Tern is commonly called “stearin.”

A very nicely done booklet, “Newfoundland Auto Tour” was issued under the authority of Thomas Valentine Hickey (Tourism Minister, 1973-74). The booklet is not dated, but I stumbled upon the website of the Road Map Collectors Association. As they know how frustrating an undated map can be, they list ministers’ terms of office which, of course, helps date a map or publication in question. My eye caught a snippet “Side tour” recommended for anyone driving to Bonavista: “Trinity is one of the oldest settlements in Newfoundland. First discovered by Gaspar Corte Real in 1500, it was named thus because the day of discovery was Trinity Sunday.” So, we presume the reference is to the harbour at Trinity (?). “Like many of Newfoundland’s early settlements, Trinity was harassed by pirates and seized by the French twice between 1706 and 1709” (which means that they had some difficulty holding onto it). At the time this booklet was in circulation, the home of Newfoundland’s first speaker of the legislature, John Bingley Garland, was still standing there because it was recommended that tourists go see it. I don’t know when the house came down, but it has been gone for years.


On another note

This last note has nothing to

do with Newfoundland and Labrador, but a 1981 National

Geographic “World Ocean Floor” map shows some points off Perth, Australia, (around the Earth’s Diamantina Fracture Zone) at 6,602 metres which is a little more than four miles down.



Organizations: National Geographic, Esso, Memorial United Church Parks Canada House Sparrow Canadian Forest Service of Natural Resources Canada Road Map Collectors Association

Geographic location: California, Newfoundland and Labrador, Bauline Port au Choix Europe Mount Pearl Berlin San Andreas Old Port Totnes Atlantic Provinces Ireland British Isles Quebec Signal Hill Black Duck Canada Antarctica Bonavista Perth Australia

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