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Report 1901: A Month on the Rock

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2010

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Page 8 of 31: Labrador - L’Anse Amour

photo by Michael

Kitchen in the Lightkeeper’s House

It was a dull morning and the forecast was for more showers. We drove to Amour Point past L'Anse Amour Burial National Historic Site. A small roadside plaque and interpretive boards mark the 7500 year old site which is the earliest known ceremonial burial in North America. A Maritime Archaic Indian adolescent was buried face down in a deep, wide pit with a large flat stone placed on his lower back. His body was smeared in ochre and wrapped in skins and birch bark. Grave goods included spearheads, painted stones, harpoon head, walrus tusk and an antler pendant. Fires were lit on either side of the body and food cooked. A large mound of rocks was placed over grave and this is all that can be seen today.

We parked in the lighthouse car park and did the Raleigh Trail while waiting for the lighthouse to open. This follows the old access road from L’Anse Amour to the lighthouse which was used when the lighthouse was being built. It is very easy walking. We could see the scant remains of HMS Raleigh which sank in 1923 in thick fog “trying to avoid an iceberg” and ran aground. That is the official version. There are rumours it was going too fast and the crew were not paying attention. It was blown up in 1926 to stop sightseers taking photographs of the wreck and sending them to the papers to be published.

Point Amour Lighthouse is a Provincial Historic Site. The lighthouse was built in the 1850s for the new steamship route through Strait of Belle Isle and it is the tallest lighthouse in Atlantic Canada at 109' tall. It was built from locally quarried limestone which was later covered with cedar shingles to protect the stone from the weather. It is surrounded by several other buildings including living quarters, oil shed, fog alarm building and a Marconi wireless telegraph station which has since been demolished. There is now a small craft shop in one of the buildings, but there is nowhere selling refreshments.

The lighthouse is now automated and restored to 1850s condition.

We did the Lighthouse tour and were the only people that morning. The staff were excellent, knowledgeable and answered all our many questions. What we had expected to be an hour's visit turned out to be nearly three hours.

The bottom room of the lighthouse has been restored to 1860s. Upstairs the bedrooms contain exhibits about the European settlement of Labrador, old maps and information on ship wrecks and the Marconi Wireless stations. We climbed to the top of the tower to the light chamber. Bulbs last four months. Only one bulb is used at a time and there are three spare bulbs. If the bulb fails it is automatically replaced by a new one.

We were lucky and saw minke whales quite close to the shore and a bowhead further out.

It was still cold and dull and had been raining while we were at the lighthouse. We decided to head back to Seaview Restaurant in Forteau for a sea food chowder. We had been told about Jigg’s Dinner, a traditional dish, by the lighthouse staff. This was dish of the day every Thursday. There was just one dinner left so we decided to split it between us. The chowder was good and thick with scallop, clam, cod, halibut and salmon with fresh parsley and cream. The Jigg’s Dinner was turnip, carrot, cabbage and potato boiled with salt beef (or chicken) and served with pease pudding. There was no gravy and the salt beef and vegetables were rather too well boiled for us. It was interesting to try but we wouldn’t bother again. We then had blueberry sponge and caramel sauce to finish. Total for the two of us $31CAD.

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