After HU Labrador we had an invitation to go to Labrador with the organizers, David and Karen. They had a friend, Dwayne, that had a fishing camp on a small island off the coast of Labrador, Caribou Run on Battle Island. This camp had been in the family for several generations.
We arrived at Mary’s Harbor and Dwayne and his girlfriend, Nikki, were waiting to load us all up on a 20-foot Boston Whaler and whisk us off to the camp. Approaching the island you notice there are no power poles or lines of any type. All you see are a few scattered cottages, docks and baron rock with a smattering of green surface plants that look like lichens from a far north tundra. Several of the cottages have a water collection system but the water being collected is all undrinkable groundwater with a light coloring of rusting iron from the rocks.
Pulling up to the dock with our clothes and provisions for the next 3 days we are greeted by three happy and friendly dogs. Walking into the two-story house we noticed a warm wood stove in the central area of the kitchen with several large pots of water being kept warm on top. There is a generator they use for power a couple hours a day and a satellite link for wi-fi.
After getting situated and having a quick meal we all sat around amazed at the beauty and the quiet of the island. We are about 25 minutes from Mary’s Harbor out into the Labrador Sea, part of the North Atlantic Ocean. We are about 1,000 km southwest of Southern Greenland. Darkness soon surrounds us and the stars sparkle above our heads like so many lightning bugs in a forest. There are so many stars and the brightness of the Milky Way makes it difficult to pick out the major constellations.
What is so fascinating about Battle Harbor and Battle Island are the geological formations. The exposed gray rock, the island, is between 1 and 1.5 billion years old. There are fractures in the gray rock with a darker rock. This is a basaltic dyke, formed by magma injected along the fracture. These are believed to be about 570 million years old. This exposed rock is then about 1/3 the age of the Earth. It’s difficult to comprehend you’re standing on rock that old. We boated to the other side of the island and took a tour of Battle Harbor, which was established in 1770 as a summer fishing camp for cod. It remained a thriving fishing community and economic center until the mid-1900s, when it fell into decline following reductions in the cod fishing industry.
After we got back to the camp we enjoyed a fantastic summer evening with a beautiful sunset through the cut. We had time to sit, and wonder and contemplate about how difficult life would have been there are 300 years ago. During the winter some of the coastal waters will freeze allowing polar bears to roam the islands. Our host had shown us teeth marks and claw marks on one of the upper sills of the windows in the cottage. These were caused by a roaming polar bear.
The next morning arrived to fantastic clear blue skies and a cool misty morning. Today we’re going out on the boat cod jigging. You don’t use fishing poles here, but instead use a spool of thick monofilament line with jigs on the end. You lower this line to about 60 ft., or until it touches the bottom. I have been fishing before but I’ve never experienced what was to follow. There were five of us around the boat ijgging. By the time we had lowered our jigs to the bottom and gave a couple big jerks on the line, we would get a hit and come up with a cod. In all, we caught about 19 cod in about 15 minutes. Four of them were smaller so we threw them back but kept about 15 large cod. The waters below seem to be thick with these fish. Two of the cod I caught were jigged in other places besides their mouth. It was as if there was a solid sheet of these sleek shimmering fish 60 ft. below us. This was an experience I will never forget and anyone that is going through Labrador must try.
After getting back to the docks it was time for me to learn how to clean these fish. After a quick lesson, Dwayne’s girlfriend Nikki and I got to work filleting 15 fish and cutting out 15 cod tongues, a delicacy. David started peeling potatoes as we were about to have the best fish and chips dinner I’ve ever eaten. We didn’t do too bad of a job and ended up with a large bucket of tender white cod fillets. After a light coating of bread crumbs, Dwayne fired up a big pot of hot oil. Each piece was deep fried for about 2 and 1/2 minutes producing the tenderest and best fish and chips ever. I even tried the cod tongue, which was tender and had a jelly-like consistency. They were delicious!
Our time on the island went way too fast. We had such a fantastic time and woke the last morning to a thick misty, cold rain. None of us were looking forward to the 20-minute ride back to Mary’s Harbor. After leaving the island the rain slowed down and almost came to a stop making the ride back more tolerable. Putting everything away in the cars we made a quick stop at a small bakery for a cup of hot coffee and a fresh cooked bakery treat.
I would like to thank David and Karen for taking us with them for this incredible three days. This is something that we would have never thought of doing on our own and was one of the highlights of our trip. I would also like to thank Dwayne and Nikki for hosting us at their cabin and taking us cod fishing. You showed us a piece of what the fishing and isolated island life was like over the past couple hundred years. Your hospitality was the best and if you ever get down near us you will always have a place to stay.
Cheers and Eat More Cod,