Monday, October 31, 2011

Where once they stood.

I awoke at the crack of 11h00. An unhealthy serving of pancakes covered in homemade jam; washed down with a couple cups of trans fat free coffee. A mere 8 hours after sunrise (which lay hidden under a mix of fog wind and rain.) I paddled.

Small rolling waves increased into nice swells as they approached the shore. The unseen shoreline stretched like opened hands; grasping deep out into the sea pushed waves up to meet the cliff. Waves rumbled and exploded as the shoreline seemed to edge it`s shoulder towards the onslaught. Closing it's eyes it took yet another hit.

As I paddled toward Topsail beach practicing strokes around rocks; a hole in a cliff of white rock commanded attention and exploration. This is honestly what I live for. The landing was looking like a anti gelcoat rally; however with some good timing I landed unscathed from the wave rock combination.  

The cliff lay just below the towering Topsail head. The stone wall appeared to my untrained eye (and a bit of google-fu afterwards) to be Pyrophyllite. The cave which turned out to be a quarry stopped 15 feet into the rock face. I have yet to find any records of this specific site; however it's likely that it was a small quarry from the 1902-1910 time frame. The same mining era that began the Quarry at the "Talc mine" just down the coast. 


Some kids had added some wood to sit on and professed love in spray paint. I`ve never seen a cliff like this in my travels; and certainly never seen such a inviting cave to live in! I imagined what a tarp and a few personal effects could do to spruce this place up a little. Cot in the corner, radio on a drift wood shelf...I truly could call this place home! And for those who know me`s not a far stretch in the realm of things I do! (I've lived in worse!)

Just another example of things one will never find in brochures or tourist information. A place when men toiled to dig with hopes and prayers. Weeks perhaps months of someones existence carved this place into nothing more than maybe some family verbal history somewhere. Like a inukshuk of our islands history. Showing that someone was here. Yet leaving no sign of who they had been.

I began roaming the beach searching the flotsam and jetsam for gold bullion, messages in a bottle, bags with dollar signs on them, and the like. Finding a few foam net buoys I put them in my kayak for my father who carves trouting bobbers out of them.. As I passed over other garbage I wondered that if we all had a use for something in this garbage;just how clean this place would be. I had found someones trash which I knew my father would be happy to get. Yet I passed by plastic bottles; a free currency.

Had I lost touch with my heritage where the sea and land provided all? A broken but easily fixable lobster pot lay intertwined within twisted branches of a dead evergreen tree. With little work I could place this back into the sea and reap the benefits of my work. Yet I walked past it all.

It's sickening how ideals change once immersed into a culture of waste for so long. What had happened to the long haired kid full of ideals; and who had I become? Was I too "wealthy" to pick up a few plastic bottles to return for a refund? Why did I not get excited to find free money? Would I pass by dimes and nickles strewn across a city sidewalk? Would I be too proud to pick up coins on a busy parking lot?  As heavy rain danced on my drysuit hood; I had much to contemplate.

I paddled my empty boat back to St. Philips where I met an older gentleman who helped me load up my kayak. We chatted for a good 15 minutes in the cool winter rain. He happened to be the harbour master and was a great guy to chat with. We talked about just about everything in general from the new homes going up, oil money in the province, to issues within the harbour. Smells of wood smoke and deep fryer food from the local restaurant filled the air as our conversation danced with ease.  I stowed the last of my gear away and bid him a great evening as he retreated to the harbour authority building to warm up.

As I drove back into the city lights my heater pumped out loud over some barely audible tones of the oldie station. Condensation forming on the windsheid where my cap pressed against the cool glass.

I wondered how much free money I leave on those beaches.

 Maybe I still have the thoughts of my ancestors; with the ability to expressed them in conversation with ease.

Now to work on my actions.


  1. The rock face you happened upon is actually quartz. The hole was dug because where there's quartz, there is the possibility of gold. Just an exploratory dig, I guess, in the hopes of finding something more valuable. As youngsters we used to paddle that coastline (from St. Thomas Beach to Topsail) all the time in our canoes and had all kinds of names for the various geographical features. Our imagination did not run wild with regards to this particular one - we simply called it the "The Quartz Cave". Other beaches and areas had more colourful names like Cartsy Fartsy Majano and Lebano Cartsy Fartsy - don't ask!!!


  2. Haha Thanks for sharing Sean. I plan on taking a piece into the Higgins building when I get a chance as well. I wasnt expecting much outside of a slightly urban paddle but was happily surprised to find "the quartz cave".
    thanks for the local info!


  3. After doing some more research there is reference to the Nfld Managanese Iron Mines Limited owning this claim; but no specific reference to this adit. However here's the Mineral Occurrence Database System Report

  4. I think that's a keen observation: "how ideals change once immersed into a culture of waste". It's so easy to take what was once considered infinitely precious, for granted. It even happens with people. As the song goes, "you don't know what you've got till it's gone" - shouldn't ever be that way. Great post. D.

  5. Thanks Duncan. I was watching a documentary a while ago called "regarding our father" At the end at a business luncheon in his honor he stood up and toasted to the people of newfoundalnd and hoped they would never leave their traditional way of life that would help them weather near anything (or words to that effect). I believe we have fully lost our way. Heres the video link.