Open and closed

The Compass - - OPINION -

It goes with­out say­ing. Peo­ple from away who come to the north­east coast of this is­land in sum­mer want to see two things above all — whales and ice­bergs. We have the won­der­ful Tourism NL tele­vi­sion ads to thank for that, and truth be told, even peo­ple who have lived here all their lives will go out of their way to seek out these spec­tac­u­lar sum­mer vis­i­tors who arrive by sea from north and south in spring and early sum­mer, and dis­ap­pear again by the au­tumn.

A three-gen­er­a­tion ex­tended fam­ily of old friends from Ot­tawa were no ex­cep­tion when they came to stay with us some weeks ago. They had been here be­fore, and had thrilled to the sight of hump-back­whales close-up from a 21-foot speed­boat. If they saw them again, they would be happy, but it was ice­bergs that were re­ally on their mind. So too for a new friend from Toronto.

In the weeks be­fore all our friends’ ar­rival we waited for the bergs to turn up. We knew there were plenty of them around Twill­ingate, but those are in the open ocean and you can count on them. In Bon­av­ista Bay, the tim­ing is crit­i­cal. As the ice­bergs pass the open mouth of the bay on their way south, there needs to be an easterly wind to push them west­ward be­tween Cape Freels to the north and Cape Bon­av­ista to the south. That wind needs to keep push­ing them far enough up the bay un­til they are trapped among the chains of is­lands and run aground in the shoal wa­ter.

Look­ing out the mouth of the har­bour the day af­ter our friends’ ar­rival, I spot­ted one such berg just off Shal­loway Cove — the ferry ter­mi­nal for St. Bren­dan’s about eight miles away. As all 11 of us boarded the ferry the next day for the 50-minute voy­age from Burn­side, the crew as­sured us we would pass quite near the grounded ice­berg. Emerg­ing, as though by magic from one of the dense banks of fog that traded places with bril­liant sun­shine, we spot­ted the berg from our van­tage point on the bridge where de­spite the signs warn­ing us away, we had been wel­comed by the cap­tain. The ice­berg was about half a mile away, and I knew the ferry could never get any closer.

As we docked, so did a long­liner, a crab col­lec­tor boat from Beothic Fish­eries of Val­ley­field. “I won­der,” I asked the long­liner’s skip­per Don­ald Bar­bour, who was wait­ing on the wharf for the crab to be graded be­fore he could load it, “if there is any way you could bring my friends from Ot­tawa out a lit­tle closer to that ice­berg. They’ve come a long way. You are here for an hour and so are we be­fore we take the ferry back to Burn­side. Any chance you could run us out there to take some snaps.”

The same open­ness that the skip­per of the ferry had shown us in our tour of the bridge ap­peared again in Mr. Bar­bour’s re­ply. Within 10 min­utes, the group, rang­ing in age be­tween 80 years and six months, were aboard the long­liner and steam­ing to­ward the ice­berg. My Ot­tawa friends were awed by the beauty of the ice­berg emerg­ing from

My Ot­tawa friends were awed by the beauty of the ice­berg emerg­ing from the fog. They were ev­ery bit as amazed by the open­ness of the two skip­pers and their crews whose kind­ness had trans­formed what might have been a rou­tine out­ing into a mem­o­rable oc­ca­sion.

the fog. They were ev­ery bit as amazed by the open­ness of the two skip­pers and their crews whose kind­ness had trans­formed what might have been a rou­tine out­ing into a mem­o­rable oc­ca­sion. Many thanks to them from all of us who were aboard the two ves­sels that day.

This way of be­hav­ing is as valu­able an as­set to tourism here as any tele­vi­sion ad — how­ever beau­ti­ful. It comes nat­u­rally to New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans and, if you haven’t trav­elled out­side this prov­ince, you can’t know how dif­fer­ent it is from what you are likely to en­counter else­where.

The warmth and open­ness we en­coun­tered as we trav­elled through the fog and sun­shine over the waves of Bon­av­ista Bay is in sharp con­trast to the shame­ful be­hav­iour on dis­play in the Dun­derdale gov­ern­ment’s dis­grace­ful changes to the pub­lic’s ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion that fol­lowed days af­ter our de­light­ful voy­age.

I was glad my friends had left the prov­ince by then and I didn’t have to ex­plain to them that our gov­ern­ment was also made up of New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans, but whose nat­u­ral open­ness had been closed up tight by their ma­jor­ity grip on power. Maybe it’s some­thing in the wa­ter in the of­fices of the gov­ern­ment side in the Con­fed­er­a­tion build­ing.

If the Dun­derdale gov­ern­ment wants to stay in of­fice, per­haps they should take a leaf out of the book writ­ten in the ac­tions of ev­ery­day peo­ple of this prov­ince. Read it care­fully and heed. Open up. Don’t im­i­tate the tac­tics of Stephen Harper, one of Canada’s least ad­mired politi­cians, par­tic­u­larly here. Be like the peo­ple you rep­re­sent. While you’re at it, or­der in some bot­tled ice­berg wa­ter from around the bay.

Peter Pickersgill is an artist and writer in Sal­vage, Bon­av­ista Bay. He can be reached by email at the fol­low­ing:

pickersgill@mac.com

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