Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hot Stove Memories of The Ha Ha

With the local waters too hard to paddle, I'm left to sit by my hot stove and remember some of the more memorable waters I've been fortunate enough to experience. In particular, I'm remembering a summer's evening paddle with Mrs. Trashpaddler and two good friends, Paul and Ellen...
Far to the northeast, on the south coast of the large island Newfoundland, lies the small community of Burgeo. An archipelago, known as the Burgeo Islands, extends out towards the once great fishing grounds, Burgeo Bank. This place is all about fish and fishing. Cod and capelin, whales and herring.
Back in 1967, before there was a road to this place, Canadian author Farley Mowat and his wife Claire resided here. During the latter part of January, in that year, there occurred a strange event that would result in Farley writing the book A Whale for the Killing.

The setting where the events unfolded is described by Farley as follows: "Aldridges Pond is a salt-water enclosure about half a mile in length, and nearly as broad, lying in the centre of the rocky isthmus which separates The Ha Ha from Short Reach. There is a narrow and very shallow "pushthrough" between it and The Ha Ha, passable only by small boats and then only at high water. However, a wider and deeper channel connects the Pond to Short Reach by the way of a rather large entry cove. It was the habit of men who fished The Ha Ha to pass back and forth through Aldridges Pond to save themselves the long and, in dirty weather, dangerous outside run around the head of the peninsula. Each morning at daybreak they would cross Short Reach, enter and cross the Pond, pole through the pushthrough, and set to work hauling their nets in The Ha Ha. In mid-afternoon, when the haul was finished, they would bring their loaded boats back into Aldridges and moor up to the shore in the Pond's protected waters to gut their catch.
During our years in Burgeo, Claire and I had only once visited Aldridges Pond; but before we had been home two weeks, the Pond became the centre and the setting for an event which was to change our lives."

The event was a female fin whale chasing a school of herring into Aldridges Pond, during a period of unusually high water. After feeding on the herring in the Pond, she found herself unable to pass back to open water and became trapped.
It was back in 2002 that we four paddled our kayaks out Short Reach from near the Fish Plant in search of Aldridges Pond. We soon found and entered the confines of the Pond which is nestled between Richards Head and Greenhill Island, and tried to imagine such a large whale being trapped in such a small tidal basin for several weeks. Then we carefully dodged some shallow and barely submerged rocks while passing through the pushthrough into the small fiord known as The Ha Ha. This is a beautiful and other worldly place and memories of it are forever etched in my mind. Here it is easy to understand why Newfoundland is called "The Rock", yet only a few miles to the west you can experience beautiful sandy beaches at SandBanks Provincial Park. Truly, a land of stark contrasts.
After reading A Whale for the Killing, I had to see and experience Aldridges Pond and The Ha Ha for myself! If you haven't read this book, you may want to check it out! Who knows, you may one day find yourself paddling through the Pond and into The Ha Ha! I will envy you!

1 comment:

Dixit et Fecit said...

A very nice short story to ease the mind as I start my mundane day with no exciting events expected or to be recalled.