Fogo Island, Newfoundland - rain, wind, fog and ice

Up until the point chronicled in my last dispatch on this trip up north, the weather had been amazingly and consistently clear. Cold and windy, but sunny for most of each day. I did not embark on the trip at all until I had seen forecasts indicating clear skies, and those fair days lasted far longer than I had any right to expect. This great weather made for some spectacular photography. See Twillingate. On the day I set out from Twillingate for a side trip to Fogo Island on Newfoundland’s northern mid-coast, that all changed.

Well, not all. It still was cold and windy. But now many (but not all) days from here on while in Canada were overcast, rainy and with some fog. Frankly, I don’t mind that too much. I grew up with the Maine coast and if you don’t come to terms with that sort of weather you can’t really enjoy this part of the world. But photography in those conditions is a lot harder. Still, what you lose in “stunning” can be made up for in “atmosphere.” But only if the photographer knows how to capture it. Let’s just say that this was my chance to learn (and I still am).

Houses, buildings and towns in the North are not designed to be cute. I expect that far northerners have neither the time, resources nor desire for making everything neat, aesthetic and charming for our viewing pleasure. Throughout the North, from Canada, Alaska, Russia, Scandinavia, Iceland and Greenland, buildings and towns are made simply to work, for standing up to a harsh and brutal environment which leaves little room for anything but the utilitarian. There is a basic honesty about that which I appreciate.

And if a building gets worn down a bit? Well yours would too under these conditions. 

But to the point here, I think these northern outposts of our civilization maybe are best experienced on freezing, blustery, foggy days, and even better with a lot of ice scattered about. These are the conditions for which these communities were built after all. 

Therefore, after the hour or so ferry ride out to Fogo Island, accompanied by an unsettling cacophony of ice crunching against ship, and on a day with low clouds and wind driven drizzle and sleet, I found myself drawn to photograph more of the villages and buildings rather than just the natural wonders like icebergs.

Fogo Island is a large and pretty barren place, you need a car or a bike to get around. 10 or more kilometers will separate villages. There are a number of these communities scattered across its many inlets and peninsulas. And they are there with the single-minded purpose to exploit the sea. This is not a place where holiday homes line the shore. These are working homes, buildings and villages. (With the notable exception of the Fogo Island Inn, whose thousand dollar a night rooms, space age architecture, gated drive, and Hollywood filled guestbook has walled itself off from the surrounding community and will find no further mention in these pages.)

Still, there were icebergs to view here as well. These were not as big as what could be seen back in Twillingate during my time there. But that also meant they had moved closer to shore before grounding on the bottom.

Enveloped in fog and with soft, diffuse light from cloud covered skies, they became less dramatic. But the subtleties of their color and shape were accentuated I think by these conditions. In bright sunlight icebergs are magnificent, however they can also be blindingly bright. With the direct sun, dazzling blue water and clear skies absent, many of the hues and textures of the icebergs stood out all the more. These are not as attention-grabbing as the shots seen in my last post on Newfoundland, taken under achingly clear skies, but I think they capture something different and worthwhile. To really experience iceberg season, you should see them both ways. 

This was a modest iceberg. But it was grounded right in the middle of a small harbor that housed Fogo Island’s sole campground, which is where the above shot was taken. I had originally thought I might to stay out here a night, camped in the back of my Jeep. But due the lack of information online regarding whether it would be shut and gated or open (you don’t want to be on an island with no place to sleep) along with having discovered the great Hi Tides Hostel in Twillingate, I decided to make Fogo into only a day trip. It turned out that though the campground was closed for any services it was still physically open and I could have made do on this beach. Too bad I did not get a chance to wake in the morning, pop open my back hatch and have this sight. 

After a long day, I caught the last afternoon ferry back to the mainland. We again pounded our way through seas filled with ice floes, but by now this was old hat, something to hardly even notice.

Back on the mainland, I stopped for dinner at Sansome’s Seafood. One of my hostel-mates that week, Erin, had been there the day they had opened for the season and had a great meal of cold water lobster. Surprisingly, I had not had much seafood since leaving the cargo ship (which made a point of taking on board local seafood from the ports it serves) See Bella Desgagnés. Most such seafood places in Newfoundland were simply closed still, catering more to the summer crowd than the locals, for which seafood might well have become tiresome. Samsome’s is outside Twillingate on a wharf overhanging the water; which was, of course, choked with ice.

Their resident gull, Tilly, apparently is always on station, sitting just outside from my table. I decided to eat light. A seafood chowder, which was basically hot cream with a lot of cod and shellfish. That’s the way a light meal should be. 

And then it was just a short drive back to the tiny hostel in Twillingate. We could use more hostels on this continent. They are reasonable, offer all the services a traveler needs, like a kitchen and laundry facilities, and instead of sitting alone in a bedroom watching TV you meet other people with whom you share your time and life’s stories. As can be seen here, you don’t need a big place. 

©️ 2019 D Abbott