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Month: May 2021

Pass it On

Pass it On

Here’s a thought a Rev. Henry Burton noted … He asks, “Have you had kindness shown? Pass it on; ‘Twas not given for thee alone, Pass it on; Let it travel down the years, Let it wipe another’s tears. Pass it on.” So, that single act of kindness we give to another person never really stops. For all time, it will continue to bring a warm feeling of comfort and perhaps a smile to those who might just need it!

Being a Part of Nature

Being a Part of Nature

Summer is only weeks away and flowers are blooming and the birds are building their nests. So, why not enjoy nature and plant a flower … or a garden of them! It’s a simple act of kindness to yourself, your family, friends, as well as the community, as a whole. And let’s not forget, it’s also an act of kindness to the butterflies, birds and bees who flutter and whir through your back yard.

Sentinels of Nature

Sentinels of Nature

Looking out over Placentia Bay, an expansive bank of grey-blue clouds looms close to the shore. In the distance, the clouds form a straight and distinct line just above the water, the clear white sky between the two.

It looks for all the world like someone has scrolled a perfectly defined white line to divide the sea and the sky. Nature has its moments. This sometimes imposing, always impressive body of water often feels like it has been there forever. While it may not be forever, the origin of the bay does indeed extend deep into the past. So, yes, maybe it is close enough to forever.

Rocks of Time

The bedrock below the sea bed of Placentia Bay owes its origins to the Precambrian to Devonian period. It would have been around 359.2 million years ago or earlier. It is sometimes difficult to even conceptualise such a span of time. The geological perturbations of the period yielded rocks that are generally sedimentary, metamorphic (rocks formed from existing rock that has been exposed to high temperature and pressure), volcanic, and granitic rocks. The latter are both of volcanic origins, with the only difference being that the former had solidified on or near the surface. So, Placentia Bay developed during turbulent times indeed.

Another type of bedrock observed on part of the sea bed consisted more of sandstone, siltstone, and limestone. These rocks formed somewhat later during the Carboniferous period, around 392.2 to 299.0 million years ago. At various places granitic plutons or intrusions had also penetrated these rocks. This included Red Island granite, so named because Red Island is comprised solely of granitic rock, hence, the definitive colour of this island.

The depth and underwater topography of Placentia Bay generally trends along a direction from the northeast to southwest. Much of the seabed of Placentia Bay developed during the Appalachian Orogeny, a mountain building episode that took place about 570 to 650 million years ago. This left an array of large structural domes and basins. Being around 350 m above sea level, the sub-peninsulas on the Avalon Peninsula form the domes. And it was the basins that, in time, became filled with water to yield the large bays that we now know as Placentia, Conception, St. Mary’s, and Trinity.

Flowing Ice and Snow

The underwater landscape developed as a direct response to the period of glaciation that swept over the continent, reaching its maximum extent about 21,000 years ago. If we could travel below the water surface, we would see myriad formations that are characteristic of a glacial terrain. Large oval shaped mounds known as drumlins, which average around 230 m wide, 10 m high and 795 m long, silently sit on the sea bed. Like the moraines, the sediment and immense boulders that had been carried by the ice, these formations remain as lasting reminders of the movement of the formidable glaciers as they advanced, receded, re-advanced, and then diminished. Placentia Bay stems from a well endowed geological heritage.

With an area of around 6,600 km2, Placentia Bay is the quite easily the largest bay in Newfoundland and Labrador. It stretches for around 146 kilometres along its mouth and boasts a coastline that raggedly extends for around 1,750 km. This ice-free bay is also dotted with over 300 islands of varying size, with Merasheen Island and Long Island being the largest and Red Island being the youngest and also one of the most recognisable, given its distinctive red hue.

This is a photograph of Red Island (source

As hinted by the water line along the coast in many places, the tidal range of Placentia Bay is over 2 metres with some confined areas experiencing ranges around 3 metres. The currents that flow throughout Placentia Bay are born in large part of the Labrador current that carries frigid waters from the north near Greenland. Following the coastline down through the Labrador Sea and along the eastern coast of the Avalon Peninsula, the Labrador current then swings up into Placentia Bay near Cape St. Mary’s. As it flows, the Labrador current encounters various other local processes such as the wind that help to stir things up. The result is usually some local up-welling of nutrients, the result being a high level of productivity in places like the Burin Peninsula and Cape St. Mary’s.

Dependent on the nature of the coastline, the Labrador Current will be more or less impeded in its flow along the coast of Placentia Bay. While some areas, such as in northwestern Placentia are more deeply embedded, other locales like around the Burin or Cape Shore, the coast is less curved creating less of an impediment for the current. Always hugging the coastline, the Labrador Current travels in an anti-clockwise fashion around the coast of the bay, until it flows out along its western part then on to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Beauty of the Boreal

Classified as being mid-boreal, the bay makes for a relatively placid environment. Summers are relatively short, cool, and wet while the winters have a generally mild temperature of around -4° Celsius. During the summer, the easterlies dominate while in the winter, thanks to the Gulf Stream, the balmy south-westerly wind is the prevailing wind direction that carries warm and moist air into the region. The temperatures range from -29° Celsius to + 29° Celsius with it usually being between -10 and +15. While there will be ice, it will rarely be particularly heavy ice.

In other respects, as many residents of the bay would attest, it tends to be foggy for much of the year.

With an average of 154 days of fog in a year, the region is regarded as being the foggiest place in Canada. Some people may question the merits of such a reputation, but the fog carries benefits for some flora, as it helps plants resist the stresses of becoming thoroughly dried out. Plus, when the sun does finally emerge, it is welcomed as it kisses the land and sea with its magical touch of life.

The myriad plants and animals who reside near or within the waters of Placentia Bay are reliant on one another, sometimes intimately, all in an effort to ensure their continued health and well-being—essentially their survival.

This is how it works, a medley of living and non-living elements joining together in a dance of life, their respective goals and needs periodically merging to work in common. Such are the intricate workings of the diversity of life. It is an element of the bay that we have come to value in numerous ways, thus lending spirit to Placentia Bay.

The Simplicity of Kindness

The Simplicity of Kindness

Here’s a small reminder from the Dalai Lama we can try to remember. He explained how, “This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” His words show not only how simple it can be to share kindness with others. But they also remind us of how important those kind words and deeds can be.

The Nature of the Bay

The Nature of the Bay

Who are you? When I first spotted them, with their brilliant white against the grey storm-beckoning sky, I thought they must be gulls. They were in the harbour in Placentia, Newfoundland and Labrador and there, the gulls tend to always be flying about, invariably on their way somewhere to do something of great pertinence. It’s a gull thing. But then, as I watched, there was no mistaking that perfectly executed plunge dive into the water. No, these were not gulls. They were northern gannets who must have flown up the coast from their nesting site at Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve.

While for them, it was simply a search for food, for me it was a rich gift sent from the heavens above—from out of the blue. Literally. What a spectacular privilege to spot them this far from their home. At least that’s how it seemed for me. Although to them, it was just an average day hunting for food in the waters of Placentia Bay. And after making the trek from the Gulf of Mexico, it was child’s play.

As the gannets were wheeling around overhead, cormorants—both double crested and great cormorants live here, although I’m not sure which one they were—sat low in the water. They would arch their lithe bodies to dive down into the depths to gather food. In a few moments, they’d rise back to the surface, sometimes just a few metres from where they descended. Afterwards, they’d slowly lift from the water to flap and dry their wings, which are actually not waterproof.

Closer to the shore, animals such as otters would be floating on the water, their sinuous bodies periodically diving down to catch a crab or some other tantalising morsel that they bring to the surface to consume. These creatures join the cornucopia of other animals—whales, seals, fish and countless more—who make a permanent or temporary home in and around Placentia Bay. For much of the time, the wildlife of the bay quietly go about their own business, their unquestioning eyes merely looking on as the goings on of Placentia Bay proceed apace. They no they belong here. No need to question that force of nature.

Amidst the goings-on in the sky or near the water, a rich and varied assortment of plants also grow, uninhibited most of the time by the activities of others. And yet, they quietly harbour an explosion of life. The seaweed quietly sits anchored to the rock and like a beautiful dance, they sway to the gentle melody of the sea. Whatever the nature of that life, they and the plants forming a part of their habitat, are a characteristic element of the bay.

Whenever we journey out onto the bay, whether in reality or in our minds eye, soothed and enlivened by memories and thoughts, the myriad plants and animals we encounter are a part of the bold richness and unique identity of the bay — sentinels of nature. But what are these elements that are a part of the bay? And more importantly, how do they help to impart an aspect of uniqueness, value, and meaning to the bay—to its spirit? We shall see.

Sweetening Everyone’s Day

Sweetening Everyone’s Day

The next time you head to work, how about surprising your co-workers with a sweet treat!? Try it at different times throughout the year. We can all appreciate how an unexpected treat can help to melt away the tension and rigours that we might encounter in a day. Without question, it is an act of kindness that can bring a smile!

Placentia Area Theatre d’Heritage (PATH)

Placentia Area Theatre d’Heritage (PATH)

Early Years

Since 1993, the vibrant and unique history of the Placentia area has been brought to life by the Placentia Area Theatre d’Heritage (PATH). Casting their spell, their acting troupe has effortlessly transported their audiences back in time. It may be to the very early years of Placentia when the French and English were in a vice grip, each vying for control of Placentia. At other times, the plays have taken residents and visitors alike to sometimes boisterous, sometimes sombre times that characterised the more recent decades of the Placentia area.

It all began in 1992 when Parks Canada expressed an interest in boosting the visitors who would journey annually to Castle Hill National Historic Site of Canada (NHSC). The idea was to make the visit to Castle Hill NHSC a more stimulating and delightful experience. Was there a way to inject some life and energy into the history that characterised the region during the time when Castle Hill and its array of forts guarded Plaisance? This was from around 1693-1811.

After meetings with various local groups, the answer seemed to be some kind of theatrical performance or programme. And so, Placentia Area Theatre d’Heritage was born. The first play was a ten minute vignette produced by the Royal Re-enactors, the name adopted by the students who wrote the play. Then, in the following year, Sheilagh Guy Murphy put pen to paper, writing and researching “Faces of Fort Royal.” It was performed for the first time in 1994. Since this point, it has become the signature piece of PATH. After its inaugural season, PATH would commit itself to finding unique ways to perform and share the rich brocade of history that defined the Placentia area.

In Recent Years

PATH produced “Mysterious Visitors,” in partnership with the Atlantic Charter Foundation. Written by Agnes Walsh, the play was set in 1941 and revolved around a few local residents who were curious about the hubbub that seemed to have arrived in their tiny corner of Newfoundland. It was, of course, what turned out to be the historic meeting of Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Britain and President Delano Roosevelt of the United States. Musicals such as “An Evening with the USO” took audiences back to the 1950s, a time when the United Service Organization (USO) visited the United States Naval Base in Argentia.

PATH has remained as one of the groups and organisations at the cultural heart of the Placentia area. Their goal has not only been to bring life to the history of the region. It has also been their willingness to be a valuable member of their community, be it in their efforts to encourage students to spread their wings on the stage or in the support that PATH offers to local businesses.

They recently added a new addition to their office which will serve as a box office and no doubt additional space for things such as wardrobe and props. PATH is certainly growing and evolving. And given its current history, there is every indication that PATH will remain as one of the cornerstones of the culture and heritage of the Placentia area.