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Castle Hill National Historic Site of Canada (NHSC)

Castle Hill National Historic Site of Canada (NHSC)

Steeped in history and graced with a panoramic view of Placentia Bay, Castle Hill stands alone. Castle Hill National Historic Site of Canada (NHSC) was designated in 1968 for its role in the defence and strategic interests of France and England from 1692 to 1811. But it’s role in the lives of the people of the Placentia area ensure it will be remembered as much, much more.

Occupying about 24 hectares of land, Castle Hill NHSC consists of several forts and fortifications. These defences occupy a strategic position on a hill that overlooks Placentia (the original French capital of Newfoundland from 1662-1713 known as Plaisance) and the “Placentia Road” or the marine approach from Placentia Bay leading to the narrow entrance to the harbour.

Although the origin of the name “Castle Hill” is uncertain, many older forts were referred to as castles. Over time, the name Castle Hill has become etched into the memories and stories that animate the area.

While the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) raged, Castle Hill did feature in a prominent role. Newfoundland did not play a direct role in this war, it was the location to which Governor Thomas Graves sought refuge in 1762 when St. John’s was attacked. What was Fort Royal was then re-named Castle Graves (later, the hill came to be known as Castle Hill).

While the garrison at Castle Hill was officially moved in 1811 by the British, it remained a part of the history of the region. As early as 1910, J.A. O’Reilly wrote in “A King Edward Peace Memorial Park” (see Memorial Digital Archives Initiative Newfoundland Quarterly, Volume 10, No. 3, pages 26 and 28) that Castle Hill should be used as the site for a peace memorial. Such a call is that much more poignant given the date—four years before the world was catapulted into World War I.

Photographs from the latter part of the 19th century (see Newfoundland Illustrated, 1894 – page 87), before it had been re-built by Parks Canada, are also indicative of its place in the stories and memories of those who have travelled and walked alongside Castle Hill. People whose families have lived in this area for many years, fondly recall how they scrambled and hiked along the trails around Castle Hill. These were the same trails created by and trudged centuries ago by soldiers lugging hundreds of pounds of cannon up to Fort Royale.

Today, the trails that surround Castle Hill are used daily by the people of the region. Whether they are seeking the rigours of exercise or perhaps a poignant moment in the embrace of nature, people eagerly walk or run on the trails of Castle Hill. As such, the significance and value of Castle Hill has easily spanned the breadth of time.

Castle Hill NHSC is a place where visitors can experience and touch the history that has enlivened Placentia. Breathtaking many would utter, gasping in awe when they first see the unrivalled and beautiful view of the surrounding communities, forests, hills and Placentia Bay itself. Unquestionably, Castle Hill is fixture in the sense of place that is intertwined in the deep history that distinguishes the Placentia area.

Exploring Stratigraphy and the Law of Superposition at Fort Louis

Exploring Stratigraphy and the Law of Superposition at Fort Louis

Math, models and multidimensionality were the words that flitted in and out of Colleen Tamblyn’s talk on the 24th August at St. Luke’s, a former church now largely a community centre. Her talk, entitled “Archaeological Ups and Downs: Exploring Stratigraphy and the Law of Superposition at Fort Louis” focussed on introducing the preliminary ideas and concepts that will serve as the foundation for her dissertation.

As Colleen explained, the crux of the story is how, when, and why something was used, as well as how, when, and why it was discarded. Over the centuries, Placentia has witnessed the comings and goings of countless groups. The discard patterns that have developed over this time have, in turn, formed depositional layers with the oldest at the bottom and the most modern at the top. Each layer is distinguished by a complexity of colour, texture, and also smell, something Colleen added is another distinctive quality some may miss.

Archaeology is, by its nature, a destructive undertaking and science. Hence, archaeologists are prolific note-takers. The abundance of notes and different typologies are then used to form what is known as a Harris Matrix, after the man who first conceptualised the idea, Dr. Edward Harris.

The Harris Matrix is based on what archaeologists know as the Law of Superposition—the layers at the bottom are the oldest while those at the top are the newest, provided they are undisturbed. The Harris Matrix, Colleen notes, “reflects the relative position and stratigraphic contacts of observable stratigraphic units, or contexts.” It’s a standardised framework, she says, for additional research which allows one to use the layers to determine when something was occurring.

Offering a vertical timeline based on the excavated record, the Harris Matrix means one can assign years to artefacts without relying on historical records. After all, with the Harris Matrix, the archaeologist knows where certain ceramics or other items are located in relation to others. So, it’s either older or younger dependent on where an item is located in the Harris Matrix.

Remember Colleen’s 5 fs? Form, From, Function, Fragility, and Faïence. These will come in handy when assigning points to specific ceramic pieces. Afterwards, this will go on to pave the way for the construction of two dimensional, three dimensional, and multidimensional models.

Using the Harris Matrix, Colleen can compare specific types of ceramics across the entire site in two dimensions by using the 5 Fs. The end result will permit her to create stacked bar graphs that can also allow inter-event comparison.

In three dimensions, it’ll be possible to have the Harris Matrix down one side with the site map across the top to create a form of diorama. This will allow an archaeologist to get an overall sense of how items are being used and then discarded.

For a multi-dimensional model, interpretation lies between data points, yielding something referred to as meta-data or data about data. Using mathematics, it will be possible to prove the existence of wealth patterns that Colleen can see, but she can’t yet prove. By assigning points of value to each of the 5 Fs and similarly assigning points of value to the ceramic pieces, she can create meta-data. The meta-data, in turn, can shed light on methods of wealth that Colleen could only previously indicate with images.

Ultimately, the idea will be to understand how the three models express data and how this also varies amongst them. There is a considerable amount of work left to do in order to hone the techniques Colleen will be using, but thus far, she is confident they hold much promise for her work.

In her conclusion, Colleen confirmed what many sought to hear. As she notes, Placentia, in her words “is so culturally dense. There is so much here that I am amazed that nothing’s been done except put it in a box. So there will be people who come after. I am the first of many.” Her words were no doubt music to the ears of everyone listening.

Hear What I Say

Hear What I Say

Listen. Don’t interrupt. People don’t always want us to suggest a solution. They sometimes just want us to listen. We underestimate how important and comforting it is to be listened to.

Wakeham Sawmill

Wakeham Sawmill

Wakeham Sawmill was designated as a Registered Heritage Structure because of its historic, aesthetic and cultural values. Originally constructed as a fishing stage in the outport of Petite Forte by John Wakeham in 1912, the building was partially dismantled and transported onboard a schooner across Placentia Bay in 1942. It was reassembled at its current location in Placentia, where it housed a carpentry business operated by brothers Cyril and Leonard Wakeham.

The aesthetic value of Wakeham Sawmill lies in its appearance as a vernacular, painted, wooden fisheries building exhibiting features of that form, as well as features reflecting its adaptive reuse as a carpentry business with an on-site sawmill. Modifications towards the building’s second function included the addition of four windows on the upper south side; inserting a trap door in the floor for disposing of sawdust; replacing two second storey windows with a double door; and erecting steps to the new door. (The steps were removed in the 1980s.) The interior of the building retains its sawmill infrastructure (benches, machinery, hardware), as well as unfinished surfaces including exposed beams, rafters, timber walls and wood floors.

The “shored up” post and beam fishing stage foundation was maintained, and was well suited to the building’s use as a sawmill. At the time that Wakeham Sawmill was erected in Placentia, Orcan River flowed under the building such that logs could float from neighbouring Southeast to the sawmill. The boundaries of Orcan River have since been altered to protect low-lying Placentia, so Wakeham Sawmill now stands on dry land.

Part of the cultural value of Wakeham Sawmill lies in its status as a traditional fishing stage adaptively reused. Wakeham Sawmill also played a significant role in the local economy at its current location, as a site for processing a natural resource for commercial purpose, producing wood products for the local market. Wood was cut downstairs, while the second floor was used for making doors, windows, furniture, caskets, boats and other wood products. Wood from the mill was also used in the renovation and construction of other buildings in the area, both commercial and domestic, and by local boatbuilders.

Wakeham Sawmill also has notable community level status as a familiar landmark, and as a reminder of the former course of Orcan River. Furthermore, Wakeham Sawmill is the only building of its type remaining in Placentia proper.

Source: Historic Places

Taking the Time

Taking the Time

It happens every day. Someone changes a tire for another person, laughing while they decline any payment. “No worries,” they say. Another holds a door with a wink and a smile. Somewhere else, a person patiently sits with a stranger listening attentively to their difficulties. Random acts of kindness, to be sure. But they are more than that. Deeper than an isolated act, they are all examples of how many of us have invested our hearts and taken the time to serve others.

To serve. “To be of service or use; function,” the dictionary says. It’s a word that effortlessly slips into our everyday lexicon in numerous ways. Still, when we look more closely, we realise it carries with it a heartfelt meaning that plumbs the very depths of what it means to be human. To serve is to give a part of ourselves to others, in so doing making manifest that we are all truly one.

In the act of serving, at its most simplistic, albeit vital, way, we demonstrate sentiments such as gratitude, kindness and compassion, qualities that not only help another person. We too benefit. Showing just a little gratitude actually diminishes our fatigue, at the same time as improving our sleep. Just being kind also raises our level of ocytocin, a hormone that moderates social interaction and emotion. So, it can’t hurt to be kind or compassionate.

But what serving others also does is create an intangible bridge between people. It could be just for the moment one holds the door for another or longer if someone listens while another shares their heartfelt feelings. Showing emotions such as gratitude, kindness and compassion helps to solder the bond that ultimately unites us as one.

Serving another and demonstrating kindness are all part of the balance we must seek in our lives. Rather than solely taking throughout our lives, it is essential to balance with giving. We are forever grateful for acts of kindness done to us. But we must “pass it on” and to do so is to seek balance. The reverse is also true. We would be frail thin and ragged of spirit if we were to always be giving, for there would be nothing left. These sentiments have been with us for centuries, across cultures and religions alike.

When we serve one another, we are distinctly stating that it is more important for me to take the time to help you than to do something solely for myself. It is an exercise in humility, one which recognises that for this moment, my needs must stand back while I service yours. We are placing the importance of others ahead of ourselves.

A warm feeling of comfort arises when we serve others, as we are reminded that there is something greater than we are, a deeper and meaningful layer to life. We feel a comfortable tug of purpose in our lives.

We are not alone, but rather bound to one another by an unspoken commitment and loyalty to one another. We have all been witness to someone, who, in the midst of utter devastation, genuinely assures total strangers — “I won’t leave you behind,” they cry out. They mean it with every ounce of integrity they have. It doesn’t matter what it will take. That is how we serve. Because to not do so, would be to somehow betray ourselves and in truth, our humanity.

We serve one another in a multitude of ways. Whether we are a health professional, musician, teacher, painter, garbage technician, writer, member of a road crew or anything else, we are somehow serving one another. But many of us live hectic lives and we go from place to place busy working, eating, playing. It is non-stop, a never-ending merry-go-round. However, it is vital to just stop. Then take a moment to think of how we can be of service to others. It is essential.

In so doing, we strengthen the underlying unity that binds humanity and makes us one. In a way, when we are in service to another, we are looking at ourselves in the mirror. We are all one and when we help others, we are helping ourselves. And so we find peace.

Taking the Time to Be A Friend

Taking the Time to Be A Friend

Someone once said that “A friend is one to whom you can pour out the contents of your heart, chaff and grain alike. Knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.” Whether it’s something you receive from, or in fact give to a friend, a family member, it is indeed a treasure! Pssst … pass it on.

The Hidden Mysteries of Ceramics

The Hidden Mysteries of Ceramics

Trust me. Step back in time and take a moment or two to look around. There are secrets to be revealed, mysteries to solve. And if you have someone like Colleen Tamblyn as your guide, you’re sure to not be disappointed.

Colleen has spent a month in Placentia doing the initial phases of her research of Fort Louis ceramics. While in Placentia, she was headquartered in the former St. Luke’s Anglican church, now a community building owned by the Placentia Area Historical Society. And on the 28th July, 2021, Colleen gave a presentation of her work thus far on the ceramics of Fort Louis, a fort that was built by the French when they controlled Plaisance, the term they used for Placentia. Her efforts have been guided by a firm commitment to the community. She stated how she wants her work “to be accessible to the people that the research is for, as much as possible.” Notably, she’s committed to involving the community in the archaeological investigation which will “allow the community to engage with their past.”

As Colleen poignantly explained, she wants to give people an opportunity to “touch history,” to be able to “put a 400 year piece of pottery in your hand and think, oh my gosh, I’m holding something that somebody 400 years ago held and drank out of and survived out of.”

To lay the groundwork, Colleen eagerly discussed French history that spans vast distances, its arms reaching from the deltas of Louisiana in North America to the rice paddies of Asia and numerous places between. The actions in these far reaching regions would go on to play a significant role in the evolution of Plaisance.

Colleen then explained how either in 1655 or 1658, the first people arrived in Plaisance, their survival placed now in the hands of mercantile ships from Boston anchored in the harbour. In 1663, the French soon began to construct the first of several forts—Vieux Fort atop Mount Pleasant. It was none too soon because 1672 would be the first of three long wars that would rage and largely determine the place of France in the colourful history of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Centuries later, beginning with Jean-Pierre Proulx in 1969, historians and archaeologists began trying to decipher and unearth this history. As one of those archaeologists, Colleen has chosen ceramics to be the lens through which she will explore the Placentia area’s history.

For the initial prodding of Colleen’s research, many of her questions had been posed by people coming to see her display at St. Luke’s, one being why look at ceramics in the first place.

She noted how ceramics provided an ideal platform by which to study history, as there are a wealth of typologies which have been developed to classify the pieces focussing on qualities such as colour, material, patterning and so on. One can then obtain information on price and deduce ceramic usage. From this information, it’s possible to understand the nuances of wealth and to better understand how wealth has changed over time.

Another question wondered how this would all be done. Colleen responded by explaining how she had arrived at what she termed “Colleen’s Five Fs” of ceramic analysis.

Colleen’s Five Fs of Ceramic Analysis

FormWhat does the vessel look like?
FromFrom where does the ceramic come? What is its origin?
FunctionWhat is its intended purpose?
FragilityWhat would it take for this vessel to break?
FaïenceHow decorated is the vessel?

She stated that when taking these into account, one arrives at the cost or perceived cost of a ceramic. Understanding these qualities she explained allows her to track cost, figuring out patterning styles and exploring “the psychology of a colony that was given up on.” In so doing, there are a multiplicity of factors that muddy the waters.

Colleen discussed how certain vessels are found in the excavation at a layer that does not make sense. But factors such as some being heirlooms would explain this confusion. Otherwise, they may be plundered goods. Any number of other factors place the ceramics where they are not supposed to be.

Another question that materialised for her, amongst many others, was where all the money went that was being given by France. The forts were notoriously short on uniforms and other items and as far as Colleen was concerned, the missing money was certainly not in the ceramics. But she pointed out that several of the governors had been recalled for “discharging their duty badly,” a hint to Colleen that they were likely “lining their pockets.” This will no doubt be another side avenue her research may take.

Colleen has done excellent work in her initial explorations into the ceramics of Fort Louis in Placentia. She will likely face considerable obstacles in her efforts to build an “interconnected network of wealth expression,” as well as in her attempt to explore patterns of usage and consumption in Fort Louis as well as Placentia as a whole. However, if her work to the present is any indication, she is more than up to that challenge.

Uncovering Hints of Turbulent Times — Fort Louis/New Fort in Placentia, NL

Uncovering Hints of Turbulent Times — Fort Louis/New Fort in Placentia, NL

Archaeologists have diligently sought to unearth the objects of Fort Louis/New Fort in an effort to tell the stories that time has quietly hidden. Fort Louis is the name of the fort dating from the period when the French controlled Placentia (1662-1713) or Plaisance as it was then named. New Fort is the term used by the British at the time when they had possession of all of Newfoundland (1713-1907). The year 1907 marks the year when Newfoundland became a Dominion.

Located in Jerseyside, on the north side of the Gut, (the narrow entrance that connects the waters of Placentia Bay and Placentia Harbour), Fort Louis/New Fort was the site of sporadic archaeological excavations from 1972 to 2012. Today, archaeologists continue to analyse many of the artefacts, engaged in unravelling their many mysteries.

During this period, by way of excavation, archaeologists and archaeological technicians have uncovered 41,650 artefacts. To enhance interpretation by the public, the workers have covered portions of the structures with rocks that show the locations of different parts of the forts.

Image of rocks depicting the shape and size of a storehouse from New Fort (Photograph: Lee Everts).

By doing so, archaeologists are seeking to shed additional light on the history of this part of the Placentia area. Beginning in 1691, Fort Louis became the second fort constructed by the French. Withstanding attacks by the English in 1692, it had to be re-built. The French were no longer taking any chances and fortified Fort Louis with 39 pieces of artillery. And owing to the violent and tempestuous history that gripped Placentia at the time, the fortification of Fort Royal (Castle Hill National Historic Site of Canada) began in 1693. This reflected yet a further attempt by the French to maintain control over the area.

Despite these efforts, Plaisance was surrendered to the British with the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. At this point, Fort Louis was briefly used by the English. However, by the 1720s, Fort Frederick located in close proximity to Fort Louis or New Fort, as it was referred to by the British, was largely abandoned. Although in the 1740s, the English revisited the fortification, building upon the earlier Fort Louis. The English used the buildings and features of the pre-existing fort until the latter part of the 18th century when the New Fort also fell into disrepair. At this time, Britain had already begun to favour St. John’s as a focus for their military defence and overall administration of Newfoundland.

More than a century later, archaeologists, armed with eighteenth-century plans of New Fort along with their know-how began to dig into the fortification on Jerseyside. One of the noteworthy discoveries was a storehouse and store-keeper’s house.

Aerial view of Storehouse during excavation (Provincial Archaeology Office 2006 Archaeology Review).

The archaeologists also revealed a section of the New Fort ramparts which, when first built, stood an impressive 11 feet high and 45 feet wide. When the workers dug a test trench on the interior of the western rampart, they soon learned that some of the masonry façade actually remained intact where it continued to hold back the mortared masonry.

Image of rampart (Provincial Archaeology Office 2006 Archaeology Review).

Beneath the rampart, the archaeologists also found a row of bark rings. Initially theorised to be part of another structure, upon further investigation, the archaeologist believed that it most likely was a part of the interior side of the southwest bastion of Fort Louis. This finding was of particular note as, if it was indeed a portion of Fort Louis, it would provide the first solid evidence of the French fort.

These provide only a hint of what lies below the surface. Far more remains yet to be discovered about these forts. And today, the sites remain a focus for ongoing archaeological analysis, ones that continue to prove that Fort Louis/New Fort was an important element of the history of the Placentia area.

An Underwater Forest

An Underwater Forest

It is on those calm, blue-sky days, when the surface of the water is like a smooth sheet of glass, that new worlds can be revealed. At these times, we marvel at the sheer vividness of the river bed or the edge of the sea shore. We are in awe of the colourful mosaic of rocks and plants that seemed to have just appeared. But not so.

Most of the time, we walk alongside any body of water with barely any thought towards what lies below the surface. It is at these moments when we spy the secrets lying below the surface and we are swept up into a majestic world filled with fronds, some long and wide, others slender and narrow all hypnotically swaying in the ebb and flow of the water. We have entered a whole new world.

There are a host of marine organisms, seaweeds or flowering plants (angiosperm), that grow along the bottom. Still kelp, a type of algae and eelgrass, a flowering plant are particularly noteworthy for the important roles that they play in the shallow water ecosystems in which they exist. Eelgrass also just so happens to be the only seagrass in Atlantic Canada. Both eelgrass and kelp quietly play a starring role in the life of Placentia bay.

Nature of Eelgrass

Eelgrass meadows, as they are known, are comprised of countless blades of these flowering plants. At about a ¼ inch in width and reaching lengths of around three feet, they generally remain completely submerged. Although, the depth at which eelgrass grows is ultimately decided by the light that is able to reach the bottom. When the tide is low, they are very distinctive with their vibrant bright green blades against the surface of the water. These plants also fare well in clear water and actually have a high minimum light requirement for their survival. The eelgrass meadows also have a long lifetime which can extend to decades and sometimes even for millennia.

Eelgrass is fairly robust, no doubt a quality that has helped this willowy plant to survive for so long. And while eelgrass possess an optimal salinity range of 20 to 26 ppt for photosynthesis, the plant is also tolerant of lower salinity levels of 5 to 35 ppt and even freshwater for a short time. However, eelgrass is unable to survive in oxygen free conditions (anoxic) or ones that are rich in mineral and organic matter, commonly referred to as eutrophic conditions. Eelgrass is equally versatile with regard to temperatures and can grow in a wide range of temperatures, from 10-25 °C and can withstand more extreme temperatures, from freezing to 35 °C. Eelgrass is a powerhouse of a plant and one that is able to share its strength with other species residing in the shallows of either rivers or other water bodies.

The blades lie at the surface when the tide has gone out. Their roots or rhizomes secure them firmly to the sandy, muddy or cobble-stoned bottoms where they reside. Thus secured to the surface, the blades of grass bend gracefully in the current. Although, despite the pleasant and placid appearance of the grass swaying in the flow, there is a functional element to the actions of the eelgrass.

Collectively, the myriad blades of eelgrass are able to stabilise the sediments and buffer shorelines. Once the eelgrass reaches a certain density, the assembly of grass blades is capable of moderating the wave energy and modifying the level of turbulence in the water. When looking at the surface of standing water, it is astonishing to see the effect of the eelgrass.

While the wind may be jostling the water elsewhere, the eelgrass acts to still the waves. By doing so, any of the sediment being held in the flowing water falls out of suspension, permitting more light to reach the eelgrass and be photosynthesised.


And photosynthesis lies at the heart of how and why eelgrass is able to perform the central function it does in the ecosystem. Eelgrass habitats actually rank amongst the most productive ecosystems on earth, a position that has it rubbing shoulders with the likes of the tropical rainforests, coral reefs, and wetlands of our planet. This is no small achievement. The eelgrass function at a high level of production, primarily due to the steady ongoing turnover of eelgrass leaves, as well as the numerous algae that grow on the leaf surfaces of the eelgrass. The algae provide one more element within the eelgrass meadows that can support fauna seeking food and protection. Linked to its high level of production, eelgrass also releases oxygen into the water column, which is a hypothetical cylinder of water stretching from the surface to the bottom of a water body. While doing so, eelgrass also performs one other function by filtering the water in the water column. These small blades of grass have a heavy workload.

As Part of the Food Web

The organisms that grow on the eelgrass are a primary food source for various species of invertebrates. Given its high level of production, eelgrass plays a pivotal role in the food web in which it exists. A part of the food web includes the numerous fish and invertebrates such as crabs of various kinds that are nestled in the dense meadow of grass. For these creatures, the eelgrass serves as a source of food, as well as protection. Thus, it is no surprise that the eelgrass is a favoured location for invertebrates in particular. Eelgrass is also an ideal nursery habitat for juvenile fish, in particular for Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). So, who could ask for anything more? There is abundant food for the growing fish and the ample cover of the blades of eelgrass ensures that it is a place of safety. However, it is not all that safe for every creature seeking cover. Apparently while the level of predation diminishes substantially within the eelgrass bed, it actually increases along the edge. It makes sense that any organism seeking protection within the eelgrass will fare better in larger continuous expanses of eelgrass than in smaller patches. This is simply because there are far more edges in the latter than in the former. Life in the bay can be touch and go.

The high productivity of eelgrass also means the speed with which the it replaces itself leaves a lot of eelgrass fragments flowing in the current. Nothing goes to waste as this material become a source of food for a host of bacteria, fungi, and protozoans (largely single-celled organisms). Given the current, this material can be transported great distances where the eelgrass debris can feed other species.

With all these glowing words, eelgrass is like a poster child for many scientists studying this vital element of the various ecosystems in which it resides. Accordingly, eelgrass is considered to be a keystone species wherein, much as the name implies, without the eelgrass, the structure will weaken and begin to crumble.

Unfortunately, in recent years, this is exactly what scientists have been observing. During the 1930s, the eelgrass population faced a microscopic, yet grievous threat for eelgrass on both sides of the Atlantic. At this time, the eelgrass was forced to contend with something aptly known as a “wasting disease,” the result of the persistent bacteria, Labyrinthula. zosterae. The disease spreads either through direct contact or detached parts that drift in the current, an all too common phenomenon. The disease is merciless. Necrotic lesions form creating a type of slime mould that darkens the blades of grass. Eventually the mould destroys the cells responsible for photosynthesis. And without the life-giving energy of the sun, the eelgrass simply dies. Ultimately, at the time, the “wasting disease” resulted in a loss of roughly 90% of North Atlantic eelgrass, something that required several decades for the eelgrass to recover. The disease has re-appeared since the 1930s, albeit with less of a lasting impact. However, the threat remains.

Challenges to Eelgrass

This very real threat is joined by the all-too-common perils of the sea—human-related activity. Around the world, the impact of our behaviour on eelgrass has been felt by such things as human settlement. This has led to a general decline in the distribution of the eelgrass beds globally.

While human-related activities carry their challenges, yet another substantial threat for eelgrass has been the arrival of a new species—the European green crab. This species made its first appearance in Canadian waters in 1951 in New Brunswick. Since this time, its made headway into other waters of the Maritimes. Eventually, it did find its way to Newfoundland in 2007.


The European green crab can be found primarily in shallow waters such as saltwater marches, sandy beaches or rocky coasts. It is less than desirable to have around, as it is very determined in its efforts to predate and feed and will guard its territory vigorously. It is a survivor. In fact, it has an edge in the fact it can survive out of water for several days. What’s more, they can also tolerate a wide range of temperatures and salinity. Together, these qualities make the European Green crab a difficult species with which to deal.

As a voracious predator, it is actually able to change the balance between species in an ecosystem and impact their diversity. In many cases, it can out-compete the native crabs for food. In terms of the eelgrass, their impact is generally happenstance, as they tend to uproot or cut the eelgrass while digging for prey or making burrows. However, given the central role of eelgrass in the ecological habitat, this effect is less than desirable. Hence, efforts are underway to study and control the presence of European Green crabs in the waters, specifically Placentia Bay, where they were first noted.

Looking Ahead

Beginning in 2018, a five year project included a range of specialists, including research scientists, graduate students, staff from ACAP Humber Arm (a not-for-profit organization serving the Bay of Islands and Humber Valley coastal regions of western Newfoundland which involved in habitat protection and restoration). The goals of the project are to restore eelgrass at particular sites in Placentia Bay.

Eelgrass quietly features in our lives, playing a central role in helping to maintain the health and resilience of our oceans. As part of the underwater forest that is majestically arrayed along our shores, we may not always notice them. But we will know if they are gone.

Enjoy a Healthy Snack

Enjoy a Healthy Snack

Summer is a time when we’re out and about — going for a walk, canoeing, or biking. Alongside our water, which is always good to have on hand, it’s nice to have something to eat. But instead of chips or even a granola bar, how about eating a healthier snack of vegetables or fruit? It’s just a way that we can be kind to our bodies as we enjoy all the countless activities during the summer season.