Sep 1, 2008
Down the road from the Bonavista Lighthouse an heroic bronze statue gazes out over the landscape. It is Giovanni Caboto, the Venetian explorer who discovered Newfoundland for England. Giovanni Caboto got Anglicized into John Cabot, of course, and that is how he is known to history.
We wanted to see the statue before we left, and Madolyn told me it was out on the 'Landfill'. That seemed like a strange place to put a statue, but I didn't question it until we passed under the arch and I saw the sign - then I understood.
Now you have to understand that Madolyn spent the last two years before she retired working out at the Sonoma County Dump, and the exposure to toxic terminology has left her permanently damaged. For example; she knows what a wildlife refuge is, but when she tries to say it, it invariabley comes out 'refuse'.
For Madolyn, the Newfoundland memorial known as Cabot's Landfall became Cabot's Landfill and it seems there is nothing that can be done about it. My greatest fear is that this condition may be contageous. I've already started to obsess on seagulls.
Anyway - getting back to Giovanni Caboto - after his first voyage to Newfoundland, he returned to England where a grateful king paid him 10 pounds and gave him a generous income of 20 pounds a year for life. He pleaded with the king to let him return, which the king did only to have him disappear, never to be seen or heard from again.
He was looking for a trade route to the Orient, of course, and while he didn’t find the route he was looking for, he did discover that Newfoundland had cod. That was as good as finding gold. I’ve mentioned previously in this journal that when a Newfoundlander says ‘fish’ it is understood he is talking about cod, because if he was talking about any other species he would call it by name. I have also mentioned that to the old-timers, cod was the only fish worthy of the name. To them salmon and lobster were ‘junk fish’. What I haven’t mentioned until now is that I am starting to agree with them! It is that good!
In another tribute to Cabot the province commissioned a ship to be built that is a replica of Cabot’s sturdy little ship the Matthew. One was built in Bristol, England and it made the voyage over in 1997 to celebrate the 500 year anniversary of Cabot’s voyage. Now Newfoundland has it's own Matthew, a fine replica built at a shipyard right here in Bonavista. Most of the lumber is local, but they had to import the 80 foot fir mainmast from B.C. It is at once a well built and seaworthy craft, but one so tiny that to venture out on the Atlantic on it would take great courage.
We took a tour of the Matthew which turned out to be excellent. A well informed guide took us over every inch of the ship, which rocked gently at it’s moorings all the time we were aboard. We rounded out our day with a good fish and chips dinner at a restaurant overlooking the harbor and the Matthew, and then we drove down the west side of the peninsula at sunset to find a campground. We didn’t see any moose, but we did see a beautiful red fox standing at the edge of the road, and a lucky grouse ran right in front of us but fortunately made it to safety.
We made it to safety too - as our luck continued to hold and our tire got us to a nice campground half an hour from Clarenville and the tire shop. Looking back at our day on the Bonavista Peninsula we had no doubt that the day had been well worth the risk.