Situated at tip of the North Atlantic, Newfoundland & Labrador is an adventurers and explorers paradise!
Newfoundland marks the point of the earliest European activity in North America and had been utilized in the very early years for both its mining resources and seasonal fishery where many would visit the land, though not stay until laters years. Early explorers have once mentioned that the ocean surrounding Newfoundland had been so highly abundant with fish that one could step off of the boat and walk on their backs to the shore. Outside of fishing, the island had been utilized for its rock and rich mineral deposits that lay from coast to coast from the east to the west.
It’s difficult to fathom who visited Newfoundland and left to sail elsewhere during the early days, though if there is one thing for certain much of the early history and pre-history of the province is still yet to be uncovered! From early settlers and inhabitants to the Vikings, Newfoundland & Labrador is a question begging to be answered by not only historians, but for geologists, outdoor enthusiasts and professors alike!
As we set sail for adventure here we’re going to touch part of some specific areas of the island all the while showing you some photos of various areas and findings. It’s important to note that not all areas can be revealed due to some significant findings (which are still being researched), but we can disclose some interesting photos to peak your interest! When finding something of significance in the province whether it be a stone foundation, stone or iron tool, etc, it is important to leave it where it is, contact the Provincial Archaeological Society and make note of the area with them for further research and consideration. Disclosing a location to the public may put an important part of early history in harms way.
With the islands boundless settlements and migration patterns there is always something to be found if you’re curious enough and like to get a little dirt on your trousers. For many years during the lands early days, Newfoundland & Labrador had been a lawless land where many pirates would make their home (primarily on the east and north east coast of the island). At one point in time the island has been inhabited by well over 80+ pirate ships. With all of the islands hidden nooks and crannies to hide a ship in along with the high, rocky, forested hillsides, higher elevations near forts or dwellings stood as an advantage for not only pirates, but for any early settler at the time where they could stand atop a hill and see what ships came onward to and from their location. The story isn’t only about settlement, but years and years of wars between the English and the French – most notably the War of The Avalon.
Many people reading this may have watched the movie ‘Master and Commander’ starring Russel Crowe as he sails the ocean between Europe and the Americas. The movie itself depicts sea battles between the English, French and more. Everybody loves a good pirate movie like Pirates of the Caribbean, but these stories are more similar to those depicted in Master and Commander. This should give somewhat of a good sense of time and correlation for the reader.
The above photo reveals a hidden stone foundation of sorts found not long ago in the wilderness of eastern Newfoundland & Labrador. Is has high relevance of what would be known as a ‘hunting pit’ that would be used to trap animals for later consumption. Aside from that theory, the foundation itself could have been used as a strategic hiding shelter from oncoming threats making their way through the sheltered cove where this structure had been found. Upon more speculation it could be a the remnants of a dwelling or cellar, though the first speculation appears to be more accurate.
In the following photo you can see what would have been a 3-ring iron cauldron that had been found at another site in Eastern Newfoundland & Labrador. This type of iron work is indicative of the 17th century.
In this next photo you can can see pottery shards that had been found next to a stone wall that would have served as a stone fence around a dwelling that would have served as a very early fishing community in the province. The type of pottery found here would depict pottery made by Europeans. The black material melted and fused to the side of the once pot (mug, jug or pot) perhaps indicates an external force had caused something to burn and melt. Could it have been from a fire? Was it accidental or intentional? Perhaps we’ll find out more in time as the story reveals itself!
The piece to the right in the photo shows grooves in the design that would have been made by ones fingers moulding the shape as the pot spun around on the pottery wheel. The object to the bottom right shows an iron sample from the once nearby quarters. The Gerber pocket knife had been included in the photo for scale of the samples.
Moving slightly away from the human-made artifacts, we’re now setting our sights on something much, much older as we touch base on some of the islands geology. It comes as no surprise that Newfoundland would have been used to mine precious materials such as various alloys, minerals and more. Some of the most noted materials would have been iron ore, lead, and more. In many cases there are several stories leading back to early settlers sailing through the bays and nearby coves on prospecting trips where they found what they had thought to be gold. To their misfortune their ‘gold’ find turned out to be nothing more than ‘fools gold,’ better known as pyrite. Upon their journey back to Europe to bring their bounty to their officials they were mocked for bringing back a high abundance of something that had been so lousy in value.
Bringing back tonnes and tonnes of worthless material is nothing better than the story that can be told to this day, but the story is not to be taken lightly as the province does have its fair share of precious material. Early settlers have been using the grounds of the province for centuries mining out its resources from Bell Island outside of St. John’s where a whole pterodactyl-like fossil had once been found, dug up and brought to a St. John’s church. Its whereabouts are now unknown. As the story goes miners were ordered to bring the pieces of the specimen to a church in St. John’s where it could be laid out, pieced together, then be decided at a later date about what to do with it.
Some time had passed where the priest at the time had became disgruntled at the pile of rocks taking up space in one of the rooms. At the time the priest didn’t know what the ‘rocks’ were or why they were brought there, so he ordered some mine workers to bring the rocks to the street where workers would have later picked them up and discarded them over the side of a cliff. Not long ago a very notable Newfoundland figure had commissioned researchers to find the remains that were once tossed aside, though the venture to find the precious remains came up short. The only thing we are now left with to this day is a photo of the amazing Bell Island find in CBC’s archives from several decades ago.
The Bell Island mine had been used for its rich iron ore deposits, though other mining operations extended all the way from Bell Island to the second most notable mine in Newfoundland, the Aguathuna Limestone Quarry on the Port au Port Peninsula which can be seen in the image to the bottom.
With years and years of digging and mining inhabitants and workers are bound to find something of significance, though at the time many miners wouldn’t have knew what they were looking at as they dug tiredly away at the material they were to mine to make a living. The Aguathuna Limestone Quarry itself shows a fine story about the islands geological activity during the early days of how Newfoundland had formed along with the daunting multitude of sea life fossils of animals and fauna that can be found in the area. On any given day one can set foot to the Gravel’s Walking Trail in Port au Port West to find humongous gastropods, cephalopods, trilobites and more! Scientists and geologists from all over the world come to see these sites strewn across Newfoundland.
In the bottom image a sea sponge fossil can be found on the mudstone embankments of Long Point on the Southwest Coast of the island. This fossil is dated to span back as far as 700 million years ago.
In the next photo you can see very small traces of early aquatic fossilized life. If you zoom in on the photo and strain your eyesight just enough you can see the tiny pores of the plants along with their tubulars and coral features. The sea life depicted here would have existed many millennia before any lifeforms existed on land. What you are viewing here is a prime example of something of earths earliest lifeforms.
You didn’t think we were going to get you to read all of that interesting material above and not show you some shiny things, did you? Well, after long await we have a treat for you! We can’t just write about finding precious materials and not show you some examples. After all, it is a huge part of our history. The Western portion of the island gives way to some variations of geology that the east coast may not have, though the east coast does have some very important geological features.
While on the islands southwest coast there are high abundances of limestone and dolomite. To the rock hounds out there that means one thing and one thing only besides sedimentary rock and beautifully preserved fossils… it means crystals! Fossils are famous for forming crystal inside of them that is termed as ‘calcite.’ Knowing this, many can find a very high abundance of crystal and other materials if they know the tell-tale features of the land that tell them where materials may or may not be present. The following photos show beautiful specimens found on the Southwest Coast of the island. Just to make things interesting for you we’ve started with some smaller specimens and work our way up to the larger ones.
The first photo in the collection shows a stunning green shaped crystal specimen.
The second photo in the collection shows a amazing reddish-pink crystal specimen.
The third photo in the collection shows a beautiful piece of honey quartz.
This fourth photo in the collection shows another astonishingly beautiful piece fit for the showroom. The total size spans roughly 7 inches across and weights just under 7 pounds.
This fourth photo shows a massive piece of crystal that was taken from the inside of a thermal vein deep from an underground cavern in an area famous for its karst topography.
The fifth photo shows a crystal-clear crystal cluster that had been found in an old mine entrance embankment. The mine vein had been rotting away at the entrance where red clay had engulfed the entrance. When digging through the red clay we were able to find beautiful show piece crystals like this without any damage due to the impenetrable layer of clay.
The sixth photo shows one of our most favourited pieces by the public. Weighing in at just over 15 pounds is this marvellous crystal specimen comprised of calcite, fluorite and other vibrant crystals mixed with zinc.
The seventh photo shows our second best documented find to date. This piece weighs a solid 17 pounds and is comprised of variations of red crystals and other unidentified minerals.
This last photo shows our favourite specimen. Weighing in at 34 pounds, this amazing piece of varying crystals and minerals had been found in a hydrothermal vent near the ocean in western Newfoundland & Labrador. Like the other crystals in this collection this piece shares many of the same features and minerals, though the sheer size and shapes are beyond belief! The crystal fused to the top is the size of an adults fist! Now that’s a display piece!
Outside of some interesting geological history fun, we step into the past some several thousand years ago to Newfoundland & Labrador’s pre-history by briefly touching base on the islands Indigenous culture. For centuries the province had been home to multiple migratory indigenous groups such as the Beothok, Maritime Archaic and more. Early mention of the Beothuk is present in history where the English and the French were said to have traded with the Indigenous group for some time (noted between 1610-1700 in Brigus and Cupids area). Meanwhile many settlements, tools and artifacts have been found all over Newfoundland & Labrador. Some of these most noted finds have been around the southwest coast along with the islands northern coast.
While out and about for hikes in the wilderness you may very well come across some interesting sights such as some of the findings our photo journalist has made and documented over time.
We conclude this article with some rare photos of settlement areas and artifacts that have been found throughout the last decade. It’s not very often that you get an up-close and personal look at such items of interest as much study and research had been conducted many years ago. These days we have high quality cameras for photos and technology to spread information far and wide.
The following photos shows an assortment of arrowheads, thumb-scrapers and micro-blades. The pieces range from anywhere between 3,000 and 11,000 years old. Most of the tools seen here have been crafted from chert. Chert is a hard, dark rock that is composed of silica with a microscopically fine-grained texture. It occurs as nodules found along ocean cliffside areas of Port au Port and other regions in Newfoundland & Labrador (though not limited to).