On Friday August 20 the Clelia II anchored at Hebron, Labrador. It is the site of an abandoned Moravian mission. The history of the settlement is not a happy one. Founded in 1831 the mission disbanded in 1959. The health and living conditions of the native occupants were not good. In a lose lose situation they were forced to relocate without being asked of their preference or allowed to have a say in their fate. They were very unhappy in their new surroundings. If they had stayed they would continue to be afflicted with whooping cough, influenza and smallpox. In 2005 the provincial prime minister apologized for their treatment. In 2009 a monument was placed formally apologizing in English, French, and the local Inuit language.

The area is supervised by a husband and wife and their son. They each carry a rifle to guard against polar bears. I don’t know if an ursine threat is real or if the weapons were there to titillate the tourists. They were very friendly despite being government employees. They said ours was the sixth ship of the season; it was also the fifth as the Clelia II had stopped at Hebron on the way up. They expected  a couple more over the next few weeks before they left Hebron for the Winter.

We were told to stick together so the bears couldn’t pick off stragglers. We more or less did, though homo sapiens was the only mammal seen. The place is one more example the desire to do good resulting in the reverse; it’s only a bit more remote than most of the others.

The author observing nature. Photo by Oleg Kochuyev.

That afternoon the ship showed the 1922 film Nanook of the North. The movie was the first feature length documentary. While not at the artistic level of Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner, it fitted into the cold theme of this trip. The next stop was Hopedale, also in Labrador.

Hopedale was originally an Inuit village. Moravian missionaries first visited in 1782. The Mission House is the oldest wooden building east of Quebec City. There is a small Moravian Museum next door to the church. A program of Inuit games, Inuktitut Moravian Hymns and handicrafts was presented at the village school. Cape Harrison was the next stop.

Webeck Island was made out of landfall. We were offered the option of a two hour hike to nowhere. I passed. I also declined a shorter hike. But I did go ashore. As you can see on the picture above, the islands strong suits are rocks and tundra. Paraphrasing Winston Churchill –  I came, I saw, I capitulated. After a quick look, I went back to ship and had lunch.

There were two stops the next day – Battle Harbor and Red Bay. Disembarkation for the morning landing at Battle Harbor was at 0800. This trip overlapped breakfast; so naturally I missed it. All who went said it was very nice. There were crab snacks, trails, old grave sites, and interpretive exhibits. It was late afternoon when we arrived in Red Bay. As this visit did not coincide with any food opportunity, I went ashore. The place was once a Basque whaling center. That’s right Basques. Why they went so far from home when Barcelona is so much closer is a mystery, but we were assured that they came here centuries ago and returned for centuries after that.

There are three museums in Red Bay. Two devoted to whaling and one to local life. We were also offered a chance to visit Saddle Island where where there is an archaeological site and the cemetery where 140 Basque whalers were buried. I passed again. Perhaps I should have petitioned for a partial refund of the voyage’s tariff considering how many excursions I skipped, but I probably ate more than my share so things probably balanced out.

Red Bay was the last northern port. We traveled up the St Lawrence estuary into the river of the same name. Along the way we saw many whales. But unless the whale is almost on top of you the sight, while interesting, is not terribly impressive.

We spent a day in Montreal, then sailed through the 1000 Islands to Toronto where the trip ended.these Islands are quite scenic, but we were definitely back in the developed world. The numerous vacation castles built by rich American capitalists about a century ago were worth a few pictures. These guys apparently were desperate to find ways to spend their money. They probably kept a lot of people working. I don’t know who owns them now.

In the last part of this report I’ll discuss the lectures, the ship, the food, and the crew. Then I’ll sum up my overall opinion of the whole experience and try to estimate its value.

To be concluded

Orion Expedition Cruises announced the forthcoming long-term charter of Clelia II, a 100-passenger, all-suite luxury expedition cruise ship, to be renamed Orion II.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 4