The Labrador Peninsula, an area of 1,560,000 sq. km (602,160 sq. mi.) between Hudson Bay and the Atlantic, is the eastern flank of the Canadian Shield, and contains a wealth of mineral deposits in its Pre-Cambrian plutonic rocks.
Labrador's central uplands range between 200 m (650 ft) and 500 m (1650 ft), reaching heights in the north-east of between 800 m (2625 ft) and 1800 m (5907 ft). The peninsula was the final resting place of the glaciers of the last continental Ice Age, until they too melted about 6000-7000 years ago. The landscape has many clearly glacial features, especially in the north. Countless rivers have carved deep valleys across the face of Labrador, which has deep fjords as well, particularly along the Atlantic coast, also typically glaciated. The hummock-covered pristine wilderness of the interior has broad basins that have been filled with lakes, moraine spoil or sand. The lowlands around Hudson Bay and Ungava Bay were under water when times got warmer.The Labrador Peninsula lies between 50° and 60° latitude north, and has a sub-arctic climate that counts as extreme in European terms. This is intensified by the cold Labrador current that swirls around the edge of this land mass. Temperatures in central Labrador can fall to -50°C (-58°F), and they can even get as low as -40°C (-40°F) on the coast. Average summer temperatures are between 5°C (41°F) and 10°C (50°F), and higher in places. Average precipitation is between 500 mm (20 in.) and 1000 mm (40 in.), depending on the lie of the land, and rather less on the Ungava peninsula, with a quarter to a third falling as snow.Most of northern Labrador is in the permafrost, and has the typical tundra vegetation of sparse, sub-arctic pine and birch. The south, on the Gulf of St Lawrence and around Goose Bay, mostly has boreal timber.The Labrador is a breed of dog native to eastern Canada, and probably related to the Newfoundland, although not as large. Labradors have a short, thick coat, ranging in colour from pure white to black, occasionally with a tinge of brown. Here in Canada they are mainly used for pulling sledges.The waters off Labrador are among the world's best fishing grounds, so there is a long fishing tradition. In the past furs also played an important role in the local economy. Timber felling and processing are also of economic importance, mostly concentrated on the Gulf of St Lawrence seaboard.Eastern Labrador is among the world's major mining regions, and the vast iron ore reserves between the Churchill and Koksoak rivers yield over 10 million tonnes a year.Its enormous hydro-electric potential has made Labrador a major supplier of energy to the industries of south-eastern Canada and the United States eastern seaboard.Labrador was probably discovered by the Vikings in about 986. John Cabot reached the peninsula in 1498, then later came immigrants from the British Isles. Trappers, fur-traders and lumbermen were roaming the territory up until 1900, when the population numbered about 5000, most of them Inuit and Indian.Vast reserves of iron ore were discovered in the late 19th c. and as they came to be mined, particularly after the Second World War, the population grew. By 1950 it had already risen to 18,000, about a third being Inuit or Indian.Most of Labrador is in Québec Province, but the east coast and part of the hinterland come under Newfoundland, although these boundaries have shifted several times since 1763.
Goose Bay, Canada
Along the shores of Lake Melville between Rigolet and Goose Bay there are a number of smallish but major settlements, where conditions are ideal for trapping, fishing and felling timber. One of the most important is North West River, or Sheshatshui ("narrow place in the river" in the Naskapi language) home to the Naskapi and the descendants of the English, French and Scottish settlers who originally worked here as hunters and trappers. The whole area has undergone considerable change since the Second World War, especially Happy Valley and Goose Bay.The Goose Bay region - part of Newfoundland - is in eastern Labrador. The Allies built a big military base here during the Second World War, and the area is still used for military purposes, such as NATO training and low-level flying.The Goose Bay area has a population of over 10,000. Many are from the original Indian peoples, but their lives are seriously affected by the military presence.The town of Goose Bay is on an ice-age sandy site on the shore of Lake Melville. Its Labrador Heritage and Culture Center Museum, in the north of the town, offers exhibits telling the story of Labrador and its people include a trapper's tilt, a kind of tarpaulin tent that provided shelter in the wilderness, trappers' tools and some beautiful furs. The items from Wallace Hubbard's ill-fated expeditions into the interior are of particular interest.From Goose Bay the route continues on the Trans-Labrador Highway, to Churchill Falls.
Churchill Falls, Canada
Churchill Falls has what is considered to be one of the world's greatest hydro-electric power site. The main reservoir, covering an area of 3520 sq. km (1359 sq. mi.), is as big as Sicily, and the water drops 300 m (985 ft) over a distance of about 32 km (20 mi.). The largely automated power station generates 5,225,000 kW of electricity, serving over 3,500,000 Canadians and exporting the rest to the USA.Travel around this area requires a special permit, but the scenery and the sight of partridges, beavers, caribou and even black bears compensate the visitor for the difficult drive.
L'Anse Amour, Canada
At L'Anse Amour archaeologists have uncovered an ancient burial site with finds over 7500 years old. The people who originally lived here on the south coast of Labrador almost 9000 years ago, at the end of the ice age, were the ancestors of the primitive caribou-hunters of eastern North America. They lived in small settlements and were later to become the fishing and whaling tribes of the Belle Isle Strait.The area is now officially, L'Anse Amour National Monument Site, a part of Port au Choix National Historic Site of Canada.
Schefferville is a young town at the end of the Québec Shore & Labrador Railway, founded in 1950 as a mining settlement when vast iron ore reserves - estimated at four billion tons - were discovered at Knob Lake, as the place was then called. Only ten years later there were 4000 people living in what is now Schefferville. It is linked to the port of Sept-Îles by rail, and by occasional flights, which also go to Québec and Montréal.
North Labrador is a largely remote area.To get from Goose Bay to Nain it is best to take the ferry that sails along the coast once a week between late June and late November. Anyone wanting to travel further north will have to charter a boat or plane, always allowing for the harshness of the terrain and the changes in the weather.
Founded in 1771 by a group of Moravian Brethren, Nain's population are Inuit, who live either from welfare or by the traditional ways of taking shellfish and salmon, and hunting caribou. The interesting little Nain School Museum illustrates the life of the Inuit and the Moravian Brethren, with kayaks and other items from northern Labrador, as well as telling the story of the Moravian mission.
Hebron, the northernmost of the Moravian Brethren's Labrador missions, is on the remote shore of Kangershutsoak Bay. Established in 1829, it was abandoned in 1959 but the buildings remain, having been declared a national monument in 1970.
In 1782 the British Government allowed the Moravian Brethren to set up a mission station in Labrador. This little complex known as Hopedale is made up of a church, a grocery store, the minister's house, stores and little homes of the local Inuit.
Ungava Bay, covering 621,000 sq. km (239,700 sq. mi.) and only ice-free in summer, is in the north-east of the Labrador peninsula, opening onto the Hudson Strait. The many large rivers flowing into the bay include the George, Koksoak, Leaf, Payne and Whale. Large iron ore deposits were found around the bay in the 1950s and these are now being mined on a grand scale.
Kuujjuaq (formerly Fort Chimo)
Kuujjuaq is an Inuit settlement on the Koksoak River, about 50 km (30 mi.) inland from the bay.Kuujjuaq was formerly known as Fort Chimo. It was the site of a U.S. Air Force base (Crystal 1) in the early 1940s. The base was turned over to Canada following the end of WWII.Today Kuujjuaq is a modern Inuit settlement still practicing traditional ways but also home to modern conveniences, with a couple of hotels, restaurants, conference centre, and other amenities.
The twin towns of Wabush and Labrador City are in the middle of the wilderness, about 25 km (16 mi.) from the Québec border. They were constructed in the 1960s in an iron ore area. Ore to the value of about 1 billion Canadian dollars is mined here annually.From Labrador City it is possible to cover the 400 km (250 mi.) to Sept-Îles by rail, a journey that takes six hours.
Red Bay National Historic Site
Red Bay is the oldest industrial archaeological site in the New World, with the remains of a 16th c. Basque whaling station and shipwrecked Basque vessels. The Basque Whaling Archaeological Site can be visited in summer by arrangement.Today this spot is the Red Bay National Historic Site of Canada.
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