Dwight Peck's personal Web site

Newfoundland is still there (2006)

The island that became part of Canada about the time that I was watching Captain Midnight on a 10-inch B+W TV screen and sending in my cereal boxtops for the code ring.


A day's excursion to Fogo (to "Fogo"?)

Acting upon reliable intelligence (which since the US invasion of Iraq we've learnt was probably not a very clever thing to do), we spent a day sailing across to nearby Fogo Island and having a good look-round. The chief purpose, of course -- to take advantage of the wine store said to be still functioning there, in Fogo Town, and to find the ATM money machine, having discovered belatedly that our hostess on Change Island does not take credit cards. We think.

[Us: But you do take a credit card, right? Her: Yes, of course, cash or a cheque will be fine, no problem. Us: Yes, but a credit card? Her: No problem at all, either cash or cheque will be just fine. More steamed vegetables?]

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

Okay, we're off to Fogo. Whence "Fogo"? It's from the Portuguese "fuego", "fire". The Portuguese were fishing off these coasts long before the first permanent settlements in the early 18th century. So were Basques, Spanish, French, English, and Flat Earthers, for that matter. {In fact, Jacques Cartier "dropped anchor" here in 1534.} Apparently, to Portuguese fishermen too long at sea, the island looked like a fire. Or was on fire at the time. Or they had a cookout on the beach.

We're in Fogo Town on the northwest of the island (where the wine shop is), across the island from Joe Batt's Arm and up the road from Seldom, Little Seldom, and Stag Harbour. This is a neat little church built in 1877 and competing for souls with . . .

. . . this one just across the road.

Lots of distinctive architecture in Fogo Town, and much of it getting a nice wash-up. Fogo may seem like the end of the earth -- or "the edge of the world", as the town's brochure puts it -- and, basically, it is. The town boasts the "Marconi Lookout" of 1911, part of an early radio communications system that Guglielmo Marconi was marketing at the time, capable of communicating reliably with Europe (that's some years before Marconi got married in Italy in 1927 with Mussolini as his 'best man').

But much more significantly, this is a view across Fogo Harbour of the town of Fogo with the Brimstone Head.

Now, don't believe me if you don't want to, but this is one of the four corners of the earth. You heard me right. The Flat Earth Society supposedly considers the Brimstone Head to be one of the four corners of the world (along with the island of Hydra near Greece, the Bermuda Triangle, and Papua New Guinea) and the Town of Fogo feels justified thereby in referring to Brimstone Head as the capital of the Flat Earth. Oh, well.

More importantly, this is the home of the Brimstone Head Folk Festival, by all accounts a brilliant annual gathering of traditional musicians, but as we're here in June, we missed it, because in fact this year's edition begins TODAY -- 11 to 13 August 2006 -- including many worthy musicians as well as "fireworks, pony rides, food stalls, beer tent".

But this is Fogo Head, about 100m altitude, with great views out over the Western Tickle, and we can't be kept from it. We've parked our rental car just outside of Fogo Town at the historic artillery battery that formerly protected Fogo Harbour "against French and American pirates" (and may have to again someday), and we're on our way up to those intriguing looking stairways to heaven.

Brilliant (though not entirely necessary) stairways to the summit of Fogo Head.

They are so well made, and so marginally useful, that one's mind flies back to the fabled WPA, the Works Progress Administration, set up in the USA by President Roosevelt's New Dealers in 1935 to provide meaningful work to the unemployed to help them get through the Great Depression without feeling useless or idle, or starving. (Having grown up in northern New Jersey and the downstate New York area, I'm very alert to mountain roads, bridges, stone walls, etc., built in the late 1930s by the unemployed poets and playwrights of New York City.)

This is only the purest speculation, but one can't help but wonder whether these touristic embellishments might not have been part of some very enlightened government initiative, to replace the cod industry, perhaps. Be it noted, though, that the stairs do help to protect the fragile peatish soil from hordes of careless tourist feet.

This, we later learnt, is Dirk, who with his team of six guys built the stairways. In the winter. We are all in his debt.

However that might be, we're at the top now and gazing across Fogo Harbour at the Eastern Tickle, and little "Payne's Rocks" just beyond the houses.

And that's a grand look back at Fogo Town, with the fish processing plant strategically located on the spit in the centre, and Marconi's Lookout across the way. The cod's gone but crab and lobster are still processed here.

Fogo Head (on the horizon) was all well and good, but we've powered on towards Middle Head now, where . . .

. . . we can get a better view of Brimstone Head. One of the Four Corners of the Flat Earth. Remember that if you're asked.

That's the same lovely view, but just cranked back a bit to get the little foreground lake into it. Change Islands are in the distance to the right. It feels like we're back in northern Scotland again, doesn't it?

That's Kristin on the WPA platform on Middle Head. Still pondering whether anything that the Flat Earth Society, or Bibi Netanyahu, says should ever be taken seriously. (Just kidding, not really still pondering.)

Now we're walking down in a giant Scottish Highlands sort of curve on lovely alternating rocky/peaty sort of ground.

Here's one that Stages and Stores must have missed. A coat of paint, a little straightening up. Back on the tourist itinerary.

Okay, now there's just time for the wine store and still bare moments to catch the ferry home to Change Islands.

Here's Kristin on the ferry, having a good laugh at the narrator's expense. When passing the ferry cashier, the gentleman merrily called out "Any seniors?", and Kristin mischievously replied "what's the cutoff?", and a Major Milestone was passed. The narrator got his first "senior discount" ever. On a ferry at Fogo!! And Kristin pocketed the difference!

Right, enough begrudgements, we're back to Change Islands with a trunkful (bootful) of wine and some cash for the management, and after another day's hiking all about there, we're moving onward towards theGros Morne National Park, to see the mooses, and what not.

Newfoundland 2006

Gros Morne: Trout River

Dirk and Petra's colorful house on Fogo Island (photo credit: Petra, 2007)


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 11 August 2006, revised 7 June 2012.

Flat Note: There doesn't seem to be much evidence for this Brimstone-Fogo-Flat Earth connection. The Flat Earth Society was started by some anti-Darwin dude named Rowbotham in the mid-19th century and migrated to some US Christians at a theocratic slave-labor community in Zion, Illinois, in the first half of the 20th century. It was revived in the 1970s and grew from a few old Zion/Illinois-hasbeens to about 3,000 (counting the dues-nonpayers) by the end of the century, but according to Wikipedia it has since atrophied with the death of the aged guru Charles K. Johnson in 2001. There seems to have been an old nutter named Bartholomew Seeker who lived in Fogo in the 1970s and left behind some papers, diligently searched out by one Iris Taylor and taken for evidence of something or other, though Iris points out that the residents of Fogo didn't seem to recall him very well or know much about anything. The Web site frequently cited as the Society's home site is instead a clever and entertaining spoof. See also an informative page by Donald Simanek, who suggests that the Fogo connection may have been a parody.


Newfoundland 2006