Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Coastline near Keels

(Photo: Claire McDougall)

As I’m sure readers of this blog are coming to know, the landscape in and around Keels is beautiful.  It is wild and rugged and rocky—very rocky.  It is impossible not to be struck by the rock formations; they are powerful when viewed from a distance, and intriguing when seen close up.  The variations in colour, shape and size boggle the mind.  I am not a geologist, but I’ve found myself increasingly drawn to the subject since my arrival in Newfoundland.  I imagine I’m not the only one to feel this way. 

Sheets of slate

(Photo: Claire McDougall)

Upon asking I found that much of the rock in the Keels area is slate.  When approaching Keels on the highway, there is a clear view of a slate mine, which operated here for a short while in the 1990s.   It is rather jarring to see, simply because it is in such marked contrast with the rest of the coastline.  I took a walk out to the mine yesterday afternoon to get a closer look.  There are beautiful views from the spot, but I found it sad, too.  There is something very strange about finding total stillness in a place created by and for activity and industry.

Infrastructure at the abandoned slate mine

(Photo: Claire McDougall)

Wanting to know more about the mine, I spoke to Keels resident, Selby Mesh.  The project was started in the early 1990s, shortly after the cod fishery was closed.  Federal funding was obtained (by Basil Power), to help create a viable alternative to the fishery.  The mine employed former fishermen and plant workers from all over the Bonavista Peninsula, training them in the use of mining equipment.  There were high hopes that the mine would provide the economic revitalization needed in the area; however, no market for the slate ever materialized.  After only a couple of years, when government funding ran out, the mine was shut down.

The remnants of mining activity

(Photo: Claire McDougall)

An unlikely oasis

(Photo: Claire McDougall)

There were some, mostly people who have holiday homes in the Keels area, who were against the mining operation from the beginning.  They argued that the mine would permanently mar the landscape.  There is no doubt that flattened piece of coastline does draw the eye.  In my mind, though, it is more raw than unsightly, a physical reminder of a difficult time. 
I have already mentioned the stillness of the mine.  Despite my mixed emotions about the site, I did find it intensely peaceful.  Erin, Kristin and I spent a long while by the spot where most of the quarrying happened.  There is a small pool there now, full of crystal clear water.  It was a lovely, sunny afternoon and the water was totally calm.  It was a reminder for me that beauty can be found in the strangest places.

No comments:

Post a Comment