Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The Torngat Range, in Labrador,
and the Moravian settlements on the coast

The north tip of Labrador peninsula, in east Canada's coast, is a parcel of land few people visit or even know anything about. Not yet arctic but already cold, isolated and spectacular, Northeastern Labrador triangle-shaped territory is dramatically mountainous, and the amazing Torngat Range, speckled with rivers, lakes and fjords - an absolutely wonder by any standard, and a remote best kept secret.

North Labrador is connected to Greenland in many ways - historically, since the Vikings travelled through the North Atlantic this far to reach Hudson Bay, as well as geographically, as the soil, terrain type and landscapes are similar. Both lands were once connected in the same tectonic plaque. No trees, just mountains, fjords, lakes, glaciers, tundra.

Sunrise at Labrador's northeastern coastal Torngats.

Both are also scarcely populated, I could find only two small native settlements, both to the southwest of Torngat Range - Kuujjuaq and Kangiqsualujjuaq - which will be soon the subject of another post.

The Killiniq settlement, once a Hudson Bay Co. post, located further north, has been long time abandoned, as well as the Hebron mission on the east coast.

Kangiqsualujjuaq is the closest village to the Torngat National Park. Local Inuit populations were realocated there.

The Torngat Range

Coordinates: 58-59ºN, 63-64ºW

The name is derived from the Inuktitut word Torngait, meaning “place of spirits”. Here's why:

The wondrous Nachvack valley: still far south from the Arctic, but the treeline is further south in Newfoundland.

The mountain range extends from Davis Inlet (Quebec), in the south, through east Labrador, to the Killiniq Island in the northern extreme.

The Nachvak fjord runs through the highest peaks.

The Nachvak River is the centre of the most dramatic landscapes.

Nachvak lake.

Koroc River, the other large river that shapes the Range.

Futher north, smaller rivers and brooks are rich in char.

Extreme kayaking in the Nachvack rapids

The Torngats as a nature park are a paradise for observing fauna and flora: caribou (endangered) and brown bears in the south, polar bears in the northern coastline. The Naschvak, Koroc and George rivers are frequently the scenery of caribou-crossing.

Other animals include fox, brown and polar bear, and a great variety of birds.

There are no trees in the Torngat Range because the mountains lie in an arctic tundra climate and are therefore above the tree line.

Mount Caubvick
Coordinates: 58°53′ N, 63°42′ W 

Mount Caubvick (also known as Mont D'Iberville), reaching 1652 m high, is the highest point in the range and also in mainland Canada east of Alberta. The mountain contains a massive peak that rises sharply from nearby sea level. Craggy ridges, steep cirques and glaciers are prominent features of the peak.

View from top

Mirian lake, one of many.

D'Iberville in winter

Killiniq, at the North tip

The small and almost flat Killiniq Island was once the location of a strategic settlement in Port Burwell (also called simply Killiniq).

Port Burwell is a harbour on the island's western coast facing Ungava Bay, at the mouth of Hudson Strait. Cape Chidley is 40 km to the northeast.

The Moravians were a German/Czech missionary movement that sailed to Labrador and builted a Mission here in 1831. Over the years it became an important Inuit community. In 1920, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment was set up; a radio station and a Coast Guard base followed and the settlement expanded.

The Moravians sold their mission house to the HBC in 1923, and the HBC ruled there a consolidated trading post until 1939. A Co-op shop was established in 1952 with basic goods, and in 1964, a classroom installed with a full-time teacher.

The Moravians sold their mission house to the HBC in 1923, and the HBC ruled there a consolidated trading post until 1939.

Killiniq was definitely abandonned in 1978, and all inuit population forced to re-settle southwest in Kangiqsualujjuaq, still on the Ungava Bay coast (see map above).

HBC ships were a regular visit in the small port.

Hebron Moravian Mission

The nearest human presence to the Torngat Park area is this old Mission in Hebron, some 100 km to the south of Nachvak Fjord.

The Moravian Mission nowadays.

There was a church, school, refectory, hospital, barn, armazém, lodgiging and postal service; at the peak by the end of the century, some 50 Inuit were living there; then the congregation started decaying until 1926, and eventually Hebron was trasfered to the HBC fur business. Finally, in 1959, it was definitely abandoned and began to ruin until the recent restoration.

Hebron in the 19th century, when it was founded.

The families who, in 1959, were relocated from the village by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Hebron Mission is now classified as "National Historic Site". A small inuit crew lives there to take care and welcome visitors to the Torngat National Park.

Inuit Maatalii Okalik reads through the names of the former residents of Hebron.

A magnificent example of old Inuit art produced in Labrador, this wall hanging carpet was found in Killiniq after ts closure.

The 'Lyubov Orlova' sailing in Nachvak Fjord, Torngat Mountains

The Nachvack under cloudy low sunshine.