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Gaultois, Long Island, Newfoundland

The way of life in Gaultois has remained virtually unchanged for generations. A small community, Gaultois is located on Long Island nestled on the south coast of Newfoundland. Only accessible by boat, this historically significant community boasts a unique identity, tracing its lifeblood back through five very different layers of inhabitants.

When Captain James Cook surveyed the coastline in the late 1700s, he claimed Long Island’s shores were the most beautiful. He said now that it’s been discovered; we need to experience and explore it. Known as the Fjiordland of Newfoundland, Gaultois is the last frontier for those seeking an authentic and original tourism experience of Newfoundland.

Gaultois Early History

Five very different stages of civilization have existed in Gaultois over the years. The earliest inhabitants were that of the Maritime Archaic Indians and the Algonkian-speaking hunter-gatherers, the Beothuks. Next were the Mi’kmaq Indians, who relied on the area heavily during their yearly treks from White Bear Bay to Bay D’Espoir. However, much of the culture of Gaultois today reflects the impact of its most recent settlers: migratory French fishermen and then British settlers who would claim the high cliffs and remote setting of Long Island as their year-round home.

Transatlantic fishing first attracted the French to settle the shores of Gaultois seasonally in the late 1700s. Fishermen crossed the Atlantic in search of the rich cod reserves the coast of Newfoundland had in plenty. In 1826, British merchants Newman and Company set up shop. Ensuring settlers had year-round provisional basics such as molasses, flour and clothing, their arrival marked the beginning of permanent settlement for the community.

In 1836, Newman and Company established a local whaling station. Particularly interesting to tourists today is a visit to the old “whaler’s cave”. Located on Thornhill’s Head, between Gaultois and Piccaire, it is a natural cave formed from solid rock in the cliffs. This cave was visited by seasonal whalers who used it as a vantage point from which to scan the seas. When a whale was spotted, a runner would be sent to get the fires ready on Whale Island. Walking through this place, one can touch the history of Gaultois’ onshore whaling industry.

Settlers would continue to arrive, but Newman and Company would close shop in 1900 and leave Newfoundland shortly thereafter. Thomas Garland, a British merchant and fisherman, bought the mercantile firm in 1906 and would become the main employer for Gaultois. In fact, Garland’s store still stands in Gaultois today and is set to become an interactive center that will tell the local stories. Quilts, hooked rugs, knitting and fine jewelry carved from beautiful Gaultois stone will also be available.

Europe’s thirst for whale oil for lamps and whalebones for hoop skirts would continue to drive the onshore whaling industry in Gaultois. However, cod fishing would predominantly sustain the communities on Long Island. At its height, the small towns of Piccarie, Round Harbour, Stone Valley, Raymond’s Point, Patrick’s Harbour, Harbour Galley and finally, Gaultois itself, were home to hundreds of people.

Today, Gaultois is the last inhabited community.

The Resettlement Act of 1965

For the first half of the 20th century, Gaultois saw growth and solidification of a cultural identity based on being a “Gaultonian”. However, when the salt-cod fishing industry died, Newfoundland’s economy struggled. Resettlement of isolated out-port communities was one part of the Canadian Government’s plan to diversify and modernize the economy.

Resettlement for the people of Gaultois was a traumatic proposal, and they refused to go. When the Resettlement Act of 1965 was enacted, Gaultois would be the only community on Long Island to band together and reject the government’s resettlement plan. This speaks to the tenacity of the Gaultonian people, their resilience to live off the land, and Gaultois’ preservation as a unique cultural identity within the province.

Aquaculture

Not surprisingly, the future for the town of Gaultois is based on its relationship to the sea. On September 7, 2010, the fish processing plant officially closed. Gaultois is now a vibrant part of the growth of aquaculture in the Coast of Bays. Gaultois mainly grows cod, salmon and rainbow trout at aquaculture sites open to tourists along the passageway.

Tourism

Tourism is booming in Newfoundland with eighty percent of tourists visiting from the province of Ontario. People have explored the east, north and west of the island, but very few have ventured to Long Island’s southern tip largely due to its isolation. By spring of 2012, it is hoped that the Bay d'Espoir airstrip will be re-opened, offering tourists direct flights from St. John’s seasonally, from May to September.

Boasting breath-taking fjords, waterfalls, high cliffs with historic caves and a serene and peaceful seaside personality, Gaultois can truly be called the last frontier of tourism in Newfoundland. In a sea kayak or pleasure boat, the calm waters of the passage are perfect for sightseeing the abundance of aquatic life that surrounds Gaultois’ shores. As walking is the most common mode of transportation, take to the hills, walk the red and white boardwalks and explore history all around you. Just as Gaultois grows and changes, so too does it promise to recharge and renew.

Embrace the outport experience and visit Gaultois.
Story by Kate Heming: kateheming@gmail.com