After a surprisingly pleasant 5 hour ferry ride form North Sydney, Nova Scotia I have arrived on the shores of Newfoundland. It is an interesting place with an interesting history. Here are some things about Newfoundland you might not know:
1) Newfoundland used to be an independent country. In 1907 Newfoundland was given dominion status by the UK along with New Zealand, Australia and Canada. It remained on an equal status until 1949 when it joined the Canadian confederation.
2) Almost everyone pronounces Newfoundland wrong. On the ferry over we were told by a native Newfie how to pronounce the word. You can know the correct pronunciation by knowing the following simple rhyme: understand Newfoundland. The “land” part is pronounced like “land” not “lund”.
3) Newfoundland used to be the location of the world’s busiest airport. Back in the day, most airplanes couldn’t make a transatlantic flight from New York to London without refueling. Newfoundland was the closest bit of North America to Europe, so it is where most planes stopped. Gander International Airport is located almost exactly on the great circle route from New York to London, which is why it was the busiest in the world in the 1950′s. Its airport code, YQX, would make a great Scrabble word if they let you use airport codes.
4) It is officially called Newfoundland and Labrador. Formerly known as just “Newfoundland” as a colony, dominion and province, in 2001 they officially changed the name to Newfoundland and Labrador to reflect the larger hunk of land on the continental mainland. They had to amend the Canadian constitution to do this.
5) They have their own time zone. Being in your own time zone isn’t that big of a deal, but the Newfoundland time zone is one of the rare time zones which is a 30 minute time zone. It is 30 min ahead of Atlantic time and 90 minutes ahead of eastern time.
6) 94% of the population lives on the island of Newfoundland. Even though Labrador has twice the area and is on the mainland, almost everyone lives on Newfoundland island. In fact, almost half the population of the entire province is in the capital of St. John’s.
7) The first known European presence in North America was in Newfoundland. Yep, Christoper Columbus wasn’t the first European in North America. That honor belongs to the Vikings. L’ase aux Meadows at the very northern tip of Newfoundland island was the location of a viking colony. It was discovered in 1960 and it is believed that the settlement was founded around the year 1,000.
8) The only known case of German’s landing in North America during WWII was in Newfoundland. On October 22, 1943, German submarine U-537 landed on Martin Bay in the north of Labrador and set up a remote weather station. It was forgotten and wasn’t visited again until 1981.