Break-Up Time

Images from the Archive.

Generations of Labradorians have confronted the same problem every year at break-up time: how do we get around when there’s no longer enough ice for sleds or snowmobiles, but still too much for boats?  Well, judging by the contents of our archive, it doesn’t slow us down too much.

Here is a fantastic image from the Hettasch Family slide collection of one intrepid pair, possibly a young man and an older family member, pushing off from ice pans at Hebron in the late 1950s.

Hebron, late 1950s. Hettasch Family Collection.
Labrador Institute Archive. Slide Q2—2.

Evidently those with larger craft are equally undaunted.  Here a crew in Port Hope Simpson uses a tractor to haul a long-liner from the land out onto the ice, getting ready for spring breakup in 1970.

Port Hope Simpson, Spring 1970. Ernie Pritchard photo. Labrador Institute Archive.
Port Hope Simpson, Spring 1970. Ernie Pritchard photo.
Labrador Institute Archive. Pritchard image 16.

The photographer, Ernie Pritchard, was a volunteer teacher from England whose year in Labrador made a firm impression on him, and led him eventually to self-publish several books later in life.  He donated his 1969-70 diary and photo album to the Labrador Institute in 2002.

Several other images show different views of the same operation. This one in particular gives a good view of the tractor.  According to Pritchard’s captions, the man in the foreground with the beard and light-coloured sweater is the boat’s builder, Simon Strugnell.

Simon Strugnell at Port Hope Simpson, Spring 1970. Ernie Pritchard photo. Labrador Institute Archive. Pritchard image 17.
Simon Strugnell at Port Hope Simpson, Spring 1970.
Ernie Pritchard photo. Labrador Institute Archive. Pritchard image 17.

Of course, break-up isn’t just a challenge, but also an opportunity for fun, and perhaps a spot of trouble.  Below is a detail of youths jumping ice pans in the harbour at Makkovik in 2010.

Makkovik, spring 2010.
Makkovik, spring 2010.

This animated image is a GIF rendering from the B-roll footage of A Legacy for Life: Sivullitinit Pisimajut, a DVD documentary released by the Torngat Wildlife, Plants and Fisheries Secretariat back in 2012.  The film focuses on the traditional knowledge and use of salmon and char among Labrador Inuit.

You can borrow a copy of the film from the Labrador Institute Library once we re-open, or inquire with the Torngat Secretariat directly, but as with any film, the final cut is only the merest tip of the iceberg in terms of total video content.  In this case, the Torngat Secretariat has also deposited the full production footage into the Labrador Institute Archive for conservation, including 32 in-depth interviews with Nunatsiavummuit, all of which are also accessible to the public.

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