Page 9 - Moravian Messenger - October 2021
P. 9

Our First Winter
Continuation of of of Br Hopcroft's memories of of of his call to Labrador in in 1971
Ski Ski plane on on Nain Bay Wendy on on our first Skidoo
Having invested in in in in in our winter clothing including Damart
thermal underwear and with the the the winter supplies
safely stored in in the the basement and freezer
we settled in in in for the winter not knowing
quite what to expect The days drew shorter
and the the skies grew
heavier as the the temperature dropped The teachers' residence was double glazed and centrally heated by an an an oiled fired hot-air system and we had our own supply of running water piped from the small dam upstream at at at second pond (I should say here that local residents had a a a a a a a a a a way of understating things The ponds near to to the the town were were large lakes and the the hills behind Nain were were mountainous!) What could go wrong?
Frozen pipes
By the the middle of November the the temperature had dropped well below zero and was not expected to rise above freezing until springtime The water supply which the School Board had had been been so so proud to tell us had had been been installed especially for the the teachers froze solid So we found ourselves like so so many others in in in in the the community having to fetch water for all our needs This involved buying a a a a a a clean dust bin sized barrel to to to be tied to to to our small sled and hauled up to to to second pond where a a a a a a hole had been chipped in in in the the the ice in in in order to to dipper the the the water into the the barrel This was a a a a a a Saturday morning routine: I set off to to fetch ice cold water the the the barrel was then dragged into the the the the apartment where pans of water were placed on the the the propane stove to to to be heated up and transferred into the the twin tub by Wendy so that the the the weekly wash could be be started In the the same way water water had to be be heated for a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a bath bath and and any used water water from washing and and bathing was was was saved to to be re- used for flushing the toilet It was was was a a a a a a a weekly chore but completely necessary and it it made us us appreciate how important it it was to economise on on water usage Pumping Oil
As stated earlier the the central heating was was a a a a a a a a a hot-air system so there was was no fear of leaking or or or frozen radiators However it it was an an oil-burning boiler with a a a a a a a a a a storage tank inside the basement which had to to be filled about once a a a a month There was no tanker delivery system Instead 45 gallon drums of stove oil had been delivered during the the summer and stacked outside but away from the the apartments So Dick Johnson and I were tasked with rolling the the drums one one by one one next to to to the the the the basement and and hand pumping the the the the oil into the the the the storage tank inside The task became more arduous as as the the the the winter months progressed the the the drums having frozen to the the the ground and being completely buried by the the snow Nevertheless there was a a a a a great sense of achievement when the the the the job had been completed for another month It was after all part of the the adventure!
Snow and Ice
There were dramatic changes taking place at at at at least to my eyes as as fishing boats were hauled out of the the water water and and the the snow started to fall and and and stay The water water in in Nain Bay got darker darker and and darker darker as it began to freeze freeze I had never seen the sea freeze freeze freeze before and unlike fresh water water which is brittle as salt water water freezes it it turns rubbery strong enough to walk on on before freezing solid The planes changed landing gear from pontoons used for landing landing on on open water to skis for landing landing on on the bay ice There was often a a a a a a a a lengthy period between between open water and and 'freeze up' up' in in in the the autumn and and and between between 'break up' up' and and open water in in in the the the spring when the the the community was completely cut off with neither boats nor planes able to to get into the the community I I can never sing 'In the Bleak Midwinter' at Christmas time without being reminded of Labrador: 'Earth stood hard as iron water like a a a a a a a a a stone snow snow snow had fallen snow snow snow on on on snow snow snow snow in in the bleak midwinter long ago ' The snow snow snow got deeper deeper and deeper deeper with numerous snow snow storms Our basement was now now now buried in eight feet of snow and the the the ten steps from the the the front door down to the the the ground had now disappeared so that we could step right out at at at snow level The temperature had dropped to between -10° and -20° But with so many wonderful days of clear blue sky we could go out and and walk and and enjoy the fabulous clean air Skidoo
One of of of the highlights of of of that first first winter was was taking possession of of of our first first snowmobile It was was a a a a a a a used single cylinder 8hp yellow and black Skidoo
This meant that we we could now set off at at weekends for a a a a a a a trip along the the the many trails through the the the the spruce woods across the the the the frozen frozen ponds and onto the the the the frozen frozen bay ice It is hard to to describe how dry the the atmosphere was at at at at such low temperatures There is is no no water anywhere and the snow is powder dry It was exhilarating to set off on a a a a a a a a a a crisp cold day with not a a a a a a a a a a cloud in in the sky to travel across vast expanses of snow and ice where you feel as as as if no no one has ever been there before On a a a a a a a clear night the the sky was was beautiful with with no light pollution it it it was was filled with with a a a a a a a myriad of stars and the the northern lights which took our breath away We had never experienced such vastness or untouched beauty We were eating well working hard and having a a a a wonderful time TBC Br Robert Hopcroft 117
© Br Robert Hopcroft 

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