By Phil Marty
April 5, 2009
ROCKY HARBOUR, Newfoundland—”I had to have my ocean.”
With just those six words, the twentysomething waitress at Java Jack’s restaurant here defined the spirit of the people who have lived on the sparsely populated west coast of this island for the last 500 years.
Vikings crossed the frigid waters of the North Atlantic about A.D. 1000, coming from Greenland, and settled on the very northern tip of what’s now called the Northern Peninsula. They were the first Europeans to settle in North America.
The French, English, Irish and Spanish came here starting in the 1500s to fish the fertile waters that were ripe with cod and lobsters. Unlike the vikings, some of them stuck around. Today their progeny still fish the now less-than-fertile straits. Many go away, but they keep coming back, like that waitress, because, as the song you hear sung here so often says, “I’m proud to be an Islander.”
“I’ve left for three years, but there’s nothing like home,” said Jerry Noble, a sometime tour company employee, sometime fisherman and full-time lover of The Island. “The freedom is worth more than the money … as long as we make enough money to get by. That’s one thing you’ll find about Newfoundlanders—they’re a pretty laid back people.”