Bob Bartlett and I have a few things in common and one is our experience on the Island of Ponds, Labrador. Located off the south coast of Labrador, Island of Ponds is the site of two communities, Black Tickle, and tiny Domino.
The island has been home to Inuit for hundreds of years, probably attracted by the springtime abundance of seals in Domino Run. From the 18th century, codfish brought fishing ships from many countries, including Newfoundland, Britain, and the United States. Newfoundland “stationers” also came for the summer, living in shacks on the island with their families. The “floaters” fished more offshore and lived on board ship. The fish caught and processed was low grade due to the short unreliable summer and was sold to the West Indies to feed the slaves before and after emancipation. This is why saltfish and ackee, a fruit with the consistency of eggs, is the national dish of Jamaica and it makes Newfoundland and Labrador culpable in the slave trade.
Born in 1875, Bartlett visited Island of Ponds as a child. His father, Captain William Bartlett, skippered the family ship, the Panther, and delivered mail to the stationers. (In a later post, I’ll describe Captain William’s role in the 1885 Eskimo Coast disaster.)
Bob’s great-uncle, Captain Isaac Bartlett, had fishing premises at Domino. He seems to have inherited these premises from his own father, Captain Abram Bartlett. The Bartletts had huge premises in Northern Labrador at Turnavik near Makkovik and Bob often stopped by on his way to Greenland, including when he was in the Roosevelt with Peary on the way to the North Pole.
When Bob Bartlett visited Domino, it was a bustling place, crowded with men, women, children, stages, flakes, ships, tilts and shacks. It was noisy with people, gulls, and ships. Today Domino offers a peace and quiet that is unparalleled. Domino is home to perhaps a dozen people, Southern Inuit. The sky is huge, the land is big and inviting. When I worked in Black Tickle, across the marsh, I always felt called to the serenity of Domino, a place I dearly love. I wonder if Bob Bartlett would recognize it today?
(The image of Domino Harbour is from the Newfoundland & Labrador Heritage web site.)