View of Strait of Belle Isle from Quirpon harbour

View of Strait of Belle Isle from Quirpon harbour

Quirpon is a small harbour on the historic French Shore named in the 16th century by Breton sailors after a harbour near St. Malo, France. Its name has been spelled several ways throughout its history -  Karpon, Carpont, Kirpon  are a few of the variations. Quirpon’s location as the northeastern most harbour on the island of Newfoundland suggests that it was familiar to many early European explorers and fishermen. Cape Degrat, on nearby Quirpon Island, is noted on the earliest maps of the region. It is thought that John Cabot, the first known European explorer to the region since Viking times, landed nearby in 1497.

In 1534,  Jacques Cartier made note of Quirpon harbour in his journal during his first voyage of exploration to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. One of the nearby islands is now named for him. In the 1580s, an unfortunate confrontation between French fishermen and a group of Inuit resulted in the murder of an Inuit elder’s wife,thereby setting the stage for a retaliatory attack by Inuit at St. Julien’s and Croque. The ensuing battle cost the lives of 37 French fishermen and an unknown number of Inuit. Relations between the French and Inuit remained distrustful along the Strait of Belle Isle until the Inuit withdrew permanently to northern Labrador in the 1700s.

For a time during the first half of the 19th century, French, American and English fishermen all utilized Quirpon harbour; but as the century wore on, Newfoundland fishermen from the Conception Bay area began moving in as settlers.  The home of the first English-speaking settler family, the William Henry Pynn house, still stands in Quirpon and is now a Registered Heritage Structure (see www. Heritage.nf.ca/society/rhs/lq-listing/189.html). The harbour also became a supply stop for schooners enroute to the Labrador fishery. For a time the seasonal fishermen from southern Newfoundland outnumbered the permanent population but that changed in the 1920s when the Labrador floater fishery faltered. Besides Quirpon proper, settlers lived in nearby communities called L’Anse au Pidgeon, Fortune, and Little Quirpon. These small communities were resettled in the 1960s and 70s.

Quirpon Photos : ( Click each for full size )

Quirpon : Quirpon Island

Quirpon Island, which makes up one side of Quirpon harbour, is distinguished by two high and historically significant capes: Cape Bauld, at the northern end of the barren and treeless Quirpon Island has a lighthouse, first established in 1884. In 1942, during World War II, a Canadian Royal Air Force radar station was built at Cape Bauld, one of 41 highly secret posts monitoring the Canadian coasts. The radar station was set up to search for enemy submarine activity in the Strait of Belle Isle. On one infamous night during the war, German U-boats sunk 4 ships near the cape.

Also on Quirpon Island, Cape Degrat is one of the possible landing sites of John Cabot’s  (Zuan Caboto) first voyage (1497) from Bristol, England to North America on the Matthew. The voyage took 35 days, but no definitive documentation exists about the exact location of the landfall. Although there is some evidence that Europeans mariners may have made it to North American shores before Cabot, his voyage is considered the first European expedition to North America since the Norse explorations 500 years earlier. Cabot’s report of large cod stocks in the region began a rush by European fishing nations to claim the resource for their markets.


Photos : ( Click each for full size )

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