Change Islands, Newfoundland

From the confluence of history and myth this remote place draws its name: the earliest inhabitants lived on the North Island during the summer months—in shacks closer to the inshore fishing and squid-jigging grounds—and on the South Island during the winter months—in homes protected from the bitter Arctic winds. Thus, twice per year they would change islands.

Men whose fathers had fished came here to fish; the hamlet of Change Islands was one of the most important outports of the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Newfoundland fishery, whose annual spring thaw sent sailors “down on the Labrador” to pull cod from the waters all summer long.

When the cod began to disappear Change Islands twice faced its end: first in the early 1960s when the government of Joey Smallwood tried to force resettlement on the residents of remote outports; and again in the early 1990s when the commercial fishery’s decimation of the cod stocks, and the corresponding indefinite moratorium on fishing, put an end to two-hundred-year-old traditions of Change Islanders.

44960010Change Islands today, twenty minutes by ferry from the remote northeastern coast of Newfoundland, maintains a year-round population of about 200. But no one will tell you their era is yet over.

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