Interview with an Expert: Dr. Latonia Hartery

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Latonia in L’Anse-aux-Meadows, NL. Photo by Dennis Minty

Archeologist and filmmaker Dr. Latonia Hartery celebrated her thirtieth trip with Adventure Canada this past season. Beginning in 2005 with a tour of Newfoundland, Labrador, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Latonia has worked with Adventure Canada every year since, doing several expedition voyages each season. One of Adventure Canada’s most experienced and respected resource team members, Latonia’s work aboard the ship (and ashore) includes interpretation of archeological sites, screening and interpreting films, and presenting her research.

Behind the scenes, Latonia manages Adventure Canada’s archeological sites’ permitting process, and is frequently consulted on best practices and new potential landing sites. She works alongside the Adventure Canada team to develop and implement approaches to sustainable expedition travel in sensitive environments.


 

Looking back, what were your first impressions of Adventure Canada?

My first impression was the natural camaraderie of the company as a family, which spilled over into how the passengers responded to staff and to each other. I was the youngest resource staff member at the time, and I noticed that people could have a lot of fun and adventure in a warm, safe environment.

What I also noticed was the easy access—getting to all these places that, even as a travelling archeologist, I had only seen on maps. All this coastline, all these places that you never in your wildest dreams think you’re going to reach.

What do you love about sharing your home province, Newfoundland & Labrador, with visitors?

I love showing people how fortunate I am to have grown up in this environment, surrounded by a rich culture that has afforded me the opportunity to follow my dreams about archeology and history.

I was born in a place where people have a very secure sense of identity, and they take care of each other. Not to say that living in Newfoundland doesn’t have its challenges, but there are many great things about this magical place that makes living here worthwhile—and this inspires me to do my best and to work toward helping Newfoundland be the best place it can be, as well.

What does it mean to share the archeology of this region?

Sharing archeology and history isn’t just interpreting—it’s helping people understand why we are the way we are. That is where the passion and love that many Newfoundlanders feel about their home probably comes from. There’s a bit of a misconception that people have been living here for only five hundred years, because of the fishery. That’s incomplete and inaccurate. You can’t understand the full history of Newfoundland and Labrador by starting around 1500AD.

It’s my job to illuminate the nine thousand years of life in the province, which began with the arrival of Indigenous people. And when you start there, it becomes apparent that every group that has been here interacted with the environment in similar ways—and within all of those different cultures, you find a through line that brings us to today. My own research at Bird Cove has helped reconstruct five thousand years of culture-history, both Indigenous and European. Some of our discoveries on the Great Northern Peninsula provided a flip side of how we saw past life in Newfoundland. It filled some gaps in the archaeological record, and shed light on how people dealt with changes in climate thousands of years ago.

What’s special about visiting Newfoundland & Labrador aboard an Adventure Canada trip?

Adventure Canada trips allow me to help people understand complex history and to reconstruct it. Whether through interpreting out on the landscape, or in a presentation, or even when having dinner together, I’m grateful for the opportunity to talk about the diverse nature of NL livelihoods.

People have a general perception about what Newfoundlanders are supposed to be like and the critical thing that Adventure Canada does is to hire locally, so that the passengers get to interact with Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, who interpret their own culture and heritage.

I also feel like my job is, generally, to interpret the province with as much enthusiasm as I can.

L’Anse-aux-Meadows is one of the highlights of Adventure Canada’s Newfoundland Circumnavigation. What makes it so special?

The site has both fascinating European and Indigenous history. L’Anse-aux-Meadows is probably one of the most affecting stops that we have, in terms of understanding just how early Europeans—Norse—were here.

Vikings in general are fascinating. It’s a wonderful exercise for people to try to imagine how the site would have been working a thousand years ago. Plus, a female archeologist – Anne Stine Ingstad, excavated this famous archeological site; with the help of locals and professionals, and it became one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites.

What about Miawpukek First Nation?

Miawpukek is in the Bay D’Espoir region. I grew up in Milltown which is also part of the Bay D’Espoir area. That’s always one of the best days because I interact with friends I’ve grown up with, and my family. Smallwood once said that at the time of Confederation that there were no Indigenous people in Newfoundland, which of course, is not true. But unless people come to visit, it’s difficult to truly know Miawpukek and understand the Mi’kmaq history there.

I encourage travelers to come with us to Miawpukek and meet everyone there—they are thriving and living in one of the most beautiful, fastest-growing, and successful First Nations in Canada. Miawpukek is really showing a way forward— that’s a source of pride. It’s a very special experience for anyone who goes there.

You also travel in the High Arctic. What’s different about the Newfoundland & Labrador trips?

Arctic trips are incredibly adventurous, and can feature extreme hikes. But the Newfoundland & Labrador trips, while having some hikes and trips to isolated areas, is heavily community-visitation based. People come away feeling very nurtured, well taken care of, like they’ve had a lot of warmth run through their bodies. It is also very music focused, and feels lively and uplifting in that way.

You are a filmmaker with a focus on women’s stories. How does that dovetail with Adventure Canada trips?

I love getting more women’s stories out there, having a more equal playing field for women is something I strive for and AC is also taking a lead on this — they employ people myself, Holly Hogan, who’s one of the foremost seabird researchers, musicians like Geraldine Hollett of The Once—a lot of very competent female resource staff are on these trips, plus Cedar and Alana at the company. Exceptional women are met on land too during these trips, one being Cindy Gibbons, in Red Bay— who manages that National Park/UNESCO site.

In Newfoundland & Labrador, whether a woman had a career in the workforce, or worked at home, she was a strong pillar of her community. We learn to grab the world by its tail from our mothers and our grandmothers. They were, and are, very active. My grandmother had thirteen children. I watched her do anything and everything. When you come to Newfoundland & Labrador you will meet a lot of strong women!


Dr. Latonia Hartery runs a nonprofit called Amina Anthropological Resources Association Incorporated (AARA Inc.), specializing in researching and promoting Newfoundland & Labrador. Her own research station, Bird Cove in northern Newfoundland, is having its twentieth anniversary in 2018. She has received the JCI Outstanding Young Person Award, and a Cruise Vision award for her role in bringing Adventure Canada trips to select locations in Newfoundland & Labrador. She was named a Newfoundland & Labrador Emerging Artist in 2016. Her film production company, LJH Film supports stories about women, women writers & directors, and has a focus on the East Coast. She is currently working on a female feature film anthology featuring six different women directors.

Join Latonia in 2018 aboard our Newfoundland Circumnavigation, where she will explore the culture and history of Canada’s youngest province! Until April 15, save 15% on the berth cost of this one-of-a-kind expedition!

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The allure of the Arctic

We’re delighted to be welcoming Dr. Stephen Cumbaa—vertebrate paleontologist, veteran Arctic researcher, Canadian Museum of Nature rep, and children’s author—aboard our 2014 Northwest Passage: West to East voyage this summer. We asked Steve to tell us what excites him about a return to the Far North aboard an expedition cruise.

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Fording an Arctic river

You’ve spent lots of time up in the Arctic over the years. What’s the allure?
As a former museum scientist, I’m one of those lucky people who feel as if I had one of the best jobs in the world: being paid to explore remote places and to share my fossil discoveries with other paleontologists and with the public through exhibits, articles, talks and interviews.

My expeditions to the Arctic were particularly memorable; each trip north an absolute adventure. Over and above the excitement of discovering more evidence of ancient life, the clean, clear air, the amazing quality of light, and the remote, pristine wilderness of the Arctic still captivate me.

Undeniably, a big part of the allure is the promise of discovery; the secrets of Earth’s past accessible to those who look a little closer, or walk a little farther. Little is truly hidden in the Arctic. At times the landscape itself can seem almost aware; for example, the feeling of being among the first to set foot in a particular spot is heady, but even those footprints sometimes seem intrusive. The Arctic is vast; the potential for significant discoveries immense, and the number of scientists working there is pitifully small.

What sites/sights are you looking forward to seeing on this particular journey?
I’ve spent several months doing fieldwork and camping in the Arctic islands, ferried about by Twin Otter airplanes and helicopters, but I’ve never seen the High Arctic from the unique vantage point of a ship, and its Zodiacs for shore excursions.

The opportunity for wildlife sightings is amazing with this kind of travel. Years ago I worked with archaeologists from Parks Canada, examining bones and other food refuse relating to Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated expedition and the subsequent search parties, but other than Beechey Island, this will be my first opportunity to see some of those storied localities first hand.

Dialipina

Fossil fish found in the Far North

All along our route there are paleontological localities, such as near Kugluktuk, where Ice-Age fossil fishes have been found; the eastern coast of Somerset Island with its 400+ million year-old fish fossils; Beechey Island with its beach composed largely of fossil corals and other tropical invertebrates; and Bylot Island, opposite the community of Pond Inlet, where the fossil remains of dinosaurs, birds and marine reptiles have been discovered.

In terms of your own work, what are you most looking forward to sharing while aboard?
I’d really like to help give my fellow passengers a sense of the time depth of life in the Arctic, and the way the islands have moved about the globe as a result of what geologists term continental drift.

Today, we think of the Arctic as defined by glaciers, icebergs, seals and polar bears. But four hundred million years ago, most of the Arctic was a shallow tropical sea near the equator; its iconic animals were primitive fish, trilobites, and shelled, squid-like creatures. No animals existed on land.

Between then and now, the Arctic islands gradually moved toward their present location, over time populated sequentially by dinosaurs and birds with teeth, forests with 100 foot-tall trees, rhinoceroses and lemur-like primates, camels, and yes, even primitive beavers. I look forward to sharing these and more stories through presentations and informal chats on board and on our shore excursions.

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Steve with the petrified remains of an Arctic forest

You’ll be representing the Canadian Museum of Nature aboard. How does this trip relate to the work of the CMN?
One of the museum’s great strengths is its Arctic expertise. Our exhibits and collections contain plant, animal, fossil and mineral specimens brought back by researchers over the last 150 years or more, and are still growing.

These are hugely valuable collections for researchers all over the world. Under an agreement with the government of Nunavut, the museum also houses and curates Nunavut’s collections. The museum currently has a big Arctic science initiative, with active field programs focusing on biodiversity and response to climate change in vascular plants, marine and freshwater diatoms, and in my area of expertise, vertebrate paleontology.

Finally, what do you hope our visitors to the Arctic come away with, after their journey?
I think we will all return from the voyage with a sense that we’ve experienced extraordinary places, and learned a great deal about the special nature of the Arctic, its history, its plants and animals through time, and its people.

My own appreciation for and admiration of the Inuit people and their predecessors as well as the early European Arctic explorers grows with each visit to this often-harsh environment.

It’s impossible to see the evidence of rapidly melting glaciers and the tenuous hold that plants and animals have on life there without becoming aware of the fragility of the Arctic ecosystem, the human impact on it, and worrying about its future. However, I also hope our visitors will come back with a renewed appreciation of long-term ecosystem evolution and change over the last few hundred million years. The Arctic, whether tropical or polar in nature, has always been a special place, a resilient place.

This resiliency – the ability of life to bounce back from the severe stressors of environmental change – is clearly demonstrable in the Arctic, and is cause for hope.

Photos courtesy Steve Cumbaa – Canadian Museum of Nature.

Mercer raves about Sable Island

Rick Mercer is famous for his rants, in which he spells out the issues of the day in plain, and often hilarious terms.

On a visit to Sable Island off the coast of Nova Scotia, the beloved comedian seems enthralled, rather than engraged. And why not?

Visiting a meteorologist, a scientist, and a parks Canada representative—the island is Canada’s 43rd national park—Mercer introduces us to 3/5 of the island’s human population, while wild seals cavort on the beach, and the famous Sable Island horses feed idly on the grass-covered dunes.

It’s a magical place, and one few Canadians have ever visited. No wonder Rick Mercer raves about Sable Island!

Visit Sable Island with Adventure Canada in 2014.