The Island Diaries is a documentary series that explores island life around the world. Each episode of The Island Diaries focuses on a different island and features interviews with locals about what makes their island unique. The show aims to scratch the surface of daily life to explore themes such as food access, transportation, identity, culture and environment to name a few. From the Faroe Islands to Hawaii, from Okinawa to Cape Verde, we visit islanders who are making a life for themselves in many well known corners of the world and also in some of the most remote.
Located at the easternmost point of North America, Newfoundland can look like it’s at the end of the world with its bare landscape, imposing mountains, and numerous icebergs. Also known as The Rock by locals, its harsh geography and climate, as well as its fragile economy have forged a community that relies on resourcefulness, resilience, and cooperation. It’s commonplace for women to see their husbands leaving their homes to go work for weeks on end, and even months. Many communities are isolated and scattered throughout the island, and 90% of the food found in stores is imported. Quite a few locals are seeking to protect their heritage, by restoring old buildings, or taking care of their root cellars, which their survival depended on not so long ago. But on this foggy land that gets shaken up regularly by Mother Nature’s fury, one fact holds true: its proud and brave inhabitants are always welcoming towards foreigners, calling them Honey and My Love, and ready to offer a nice cup of tea to sip on while recounting one of the island’s many legends…
The ocean surrounding Newfoundland can be quite threatening. It has been nicknamed the Great Big Sea because it fascinates islanders just as much as it haunts them. The sea in Newfoundland seems omnipresent and it takes just as much as it gives. It provides a means for subsistence and transportation, but it has proved deadly many a time. Despite its well-known dangers, 90% of locals live by the coastline, so almost all families have a watercraft, be it a sailboat, a launch, or a kayak and islanders enjoy nautical activities like diving, fishing, regattas, and barbecues on boats and beaches.
Spread out on 111,390 km2, Newfoundland’s main island has a population density of 1.3 inhabitants per km2, which translates into very little options for buying provisions! This rugged land produces only 10% of the produce found in local stores and it’s been reported that Newfoundlanders are the Canadians that eat the least amount of fresh fruits and vegetables. The island’s also got the highest obesity rate in the country. Furthermore, the island imports most of its food and exports most of its fish. People have to travel great lengths to do groceries, so much so that a trip to Costco is often called a « Costco weekend ». The reason behind this is that most communities only have small convenience stores referred to locally as corner stores. They mostly sell generic, non-perishable products, although they almost always have fresh fish and fresh foods are increasingly accessible. Nonetheless, to stock up on groceries and other necessities, Newfoundlanders must sometimes travel very far.
The insular character of Newfoundland and its isolation from the mainland have helped in creating a very strong local identity among its 526,000 or so natives. Many locals have the island or its flag tattooed on their body, and according to many, Newfoundland is still one of Canada’s best-kept secrets. A lot of people have been glad to keep it that way, but with such a fragile local economy, the province has turned towards tourism and immigration to pick itself back up again.