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Discoveries on the Rock

June 27, 2011 is Discovery Day in Newfoundland and Labrador! Discovery Day commemorates the arrival of European explorer John Cabot, or Giovanni Caboto, in Newfoundland on June 24th, 1497. Cabot was commissioned for exploration by England, arriving with one ship, the Matthew and exploring the coastal region of Newfoundland. A plaque is erected on the shore where Cabot is believed to have landed in Cape Bonavista, Newfoundland. In the spirit of John Cabot, go explore! Visit Newfoundland and Labrador's historic places and learn about the province's past!

The history of Newfoundland starts long before John Cabot and other Europeans arrived, thousands of years in fact, with its Aboriginal inhabitants who were the first to live on "the Rock." At Port au Choix National Historic Site, archaeological remains of Newfoundland's first inhabitants have been found dating back as far as 4,400 BCE. Over thousands of years this site was home to people of the Maritime Archaic, Groswater and Dorset cultures. The remains of major settlements, a cemetery, tools and weapons found at this site afford detailed insight into Aboriginal culture.

When Cabot crossed the Atlantic he was unaware that he followed in the footsteps of other European explorers: the Vikings, who made the journey 500 years earlier. The Vikings, under the command of Leif Ericsson, arrived in Newfoundland c.a. 1000 A.D (which they named Vinland) and established a short-lived settlement now known as L'Anse aux Meadows.  The Vikings built eight sod houses, in which they lived and worked during their stay. These were discovered in the 1960s and subsequently investigated and excavated until 1976. Partially reconstructed for public presentation, it is now possible to relive the experiences of the first explorers of Newfoundland. Visiting this unique site is a wonderful opportunity to explore Newfoundland's rich cultural past.Cape Chapeau Rouge, Deborah O'Rielly/ HFNL 2007 / Cap Chapeau Rouge, Deborah O'Rielly/ HFNL 2007

To enjoy the natural beauty that Newfoundland offers Discovery Day could be an opportunity to visit Cape Chapeau Rouge. This place is a coastal landmark on Placentia Bay in the same area in which Breton, Norman and Basque fishermen established seasonal camps in the 16th century. It was here that the French set up a seasonal fishing industry, which rivaled the nearby English fishing bases near Placentia. Beautiful, unaltered and profoundly connected to Newfoundland's fascinating economic and social history, Cape Chapeau Rouge is an excellent place to truly take in the spirit of exploration of Discovery Day.Castle Hill, Parks Canada / Castle Hill, Parcs Canada

Castle Hill National Historic Site is also an important place in Newfoundland's history especially having been inhabited by both French and British people during the long struggle between empires for dominance in what is now a province of Canada. Castle Hill is representative of the conflicts that took place around Newfoundland in the centuries following Cabot's arrival, bearing the remains of both the French named "Fort Royal" and British named "Castle Hill," these military defense installations played an important role in the history of the region and the lives of inhabitants.Hawthorne Cottage, Parks Canada / Cottage-Hawthorn, Parcs Canada

If Discovery Day's idea of exploration catches your interest, then the next site is a must-see! In the town of Brigus, Newfoundland it is possible to find Hawthorne Cottage National Historic Site which was once inhabited by Captain Robert Abram (Bob) Bartlett. Captain Bartlett is famous for his exploratory spirit, having commanded a ship, the Roosevelt, as a part of Admiral Peary's expedition to the North Pole, the Karluk in Steffanson's Canadian Arctic Expedition, and later commanded his own ship the Effie M. Morrissey in scientific expeditions into the North. Captain Bartlett is a Person of National Historical Significance and visiting his Newfoundland home seems a fitting way to celebrate Discovery Day.Cabot Tower, Parks Canada / Tour Cabot, Parcs Canada

Over 400 years later, after John Cabot discovered Newfoundland, island architect, William Howe Green, built Cabot Tower, now a Federal Heritage Building. Cabot Tower's construction commemorated both John Cabot's landing in Newfoundland and the 60th year of Queen Victoria's reign. The late-Gothic Revival style structure was built at the highest point of Signal Hill in the City of St. John's and worked as a signaling structure until 1958. It was here that Nobel Prize winning Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi received the first trans-Atlantic transmission of a human voice in 1920; a modern achievement rivaling John Cabot's long voyage.

So on Discovery Day go out and explore Newfoundland and Labrador; visit some of the most distinctive historic places in this rich and fascinating province. From Aboriginal settlements to 20th century buildings, Newfoundland and Labrador is full of Canadian history waiting to be discovered!

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