Gros Morne History: Cloué Among The Clutter

RH chart label

One summer’s day in 1849, some eighty years after James Cook first charted Bonne Bay, the French naval ship Fauvette sailed into Havre des Roches – Rocky Harbour as we now know it. Lieut. Georges-Charles Cloué was in command and oversaw the first detailed survey of the harbour. His chart was published six years later, together with a series of other maps of the French Shore, also done under his supervision. Cloué’s charts were to be found in every French vessel that sailed to Newfoundland, but after the “Entente Cordiale” of 1904 that ended nearly 200 years of French fishing on the north-east and west coasts, they were largely forgotten – until recently.

Cloue among the Clutter

Here is a photo taken by Paul-Émile Miot. in 1857 of the cluttered deck of the Ardent, a French sloop rather like the Fauvette, and also commanded by Cloué, pictured on the inset. The cloaked figure in the background is likely that of a chaplain, not a woman! Curiously, among the French coastal charts of the mid-1800s is one labelled “Havre de Bonne Baie”. Turns out that this is a detailed survey of a harbour of sorts, also called Bonne Bay, on the south-east side of St. John Island, north of Port au Choix. (Montage by Ed Huberty.)

Here is the 1849 view of the entrance to Bonne Bay as seen by Cloué and his survey team from 3 miles off the coast. As far as is known this is the first landscape image that represents the coastal topography fairly: James Cook’s 1767 chart included coastal views that bore little resemblance to actuality. Gros Morne is clearly seen and labelled on Cloué’s drawing, and the steep slump scarp on Big Lookout is also shown. The four tiny black dots above “des Roches” probably represent the few settlers’ cottages along the Rocky Harbour Cove at that time. From “Pilote de Terre-Neuve” by Vice-Admiral G Cloue, 2nd Edition, 1st volume, Paris: 1882, p309. (Slightly modified by Ed Huberty.)

Antony Berger

Antony Berger is the author of The Good and Beautiful Bay: A History of Bonne Bay (to Confederation and a Little Beyond).