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(July 25, 2002, Gazette)

Voyage of discovery

Dr. Scott JamiesonPhoto by Chris Hammond
Dr. Scott Jamieson


Texts chronicling the history of Newfoundland are abundant, but there are still many historical documents not accessible to the province’s largely English-speaking population. Many of these documents were written by French captains or scientists and provide a different historical and cultural perspective than those written by contemporaneous English authors.

Dr. Scott Jamieson, associate professor of French in the Division of Arts at Memorial’s Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, hopes that by translating Voyage à Terre Neuve by Julien Thoulet those interested in late 19th-century Newfoundland history will be able to access this information more easily. The English translation will be entitled The Voyage of the Clorinde: St. Pierre and Miquelon, Newfoundland and Cape Breton Island, 1886.

Julien Thoulet was a French geologist, minerologist, and pioneer of French oceanography, who traveled to Newfoundland in 1886. His six-month scientific expedition had as its goals the study of the foundation of the Grand Banks, as well as the geology of St. Pierre and Miquelon.

Thoulet also published travel observations in series form. As a professor at the Université de Nancy, he was an educated man, and had traveled extensively throughout the United States. His travel writings reflect not only an awareness of the conflict between the French and the English over fishing rights on the French Shore, but also pointed out early signs of over-fishing, noting that cod were becoming scarce in some areas.

Dr. Jamieson found Thoulet’s writings to be keen, entertaining observations of Newfoundland in terms of life, politics, geography and economics. Additionally, they often contained fascinating digressions on a variety of topics.

For the last 10 to 15 years, Dr. Jamieson has been researching French texts pertaining to Newfoundland, particularly the Newfoundland fishery. There is a wealth of materials written in French, some of which are housed at the Centre for Newfoundland Studies at the QE II library, and others that can be found in libraries and archives in France. These writings provide insight into the role of the French in the Newfoundland fishery until they lost their rights to their seasonal fishery on the French Shore in 1904.

The English translation of Thoulet’s journal will include half a dozen photographs taken by Thoulet himself, as well as additional maps and illustrations. Dr. Jamieson will also include annotations explaining the names of scientists, geographical references and other such details which, although common knowledge in 1886, would be obscure references now.

Dr. Jamieson hopes to have his translation of Un Voyage a Terre Neuve completed by the end of this year.