A REVIEW OF THE DATA CONCERNING THE LABRADOR BOUNDARY AS DISCUSSED IN THE NEWFOUNDLAND COUNTER-CASE AND OF OTHER MEMORANDA CONCERNING THE BOUNDARY.
BY E. M. KINDLE.
I have given careful consideration to the paragraphs of the Newfoundland counter-case on behalf of the Colony of Newfoundland re the Labrador boundary to which Mr. C. P. Plaxton has directed my attention in his letters of April 12 and July 5, 1926. Below I submit some observations and comments concerning the paragraphs 19, 20, 21 and 22.
The Newfoundland counter-case implies, in the first half of paragraph 19, that the “ admittedly tidal ” character of the western part of Lake Melville is to be regarded as supporting the Newfoundland claim that Lake Melville is an arm of the sea. The futility of supporting this claim in any degree upon the presence of tidal action is indicated clearly by the fact that both Northwest river and Little Lake have tidal waters but waters which are perfectly fresh. The water at the north or upper end of Northwest river has a tidal rise and fall of two feet or more (estimated), and I found the water in it as satisfactory for drinking purposes as that in the mountain streams.
Concerning the part of paragraph 19 of the Newfoundland counter-case quoting Low's reference to Hamilton inlet as a fiord it must be pointed out that Mr. Low's report was written thirty odd years ago. Since 1895, when it appeared, considerable advance has been made toward developing a more precise nomenclature of land and water forms. At that time fjord was given a breadth of meaning comparable with that which still attaches to the word “ loch ” in Scotland, and the term ria was hardly known. The typical fresh-water lake, Loch Katrine, of Sir Walter Scott, and Loch Lomond, so well known from its literary associations, and numerous other Scottish lakes connected with the sea by swift fresh-water rivers go under the name lochs along with Loch Killisport, a typical marine inlet on the west coast of Scotland.
Mr. A. P. Low presumably applied the term “ fiord ” to Lake Melville in the same broad sense that the Scotch call both Lake Lomond and the marine bays of their west coast lochs.
The broad way in which the term “ fiord ” was used in the 'eighties may be seen in Geikie's text, 1885 edition, p. 267, where he says :—“ Some of the Alpine lakes (Lucerne, etc.) are inland examples of fjords.” The inlets on the west coast of Denmark have also been often termed fiords,1 but they are not now so classed.
It is unlikely that Low was much concerned with any precise classification of the physiographic features of the coastal region. His fame rests on the splendid contribution which he made to our knowledge of the interior of Labrador.
The contention of the Dominion that Lake Melville should be regarded as an expansion or widening of the Hamilton river rather than as an inlet of the sea is supported by at least four separate classes of facts. The character of the water in the lake, the physiography of the shore and outlet, the distribution of the plant life, and the character of the animal life in the water all strongly support the classification of Lake Melville as a part of the Hamilton river drainage system or as an integral part of the river.
Perhaps the most satisfactory, as well as the simplest way, to decide whether Lake Melville should be classed as a part of the Hamilton river drainage system or as an inlet of the sea is to taste the water. This simple test I applied by cooking and making tea with the lake water for two days at one of my camps near McLean Point cast of Goose Bay. This test happened to be made because a camp site convenient in other respects was remote from any small stream. The water was found entirely usable—a statement which certainly could not be made of the water of any true marine inlet or bay.
Permanent residents of the Lake Melville basin say that in spring, when the Hamilton river is high, the water of the western part of the lake is perfectly fresh. My own published figures on salinity2 are open to criticism from the Canadian viewpoint in this discussion because they represent salinity when the Hamilton river was low and the salinity of the lake at its maximum figure.
The physiographic considerations which lead me to consider Lake Melville a part of the Hamilton river drainage system may be briefly stated as follows :—The Hamilton river, in common with hundreds of other rivers throughout the glaciated parts of North America, has had parts of its valley transformed by glacial scour or by morainal damming into lakes during the Glacial period. One of these lakes, called Lake Winokapau, is located about 200 miles above the Narrows and has a length of 34 miles and a depth of 427 feet. Lake Melville differs from Lake Winokapau chiefly in having been formed so near the old river outlet that the tide comes in and makes it brackish. The slight width of the Narrows through which Lake Melville empties into Hamilton inlet, about 1 mile, and their length, approximately 12 miles, are dimensions which perfectly fit the conception of a river channel.
1 Avebury (J. Lubbock), Prehistoric times, 1865, p. 81.
2 Memoir Geol. Surv. Can. No. 141, p. 54, 1924.
Its junction with the head of the trumpet-shaped embayment called Hamilton inlet appears to be the most suitable point to designate as the mouth of the river.
A careful inspection of the shores of the Narrows at low tide shows that the sea weeds of various kinds, including Fucus, gradually become scarce and disappear altogether after passing the entrance to Lake Melville.
The molluscan life characteristic of the intertidal zone reacts to the changed environment at the outlet of the lake in the same way. Two of the most abundant creatures in the shallow water everywhere along the Atlantic coast of Canada are a small shell called Littorina and the common barnacle. These are found on the seashore wherever it is rocky, hundreds of individuals to the square foot often being present. Both of these hardy shells grow scarce in approaching the head of the Narrows from the sea. But a few stragglers persist to the vicinity of Henrietta Island, where they completely disappear (see figure Mem. Can. Geol. Surv. 141).
Briefly summarised, Lake Melville is a part of the inland waterway with a long narrow outlet of the river type. The water is fresh enough toward the western end to drink, and completely excludes such characteristic marine fish as the cod and the common marine creatures and plants of the intertidal zone which can be seen at low tide anywhere seawards from Rigolette.
The essential defect in the statements contained in paragraph 21 lies in the fact that it follows the undiscriminating method of lumping all the inlets and river mouths of the Labrador coastal region into the single class of geographical forms called fiords. This is an easy but an inaccurate and incorrect way of dealing with them.
The coast of Labrador has fine examples of fiords in the high mountainous region south of Cape Chidley. Professor Coleman has described one of them in detail. Comparison of Coleman's map1 of Nachvak fiord, with a map2 of Lake Melville brings out clearly the contrasts. The steep mountain walls come down to the water's edge in the case of Nachvak fiord and its sides are nearly parallel. The map of Lake Melville shows, instead of the nearly parallel sides of Nachvak and most other fiords, very irregular shore lilies expanding to a width of 20 miles and bordered by a terraced plain many miles in width at its maximum. Through this lake go the waters of one of the largest rivers of the eastern coast of North America. Nachvak fiord, like most other fiords, receives only the drainage of the immediately adjacent mountains.
It is alleged in paragraph 21 of the Colony's counter-case that Lake Melville is a basin of salt water with a surface layer of fresh water, and consequently we are advised “ it is an arm of the sea.” The inference drawn does not follow from the conditions stated. If these conditions are approximately as alleged Lake Melville will still differ in no material degree from many ordinary rivers in the lower parts of their channels. The fresh water near the
1 Mem. Can. Geol. Surv. No. 124.
2 Mem. Can. Geol. Surv. No. 141, fig. 4
sea mouth of a river commonly rests upon a body of sea water. Vaughan Cornish, a well known English geographer, has given the reason for this superposition of fresh upon salt water in ordinary rivers in the following passage :—“ A river flowing into the sea as a surface current of light water creates an induction current of sea water which flows landwards under the outflowing water.”1 Johnson2 has directed attention to the fact that the Fraser river in British Columbia, although a shallow stream, rests upon salt water in the lower part of its course. “ It was observed in determining the upstream limit of sea water beneath the river water that at times the sea water at the bottom continued to move upstream for some time after high tide and for some time after the surface water had started to flow out.” “ It was also found, from the water density determinations, that the sea water continues to move in at the bottom or is near stationary for considerable lengths of time when the surface current was outward.” The alleged fact that the deeper water of Lake Melville is salt water cannot therefore be adduced as evidence that this lake is an arm of the sea. The line of reasoning followed in the Newfoundland counter-case (latter part of paragraph 21) could just as well be employed to prove that the lower part of the Fraser river in B.C., which has an average width of a quarter of a mile, is an arm of the sea. The western third of Lake Melville is bordered on both sides by a densely forested plain several miles in width. I spent two days in trying to cross this wooded plain to the foot of the mountains south of Carter basin, and failed. Mr. LeRoy Bowes, of the Hydrographic Service, had a similar experience, and did not carry the traverse of the Kenamou river hack to the mountains (see map by Hydrographic Surv.). To class as a fiord a lake 20 odd miles wide which is bordered for many miles by a plain too wide to cross in a two days' journey, may suit the purpose of our legal opponents, but it would astonish a Scandanavian geologist familiar with the typical Norwegian fiords. Nachvak inlet, with its steep mountain walls coming nearly to the water's edge, answers well to the Norwegian type of fiord, but Lake Melville does not.
I have pointed out in my report the fact that Hamilton inlet answers perfectly to the definition of a ria. If the authors of paragraph 21, who deny this classification of the inlet, can cite a better example of a ria, I would be gratified if they would indicate just how it conforms better than Hamilton inlet does to the definition of that term quoted by me in Memoir 141, page 14. I am willing, however, from the standpoint of usage elsewhere, to grant an alternative classification of this coastal indentation, although it does not, in my opinion, fit so well the geological and biological facts as does the application of the term ria. If nomenclature comparable with that used for the entrance to the Amazon were applied here, the mouth of the Hamilton river should be drawn seaward of the Narrows entrance 30 odd miles from the points limiting Potties Bay and Tub harbour. This would give the Hamilton river mouth a width of only about 20 miles, whereas the mouth of the Amazon
1 Geog. Jour. Vol. XI, p. 530.
2 Geog. Journ. Surv. Can. No. 125, pages 17, 18, 29, 1921.
as generally defined has a width of 207 miles (“ Ency. Britannica ”). Neither tides nor salt water are considered in drawing the line between the coast line of Brazil and the mouth of the Amazon river, as the following quotation from the “ Encyclopedia Americana ” will show : “ The river is perceptibly affected by the tides as far up as the town of Obidos, 400 miles from its mouth.” At the mouth of the river at Springtides the bore or pororca rushes up the river in the form of huge waves 10 feet to 15 feet high, “ three or four of which follow each other with irresistible force.”
MEMORANDA BY SPECIALISTS REPRESENTING THE NEWFOUNDLAND GOVERNMENT.
Additional memoranda prepared by specialists in the interest of the Newfoundland boundary claims which has been submitted to me for consideration will be separately discussed in the following pages.
OBSERVATIONS BY VICE-ADMIRAL SIR FREDERICK C. LEARMONTH, K.B.E., C.B., ON THE HYDROGRAPHIC SURVEY AND REPORTS BY THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT OF LAKE MELVILLE, HAMILTON INLET, AND THE NARROWS, 1921-23.
Paragraph II of Vice-Admiral Sir F. C. Learmonth's memorandum concludes with the statement that he considers that the “ Title used for Canadian chart No. 420 is incorrect, and certainly confusing.” This chart hears the title Canada E. coast Lake Melville. While not prepared to admit in any sense the correctness of this assertion, it may be stated to fairly describe the nomenclature and geography of the Lake Melville and Hamilton inlet waterways as laid down on an old British Admiralty chart of even later date than the one which the Vice-Admiral wishes to have accepted as a standard for present hydrographic nomenclature. I refer to chart 2060B, originally published November 1870. In this chart Hamilton river is given a length of about 5 miles, while the lakes of the Upper Hamilton valley are connected up with an imaginary stream which empties into the Strait of Belle Isle. This chart make the name Hamilton inlet apply up to the the mouth of the 5-mile Hamilton river as it might well do if no larger stream than that entered the waterway. Neither the geography nor the hydrographic nomenclature of chart 2060B, and older charts cited by Vice-Admiral Learmonth, fit present knowledge, and their nomenclature can hardly be seriously considered as having a chance of surviving the nomenclature of the Canadian 1922 chart and the Geol. Surv. Canada, Memoir 141, page 44.
Although supporting the old nomenclature of certain charts, viz., the the application of Hamilton inlet to Lake Melville, the Narrows, and the bay outside, the Vice-Admiral quite fails to refer to the original nomenclature of