Books


Endorsements  for Molasses Bread and Tea


 I am just back from Peru. Thanks for writing. 
 In just a few lines you painted a heartbreaking
image that  obviously still feels vivid for you. 
Thanks for sharing, though it’s a disturbing little window on a wider world of inflicted pain.
Carl (Safina)  .......Ocean Ecologist ( Song for the Blue Ocean, Beyond Words, Voyage of the Turtle)

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"Many thanks for sending us your piece. I enjoyed it and am flattered that you should send it to me for

Publication”. Alexander Goldsmith

Editor, Geographical Magazine, June, 1993 


(official magazine of the Royal Geographical Society London UK)


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"John Christopher's writing provides a fascinating and important insight into the little-known but hugely important scientific work carried out among the ice floes of Labrador and Newfoundland" - Dr Stephen Haddelsey FRGS, FRHistS, author of "Operation Tabarin", "Shackleton's Dream" etc

 
PS   Many thanks for the wonderful stories from your time  aboard the M V Theron, which I found most interesting........
........................I wonder if you might be kind enough to review my book on Amazon? 
Thanks again - and best wishes. SH

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John P Christopher offers a textural account of life and work among the recently resettled Inuit people of Whale Cove,Hudson Bay 1962, where he was studying beluga whale population dynamics. He also gives a carefully balanced tale of life aboard a Norwegian/Canadian seal hunter the MV Theron, as it pursues its grim work among the ice floes off Labrador and Newfoundland.

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10th place on list of 10 best things to d


John Christopher reads and sings from his arctic
memoir Molasses Bread and Tea at the Toronto Public Library.  One of “Ten Great Things To Do In Toronto”
The North Toronto Post Magazine
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 Newfoundland writer John Christopher, singer, songwriter, marine biologist sits down to 'Molasses Bread and Tea', vol. 1 of his anecdotal account of growing up in St. John's, and experiences of life in NFLD outports in the 30's and 40's. The rugged beauty, hardships and war peril of this era are movingly conveyed. The author's travels then take us to the Canadian North to Labrador and Nunavut where he details interesting encounters with beluga whales, seals and other wildlife, in the company of Inuit friends. He also documents a gruesome season spent on a seal hunt on board a Norwegian sealer when he's called upon to act as ship's doctor in addition to his observational and collecting work for the Canadian Fisheries Research Board. Some of his memories are evoked in a selection of photos and these, along with his own lyrics, honour the spirit of the time.

It offers a textural account of life and work among the recently resettled Inuit people of Whale Cove,Hudson Bay 1962, where he was studying beluga whale population dynamics. He also gives a carefully balanced tale of life aboard a Norwegian/Canadian seal hunter the MV Theron, as it pursues its grim work among the ice floes off Labrador and Newfoundland. 

Vol. 2 Second Helping    Newfoundland Labrador, Nunavut and Travels Beyond ... a memoir

   BOOK OVERVIEW

The author’s travels take us again back to Newfoundland Labrador and Nunavut after an absence of almost 50 years where he critically surveys the decaying remains of European influences of Moravian missionaries in that area during their 200 year stay. The remnants of the 100 year long period of Basques whaling in southern Labrador are explored as are the few remnants of the Norse settlement at L’Anse aux meadows in Northern Newfoundland c 1000 CE. Why was it abandoned after a stay of only a decade? The tragedy of the cod fishery collapse on the Grand Banks in 1994 through overfishing after a successful sustainable life span of 500 years is critically appraised with fearless finger pointing where appropriate. Threatened species like the sea turtle are given clear focus and the pollution and transformation of the ocean from sources ranging from climate change's co2 and innumerable industrial chemical agents to plastic bags and ghost nets are all given new urgency.
How is today's global warming affecting the lives of Inuit and wildlife in the arctic today?  What lies ahead for the world’s oceans and their inhabitants.


SUMMARY 

Second Helping takes a wide ranging look at historical Newfoundland-Labrador, the Grand Banks fishery over the centuries and observations on the current state of the world's oceans and their inhabitants made over numerous world travels in the 1990s and 2000s.  Many amusing personal anecdotes are also  included to lighten the text along the way. 

The author’s travels take us again back to Newfoundland Labrador and Nunavut after again where he critically surveys the decaying remains of European influences of Moravian missionaries in that area during their 200 year stay. The remnants of the 100 year long period of Basques whaling in southern Labrador are explored as are the few remnants of the Norse settlement at L’Anse aux meadows in Northern Newfoundland c 1000 CE. Why was it abandoned after a stay of only a decade? The tragedy of the cod fishery collapse on the Grand Banks in 1994 through overfishing after a successful sustainable life span of 500 years is critically appraised with fearless finger pointing where appropriate.

SECOND HELPING continues the narrative begun in Molasses Bread and Tea of Newfoundland Labrador and Nunavut stories from the 1950s and 1960s and is now available. But this memoir also takes a wide ranging look at historical Newfoundland-Labrador, the Grand Banks fishery over the centuries and observations on the current state of the world's oceans and their inhabitants made during numerous world wide travels in the 1990s and 2000s.  Many amusing personal anecdotes are also  included to lighten the text along the way. 
 
 The book examines in some detail overfishing of the oceans' resources with much finger pointing: starting with the collapse of the cod fishery on the Grand banks in 1994 after a 500 year history of sustainable fishing. Now a single huge modern refrigerated bottom trawler equipped with state of the art radar, satellite tracking beacons, and fish finding sonar now rake the sea  bottom, destroying its bio habitat. Since the early 1970s a single one of these monsters takes as much fish out of the ocean in a day as an entire fleet of schooners did in a month a single generation before. What chance has any sustainable fishery? Throw into this murderous mix 50 mile plus gill nets and trawls and the fish are being left with no place to hide.
Widespread ocean pollution caused by throw away human garbage like plastic bags is now wiping out sea turtles on a massive scale. These animals feed on plastic bags mistaking them for jelly fish ( King Jellies) their chief food.
The throw away so called bio catch i.e. the bio kill, represents upwards of 70% of trawl fishing catches today with only 30% representing the targeted species.  And so it goes......
 A best possible saving solution regarding overfishing might lie in the setting up of large tracks of the world's oceans as protected marine reserves free form all fishing activity. 

Vol 3 The Barrel man is Coming Down  will be released in 2018. 

Books are available on Amazon, Barnes and  Noble, and Trafford Publishing in various formats.  Or you may purchase directly from the author, Navigate to Store or contact on navigation bar for directions.

All  three volumes of the Newfoundland Labrador Nunavut Memoir 1941-1967  will shortly be available at the Centre for Newfoundland Studies (CNS) MUN and in the Folklore Dept.  MUN. 

All the arctic (Whale Cove ) material, i.e. photos, written material etc  will become part of the Gov't of Nunavut's Culture and Heritage  Archive.




Mr. Christopher offers a textural account of life and work among the recently resettled Inuit people of  Whale Cove, HudsonBay 1962, where he was studying beluga whale population dynamics. He also gives a carefully balanced tale of life aboarNorwegian/ Canadian seal hunter, the M.V. Theron, as it pursues its grim work among the ice floes off Labrador and Newfoundland.


Molasses Bread & Tea written by John Christopher



Front Cover


Back Cover


Book Excerpt pages 39-42

So, in response to growing public criticism and the agitation of conservationists, and also as a result of several preliminary studies just completed by FRB, more comprehensive studies were now undertaken. In these, FRB scientists wanted to come up with statistical evidence that would show conclusively, one way or the other, whether seal hunting adversely affected Harp seal survival. I had completed a few courses in the basic medical sciences, while a student at Dalhousie University, in Halifax, and had in addition, worked for a while in that university's hospital pathology section. These experiences, taken along with the fact that I had also completed a St. John ambulance first aid course (which he had somehow discovered), made me the Captain's first choice to act as the ship's medical officer, the moment our first medical problem arose. The Theron had an excellent and fully equipped emergency medical and surgical section, as well as an impressively stocked pharmaceutical cabinet. Here, we had surgical texts, surgical instruments, first aid equipment, medical texts and instruments of all kinds. All this had been left over from the glory days of the Antarctic expedition most likely, and probably had never been used since. I hadn't been asked to look at anything more serious than a few 'bad' teeth during the first six weeks out. Then, suddenly out of the blue, a real medical emergency fell upon us, and one I would have to deal with, no matter how reluctantly I felt about it. At the time, we were again stuck in the ice, somewhere in the Strait of Belle Isle, and were unable do anything about it but drift helplessly along on the Labrador current, southward, through the straight. It was at this time, and while we found ourselves in this awkward predicament, that a young NFLD crewman came down with a badly inflamed and infected appendix. For assistance in dealing with this problem, I immediately called on the ship to shore radio, a medical doctor stationed at the cottage hospital on Fogo Island, Notre Dame Bay, NFLD. We were instructed to begin treatment, by administering large doses of the antibiotic Aureomycin, to fight the infection. This treatment was continued for about a week, but was unsuccessful in controlling the infection. It was apparent that the man's condition was deteriorating daily, accompanied as it was by more severe pain and higher temperatures. Our patient, a good-matured and stoical young fellow of maybe 20 or 22 years of age, had for some strange reason developed an unnatural confidence in my ability to cure him, which I found very touching, if inappropriate and misplaced. Although I was becoming more alarmed and anxious by the hour, he continued to remain in cheerful high spirits throughout the whole affair. At last, and when there was no other recourse left, we were told by the medical doctor at the cottage hospital, that we would have to perform an emergency appendectomy on the patient. Even more alarming, was the news that I would have to supervise it myself! Naturally, I was very reluctant to comply with this directive immediately. Indeed, I was not anxious to follow his instruction at all, if I could possibly avoid doing so. I expressed my concerns to Maru, but he supported the doctor in every respect and was adamant that I should follow the doctor's instructions.

Book cover : stark acrylic painting 'Quarry' by Toronto artist Frances Ferdinands that in an imaginative way reminded me of rafted ice sometimes seen on the ice fields off Newfoundland Labrador .


Scenes in pictures below are of 1) a mid 1970s view of my boyhood street in St John's NL, 2) an Inuit fellow fisherman I met on the shores of Hudson Bay one fine summer day in 1962
3) the doomed SS Caribou,  costal steamer and sometime sealer that was torpedoed and sunk in October 1942 one day after my mother, sister and I made its last safe crossing of the Cabot Strait. I have an eerie feeling when I hear its name mentioned.

















..Book Excerpt Continued


So it happened that the Captain, the steward, and I, began to prepare ourselves and the patient, for what lay ahead. The steward, who up to then had attended to us in only an ordinary, if efficient way, began suddenly to transform himself into a saviour. As we were discussing the task that lay ahead, he revealed to us that he had been a medic in the Norwegian resistance during the second world war, and had all kinds of experience in dealing with medical emergencies and was very familiar with operating room procedures. Because he, therefore, showed not the least bit of anxiety about what lay ahead, his attitude quickly brought about a marked reduction in my own level of anxiety. Indeed, I now began to feel that the patient might even survive what we were about to do to him. Things got even better, as the steward continued to build up my confidence in his abilities, with more and more reassuring tales of his wartime successes in the operating theatre: he had dealt with bullet, bayonet and shrapnel wounds, and had afterwards sutured up incisions and/or the wound damage caused by these agents. The only thing I had to do was to make the incision, or if I preferred, to show him where to made the incision, and he would be happy to do it. So we settled on the latter arrangement, which suited me just fine.

From the surgical text-book available, I soon located the position on the lower abdomen called MacBimey's Point, where the incision was to be made in order to get at the appendix, which would lie immediately below, if everything was normal, anatomically, in our patient. So between the two of us, we decided that we could remove the appendix successfully. Meanwhile, Maru would stand by and oversee everything. Although Maru had seemed more than a little anxious and apprehensive about the outcome earlier on, by now, the steward's marvelous reports had relieved him of all doubts. However, it was entirely true, that we hadn't very much of a idea about what we were about to do, or how we would go about doing it. Maru suggested we all have a stiff drink or two at this stage, to celebrate our good luck in having the steward with us, and also, probably, to fortify ourselves a bit. We all thought this was a very good idea at any rate.

The galley table was selected to be the site of the operation, which soon brought the cook into the picture. He seemed to want to get involved in the action, but Maru blocked every move he made, to get himself included on to the operating room team. He would let him serve as an attendant in some way though, if he so desired. We now began to make our patient ready for the operation. He remained as good-natured and confident about the outcome as ever. This blind faith of his, increased our own self-confidence, which by now was already getting a little out of hand, due to the stiff drinks of Lamb's rum that Maru had poured out for us. And then it happened.
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John Christopher,
Mar 13, 2017, 6:42 PM
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John Christopher,
Mar 13, 2017, 6:31 PM
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