Organization: Harrington Harbour Tourism Association
Address: Box 147, Harrington Harbour, QC G0G 1N0
Region: North Shore & Lower North Shore
Contact: Monica Anderson, hhtourism2010(a)gmail.com
Description: Bombardier snowmobile known as the "Ski-Doo" used in the Lower North Shore community of Harrington Harbour.
Year made: 1964
Made by: Joseph-Armand Bombardier
Materials/Medium: Metal, leather, rubber
Colours: Yellow, red
Provenance: Valcourt, Quebec
Size: 2.36 m long x 1.19 m high. Track 38 cm wide x 127 cm long. Weight: approx. 113.4 kg. Maximum speed: 48 km/hr. Motor: 8 HP
Photos: Monica Anderson, Courtesy Harrington Harbour Tourism Association
The Harrington Harbour Snowmobile
One could easily be seduced by the beautiful fishing village of Harrington Harbour on the Lower North Shore of the Saint Lawrence River. In fact, it was the remote village portrayed in the well known Quebec film of 2004 called “La Grande Seduction,” (The Seduction of Doctor Lewis). One of the predominantly English-speaking fishing villages sprinkled along the Lower North Shore, it was founded in the late 1800s by Newfoundland fishermen. The fishermen in this small community of only 300 people make their living primarily from snow crab.
The “Ski-Doo” selected as one of the 100 significant objects of the English-speaking community in Quebec was purchased in 1964 by a resident of Harrington Harbour named Bob Bryan. It represents an important change for the remote English-speaking communities of this area. Until the introduction of the snowmobile, the only possibility for winter travel from village to village was by dog sled team. The innovation of the snowmobile marked the beginning of many changes and opportunities in North Shore life. It created the possibility of more contact with other communities on the Lower North Shore and led to fuller participation in a much wider world.
To say the village of Harrington Harbour is remote means there are no roads to it. In fact there are no roads in the village either. A distinctive boardwalk winds through the community past colourful wooden houses. The village is huddled on one side of a small, rocky island, looking out to sea. Until the recent introduction of the all-terrain vehicle, the only way to get around was by boat, by snowmobile, by bicycle or by foot. The mainland coastal road, Route 138, stops at Natashquan to the west, and picks up again in Brador to the east before Blanc-Sablon. The municipality has tried to get the government to extend the road through the area, but no construction has been scheduled. There is no way to get in or out except by water in the summer and over ice and snow in the winter. Ferries or taxi boats must be used to travel between the communities or to the rest of the province. In recent years, there has been a heliport located near the village and a regional airport in nearby Chevery, Quebec.
The snowmobile evokes the way of life of English-speaking communities on the Lower North Shore in the 20th century, and how it has changed. Bob Bryan's model is an early two-stroke engine. It is a far cry from the latest model four-stroke snowmobiles with all the “bells and whistles,” but for people in Harrington Harbour and other remote communities on the Lower North Shore this early model of snowmobile created a revolution in transportation and communication between their villages and the outside world. This “new type” of transportation meant an end to the dog sled teams that each household had to maintain all year round, and it meant faster travel to other communities during the winter months. For supplies, medical care, for visiting friends and relatives in neighbouring villages, the snowmobile opened up avenues of communication and transport.
Today, the cell phone and the internet have revolutionized the way communities communicate, although until recently cell phone coverage was difficult to obtain until one reached Blanc-Sablon. Now, of course, friends and relations in other villages can be contacted through social networks such as Facebook, but nothing can replace a good visit and a home cooked meal of local delicacies of caribou or fish and some baked apple jam.
The first snowmobile produced by Joseph-Armand Bombardier of Valcourt, Quebec, in 1937 was the B-7, a large, 7-passenger vehicle designed to help people in remote areas get around during the long winter months. It had a patented sprocket wheel/track system used in most of the later vehicles. These snow machines were used in rural Quebec to take children to school, carry freight, deliver mail, and as ambulances. His invention filled a very particular need in the region and soon his business was booming.
Bombardier also wanted to develop a fast, lightweight machine that could carry just one or two people. It would be a practical vehicle to replace the dogsled for hunters and trappers. A small personal vehicle called the “Ski-Dog” was first marketed in 1959. It provided personal transportation on snow in remote regions and gave rise to a new sport and a new industry. By accident, a painter misinterpreted the name and painted "Ski-Doo" on the prototype.
Within a decade, the snowmobile transformed the social life of remote communities in Quebec, both in the far North and along the Lower North Shore. Of course, as with every modern innovation there is always a cost. The demand for snowmobiles created a demand for gasoline, for parts and for repair services, which in turn relied on a cash economy and jobs. Noise and air pollution, damage to terrain and to wildlife were also unexpected results. Most people living on the North Shore would probably agree that figuring out the solutions to these problems is worth the effort to gain the benefits of an expanded community life and a wider world.
Bob Bryan’s "Ski-Doo" now belongs to the Harrington Harbour Tourism Association, and can be seen by the public at the Roswell House Interpretation Centre during the regular tourist season from June to the end of September and during the off season by appointment.
Harrington Harbour Tourism Association, hhtourism [at] globetrotter.net
For More Information
Tourism Lower North Shore, www.tourismlowernorthshore.com
Harrington Harbour, www.csdulittoral.qc.ca
Lower North Shore history, www.thelowernorthshore.com/history/timeline and www.mnh.si.edu/artic/features/gateways
The Sad Tale of Marguerite de Roberval (Margeurite de la Roche), www.canadachannel.ca
Dr. Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, www.cdnmedhall.org
Larry MacDonald, The Bombardier Story: Planes, Trains and Snowmobiles, 2001
CBC Digital Archives: Bombardier: The Snowmobile Legacy, 2003, www.cbc.ca
Jacqueline Hyman a writer and lives in the Eastern Townships. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Eaton Corner Museum in Cookshire-Eaton, Quebec.