History of Transportation in Labrador
Content Provided By: Senator Bill Rompkey, Government of Canada
The building of airstrips in over twenty coastal communities in the 1980s revolutionized transportation in Labrador. A land mass of 154,000 square kilometers, locked in by sea ice for six months of the year, could only be served effectively by air. From the 1930s small aircraft landed on floats in summer and skis in winter on the frozen harbours spread over 750 kilometers of coastline. From the 1940s their hub would be the military air base at Goose Bay, which would become a transportation hub for jets as well as Beavers and Otters. Today Goose and the modern airport at Wabush tie Labradorians in to the sky routes of the world

Cultures that had existed for centuries traveled by foot and watercraft. The Inuit who inhabited the coast had used kayaks and umiaks to follow the seals and the whales; the Innu, occupying the interior, had canoed thousands of miles on some of the great rivers of North America. And in the winter both had employed dogs to pull their komatiks and their sleds. In the 1960s the snowmobile replaced the dog as power transport and today it is well established as the winter vehicle of choice all over Labrador.
Aboriginal watercraft would have been dwarfed by the San Juan, a Basque whaling galleon on the 16th century that still sits at the bottom of the Red Bay harbour. Soon French fishing vessels and the British men-o-war would cease to hold any wonder for the aboriginals. And later, when they were joined by European settlers, both came to enjoy the coastal steamers that not only collected their fish but brought food, supplies and medical help, boats like the Northern Ranger that still ply the Labrador sea routes with residents and tourists alike. These ferries linked Newfoundland and Labrador, as the modern Apollo still does on the Strait of Belle Isle.
Slowly over the years roads were laid across the big land. Sixty miles of paved road has served the communities of the Labrador Straits for some decades. Later the Trans-Labrador highway was begun in the 80s to connect the modern iron mining towns of Labrador West to the giant airbase at Goose. In recent years the southeast portion of the highway has been constructed through forest and across rivers from the Straits to Cartwright. With the completion of the road from there to Goose it will be possible to drive from Montreal across Labrador to the Straits and on to the Island. Tourists can follow in their caravans the ancient land and sea routes of the Innu and Inuit.

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