Dead Man’s Bay

Back in 2010, I started another blog called Dead Man’s Bay. It was meant to be a blog about the historical significance of certain hiking trails and destinations in Newfoundland. I only got three real posts up before life went in another direction (mainly north) but it’s still out there and, I think, still interesting. I completed posts on Colinet Island, Cape Spear, and the Burgoyne’s Cove B-36 crash site.

Dead Man’s Bay

Here’s the original introduction to that blog:

I have been an avid hiker for most of my life, although for the first 18 years, I didn’t know hiking11it. I just thought everybody played in the woods. When I moved to St. John’s to attend Memorial University, I learned differently. I found out that hiking and camping was something not everyone did. Some would look at you funny when you told them you were spending three days in the woods. I could almost see questions like “But where do you plug in your Xbox?” going through their heads.

People travel for a lot of reasons: to relax, to explore the world, to learn about other people and places, or just from a feeling of restlessness that they can’t seem to escape. Outdoor pursuits are the same: people walk, hike, camp, bike, canoe and kayak for all kinds of reasons: to stay in shape, for the adventure, for love of the outdoors. But I wonder: how often do people stop to think about the history of the places that their hiking or kayaking trips are taking them?

I’ve always been fascinated by the past, by the chance to learn something about the people who came before us, and whenever a hiking trail takes me past an old rock wall or a crumbling house foundation I can’t help but wonder who built it. What did they grow in their gardens? What meals were prepared on the stove, whose chimney now stands in the field, home to a family of birds? Who walked these trails before us, with our Gore-Tex boots and expensive backpacks?

I think learning about the past is the only way to truly appreciate the present, to understand how places and people have come to be what they are. I also think you more fully appreciate the meaning of the places and landscapes you’re traveling through if you understand their history.Most travelers would agree when talking about the great cities of the world or ancient monuments. But the forests and oceans are no different.

Think about the importance of walking trails to the inhabitants of the Southern Shore before there were roads, and the East Coast Trail becomes more meaningful. The D’Iberville Trail only makes sense if you know who D’Iberville was, and what he used the trail for. If you consider that not so long ago the sea was the highway and not a barrier, then kayaking in Trinity can be a very different experience.

Welcome to Dead Man’s Bay, a blog about hiking and history in Newfoundland and Labrador.


Ink Stains Newsletter – October

Popular Newfoundland novelist Paul Butler is a prolific and well-reviewed writer of historical novels such as Titanic Ashes, Cupids, Hero, 1892, and NaGeira. Paul also offers writing and editing workshops which were very helpful to me in my earlier writing days, and I’ve always been grateful for his early support and encouragement.

Thanks to Paul for featuring my collection “Cold Seasons” in the October issue of his newsletter, “Ink Stains”!

Cold Seasons

Cold Seasons by Keith Collier

Find Paul online at

Fall Colours

Well that was an interesting summer. I had a great vacation in Iceland, England, and France and then returned to work during a very busy and productive time with multiple major projects underway. With fall well underway here in Arviat things are starting to get back towards something like a routine.

Look out for some new writing, and a (probably sporadic but regular) resumption of my “Songs of the Day.”

Welcome to autumn once again!


Accidentally a Photographer

So I’m finally getting around to posting this photo of mine that appeared in the February 2015 issue of Up Here Magazine. It was kind of a one-off for me, a post-blizzard shot of John Arnalukjuak High School in Arviat, Nunavut that I quickly snapped while out for a walk after one of our many, many blizzards this year. It got a lot of love on Twitter and caught the attention of the magazine.

JAHS, after a blizzard in Arviat, Nunavut.

John Arnalukjuak High School, after a blizzard in Arviat, Nunavut – Up Here Magazine February 2015

Kind of cool. What is less cool is that I was reminded to post this by the fact that the weather today saw near blizzard conditions again in Arviat. Spring does exist, right?

Songs of the Day – February & March 2015

I came across a few new tunes in the last couple of months. Here’s a round-up of some of them.

Saali & the Ravenhearts – Qannilirtuq

I’d been hearing this song on Arviaqpaluk (the local Arviat radio station) for weeks before I finally figured out its title and who performs it.

Saali & the Ravenhearts are a band from Nunavik who perform songs largely in Inuktitut. Check them out on CBC Radio 3.

The Tallest Man On Earth – The Blizzards Never Seen the Desert Sands

I posted this in mid-February when we were in the middle of our 6th major blizzard since Christmas. Who knew there were still almost 10 more blizzards to go?

I could have used some desert sands at that point.

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Remembering the Ocean Ranger

The Ocean Ranger on Wikipedia

On February 15th, 1982, the exploratory, semi-submersible drilling rig Ocean Ranger capsized and sank off the coast of Newfoundland. All 84 people were killed in Canada’s worst maritime tragedy since the Second World War. 56 of them were from Newfoundland.

I grew up hearing about the Ocean Ranger disaster, but I didn’t learn many details about it until I went to university. I had always had the impression that the rig just disappeared one night in a storm, but the full story of the disaster, the doomed attempts by the crew to save the rig, the helplessness of the onlookers, and the failed rescue attempts is far more heartbreaking.

Unsurprisingly, the disaster is important in Newfoundland’s recent cultural, and economic, history. The oil industry has transformed Newfoundland over the last 30 years, and the Ocean Ranger was part of the original wave of exploration that created today’s era of relative prosperity.

One of the most well-known cultural responses to the disaster is Ron Hynes’ song “Atlantic Blue.” Hynes considers it one of the most difficult and important songs he’s ever written.

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“Cold Seasons” is Here

A project I’ve been working on for a few months now is finally completed, and I’m thrilled to announce that my first mini-collection of stories is now available on Amazon! It’s my first foray into self-publishing and my first collection.

Cold Seasons

Cover design by Matthew Byrne

This collection consists of five linked short stories, totalling about 13,000 words.

  • “Summer Break”
  • “Smoke in Winter”
  • “Street Scenes”
  • “The 12 Days of Christmas”
  • “Westbound Trains”

Three of the stories were previously published in The Newfoundland Quarterly, while two appear here for the first time.

Check it out at

The Book Assassin

This week’s challenge over at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds blog is to randomly choose three things from three different lists and create a 1,000 word story with them.

I got a library, an assassin, and a bomb. It’s nice when things work out.

The Book Assassin

Some books were never meant to be written.

Quarto reflected on this as he tightened his cloak around his shoulders. The rain was steady, but his hat and cloak were thick and waterproof. Rainwater filled the gaps in the cobblestone streets, and darkened the facades of the ancient buildings which grew ever more ancient as Quarto made his way deeper into the narrow alleyways. Finally he stood before a door. He knocked firmly with a gloved hand.

The man who answered appeared elderly, but opened the heavy door with little effort. He regarded Quarto for only a moment, then stepped back to allow him to pass through the doorway.

“Greetings,” said Quarto. “A pleasant evening.”

“Indeed,” said the man who had opened the door. “May I take your things?”

Quarto removed his dripping hat and cloak, and handed them to the man.

“Your boots and bag as well,” he said.

“My boots?” said Quarto.

“Our collections here are quite precious,” said the man. “Priceless, and irreplaceable, and quite delicate. We do what we can to keep out the mud and rain.”

“I understand,” said Quarto. He placed his boots by the entrance and, removing his notebook from his leather satchel, handed that over as well. The man took them, then disappeared into an adjoining cloakroom. As he turned Quarto noted the brief flash of steel beneath his formal jacket.

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Songs of the Day Catch-Up, Part 2

Continuing my catch-up of recent “Songs of the Day”:

The Rural Alberta Advantage – Terrified

So apparently these folks are playing a show two shows in St. John’s in March. I do miss live music sometimes…

Hey Rosetta! – Carry Me Home

Another of the Christmas season tunes from Newfoundland’s own Hey Rosetta!

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – What Child is This?

While I’m not a big fan of much “traditional” Christmas music, I am a big fan of TSO’s hard-rock infused reinterpretations of many classic Christmas songs. I also appreciate the many strong vocal performances on many of their tracks, including this one from Broadway performer Rob Evans.

Katzenjammer, Ben Caplan, and the Trondheim Soloists – Fairytale of New York

The second cover of “Fairytale of New York” that I couldn’t resist posting because of the great strings and awesomely contrasting voices of Katzenjammer and Ben Caplan.

Brianna Gosse – My Christmas Song for You

A good, jazzy start to my Christmas Songs of the Day.

Songs of the Day Catch-Up

So I’ve been a little slack keeping up with my “Songs of the Day” posts, but I suppose that’s no surprise for an online project like this.

In any case, here’s a listing of some of my favorite “Songs of the Day” postings from the last couple of months:

Hozier – Take Me to Church

My sister sent me this amazing song a while ago. I’m really enjoying these great videos that are essentially miniature movies.

Carina Round – For Everything a Reason

Another tune I discovered from the TV show ‘Rookie Blue.’ The music director for that show knows what’s up.

Not sure why she’s singing into an antique telephone, but I like it.

Sean Rowe – Jonathan

Sometimes all you need is an acoustic guitar and a cavalry jacket.

Bear’s Den – Agape

Harmonizing both vocals and beards. The album reminds me a little of Bon Iver.

Alan Doyle, Russell Crowe, Samantha Barks et al – “Fairytale of New York”

This round of songs got me into the Christmas season. I managed to mostly refrain from sharing an endless stream of covers of The Pogues/Kirsty MacColl classic “Fairytale of New York.” However, this version featuring the cast of the 2012 film version of “Les Miserables” was too much fun to pass up.