The village of Exploits was once one of the biggest villages on the North East coast of NL. Nestled between two islands that were once connected by a bridge , it was a thriving fishing center with sawmills, shipyards, churches and schools. Census reports show 600 residents in 1874 but less than 300 in 1966. There are accounts of the population reaching over a thousand. The fate of Exploits, along with many other Islands and remote communities surrounding Newfoundland was sealed in the mid-1960s as a result of the infamous resettlement program, designed by the Smallwood government to move all residents to the mainland of Newfoundland where services such as hydro, health care, schools, roads and post offices could be provided much cheaper as well as to centralize and modernize the fishery. The program took on many forms from 1954 to 1975 with different payment regimes for the families who moved from remote communities like Exploits. The main areas affected were the islands of Placentia Bay, Bonavista Bay and Notre Dame Bay, as well as communities on the southwest coast. It’s estimated that over 200 communities were abandoned with 28000 people being relocated to towns known as Growth Centers. The whole era of resettlement was and remains today very controversial, some believing it destroyed a way of life while others believed that improved services and access to better education was a blessing. During the moving process, some people left their homes but others tackled the laborious task of jacking up their houses and floating them across the bays to new locations. There are many pictures and paintings that exist today that depict people taking their houses with them.
Today Exploits is a seasonal destination for recreational boaters, people who have family ties to the island and others who just fell in love with the place and have built cottages there. Many of the traditional homes have been restored and give one a sense of going back in time as you walk the winding foot paths that will take you through the village. Taking in the scenery, smelling the flowers, visiting the old cemeteries, the breakwater wall or hiking to the lookouts overlooking the North Atlantic are just a few of activities you can engage yourself in while visiting the village of Exploits.
The first photo below is a painting by NL artist Ed Roche showing the village and the harbor the way it looked many years ago.
The second is a photo of a house being moved in the Trinity Bay area during the resettlement program