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Isolated from the rest of the continent, Labrador has remained one of the world's truly wild places, although its two main centers of Labrador City-Wabush and Happy Valley-Goose Bay have all the amenities of larger urban areas. Labrador, steeped in history, is a place where the past invades the present and life continues as it did many years ago: a composite of natural phenomena, wilderness adventure, history, and culture. This vast landscape, 293,347 square km (113,261 square mi) of land and 8,000 km (5,000 mi) of coastline, is home to 30,000 people. The small but richly diverse population has a history that in some cases stretches back thousands of years and in others, such as the mining towns of Labrador West, only four decades.
The Straits in southeast Labrador were a rich hunting-and-gathering ground for the area's earliest peoples, the Maritime Archaic tribes. The oldest industrial site in the New World is here—the 16th-century Basque whaling station at Red Bay.
Along the southern coast, most villages are inhabited by descendants of Europeans, whereas farther north they are mostly Inuit and Innu. Over the years the European settlers have learned native skills and survival strategies, and the native peoples have adopted many European technologies. In summer the ice retreats and a coastal steamer delivers goods, but in winter small airplanes and snowmobiles are the only ways in and out.
Labrador West's subarctic landscape is challenging and unforgettable. The two towns here, Wabush and Labrador West, were built in the 1960s to accommodate employees of the Iron Ore Company of Canada (the area is home to the largest iron ore deposits in the world).
Labrador at a Glance
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