Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Peggy's Cove and Lunenburg

Near Halifax, Nova Scotia

The Wi-Fi has been hard to find the last few days. These pictures are from the historic village of Lunenburg, on the coast, near Halifax.

Lunenburg was established in 1759 as a fishing village. The houses are old and architecturally interesting, at least to us. We like old wood frame houses with lots of exterior detail. We spend an hour tromping around, snapping Pix.

The town plan was made back in England with no regard for geographic contours. We see a long RV get hung up on a steep grade. The local policewoman tells us it happens 3 or 4 times a year when people fail to regard the "no RVs" signs. They get a big wrecker and hoist the RV chassis off the street.

The Marine Historic Museum in Lunenburg is worth several hours. They run a series of nearly continuous videos, build dories, describe the history of the fisheries and have a memorial room for the 700 fishermen that have died here of the last 100 years. The cod jig above used a long time ago when the cod were plentiful and weighed 40 or 50 pounds each.

They used to fish with a single hand line from a dory. Then they started running trap lines out about a mile with a baited hook every six feet. Finally they built big boats powered by diesels with wide nets that scooped everything off the bottom.

We stop at a fish market to buy cod on the way out of Lunenburg and get the rant we have heard 20 times in the Maritimes. The damned seals eat all the cod and the Europeans who have banned seal products are all fools. I'm not so sure that the seals are completely to blame for the collapsed cod fisheries. I don't express my doubts. Instead, we buy scallops and smoked mackerel. We make a nice dip from the mackerel with cream cheese and squeezed lemon juice.

Peggy's Cove is about an hour away. There are lots of tourists here in this little picturesque fishing village. There are two big buses full of Japanese tourists. The buses are covered with Japanese symbols. There are also several hundred cars like ours looking for a parking space.

Peggy's cove is very pretty. We snap a few Pix and head on back to the RV.

Our friends, Gordie and Cappa, have reserved space for us in RV parks near Windsor about 60 miles away. We hope to play some tennis with them and catch up on their lives up here in Nova Scotia.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Don’t Eat the Peanut Butter

Halifax, Nova Scotia

We leave the vehicles on the lower deck of the big ferry from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia. When we start the engine, five hours later, the mouse has ripped apart a big box of Kleenex. One of the traps, baited with peanut butter, has been eaten clean. The other one has a dead mouse. I toss the sad little body at 2:30 AM in the Sobey’s parking lot North Sidney where we spend the night after getting off the ferry at 2 AM.

It’s surprising that little one mouse could have created such anxiety and havoc with ruined clothing, drawers full of mouse poop and scurrying noises in the A/C vents all night. However, the peanut butter-baited traps are untouched today and we hear no more noises in the attic.

We visit the British Citadel in Halifax. They are busy doing close order drill in quilts. A soldier named Lambert gets yelled at a lot. It reminds me a little of my own experience as an enlisted man before I became an officer. Sometimes the drill instructor made me hold my right arm up while we did drill. “Dougherty, you say you want to be an officer? You wouldn’t make a good pimple on an Airman’s Ass!”, he shouts at me.

I ask a very stupid question of a man in a quilt with a bagpipe. “Are you an actor?”. Actually, I’d like to think it was not all that stupid. The British are notable tradition lovers.

After the Citadel we go to the Marine Museum. Many of the Titanic bodies ended up here in Halifax. I see a headline that tells about a “weird load” of Titanic bodies pulling into port. It reminds me of my favorite bumper sticker. “Caution! Weird Load!”

They had a another tremendous disaster here in 1917. A French munitions ship collided with another ship after a horn blowing argument over right of way. The ship began to burn and all the French crew rowed away in panic, leaving the ship to burn. The ship exploded, creating the biggest man-made blast to date. 2,000 citizens were killed outright and thousands were injured. Many were blinded by flying glass while looking at the burning ship.

Today we head down to Peggy's Cove and on to see Lunenburg.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Rats in the Attic

Coudray Valley, Newfoundland

We open a drawer and a little furry brown mouse scurries away. We open more drawers and see evidence of many mice.

We hear scurrying sounds in the roof. When we turn on the A/C, pieces of Mrs. Phred's clothing blow out of the vents. We pitch all the clothing they've eaten holes into and wash the rest.

Mice and squirrels like to chew on wires, so it's possible that the failed rear video camera and tow vehicle wiring might have succumbed to the predations of mice. I made a cod fish deep fried in beer batter last night. It was very good. We bought it right off the dock.

We place dryer sheets (the kind you add to the dry cycle for soft clothing) behind all the drawers. Mice don't like the smell and they are less obnoxious than moth balls. Mrs. Phred is upset. She's soaking all the silverware and dishes in bleach. We buy glue traps and standard mousetraps to bait with peanut butter.

We'll also leave out peanuts to see if they've gone away. One pair of mice can produce 15,000 offspring in a year. Closer inspection also reveals a large bird's nest under the RV.

It's a big maintenance day. We wash both vehicles and all our clothing and silverware (none of it is silver, really) because of the mouse turds. When you listen to the natives here, you keep hearing how the seals are eating all the cod and should be killed back. The seals themselves are underweight and subject to an exploding population because man has killed off the Orcas.

The ferry is having problems and our noon departure tomorrow has been pushed back to 7:30 PM, which will put us back in North Sydney about 1 A.M.

We've had back-to-back lovely days with blue skies and about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Our Italian washer/dryer failed to drain today. I read the manual and found how to disassemble the machine and check for a drain blockage. I found three dollars and sixty-three cents in American coins blocking the drain. It's not that often these days that I can make big money fixing a problem.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Black Pearl

Cowhead, Newfoundland

We've found a lovely cove to spend the day. Our ferry leaves Newfoundland on Sunday. Mrs. Phred has several more places she wants to see on the drive back down the west side of Newfoundland,

Our RV park has only nine sites. It's right on the water. Cowhead has a two little convenience stores, a botanical walk that some of the local ladies were tending today and theater production each evening.

Our host has a 440 cubic inch Barracuda called "The Black Pearl". He cranks it up and drives it at 30 kilometers per hour 500 meters to the convenience store. You can hear the supercharger whine and the glass pack mufflers burble. The "Pearl" has a spectacular black metallic paint job, a big supercharger, two 4-barrel carburetors and "Hoosier" slicks on the back end. We made lovely cars once upon a time. There were no limits.

I've been very intrigued by the new Ford Mustang. It gets over 30 MPG with a 300 HP engine. They recently drove it over 950 miles on 20 gallons of gas at 48 MPH. Maybe it comes in a convertible? We need a new toad. Ours has 170,000 miles on it (towed and driven).

Did the Basques Beat Out Columbus?

A Day trip to Labrador

We set the alarm for 6 AM (Newfoundland time is an hour and 30 minutes ahead of the Eastern time zone) and boarded the ferry for the 90 minute trip to Labrador. The trip over the straight from Newfoundland to Labrador is about 23 miles according to my GPS. I left the camera memory card in the computer for the Labrador expedition, so I’ll substitute some ancient Basque-related vacation pix. We experienced heavy fog and rain in the morning which cleared to blue skies in the afternoon. We saw a whale in the rain and fog and an iceberg late in the day. The iceberg had seen better days.

We’re parked in sort of a gravel parking lot. All the water up here is requiring a five minute boil before drinking. We have 15 amps of electric from an extension cord running out of an office window. We were in Basque territory back before we retired. It was one of those short trips to Paris, Versailles, Mt. St. Michele, Normandy, Marseilles. the Pyrenees, Pamploma and back to Paris. We were in Bayonne on the France/Spain border when we ran into the Basques for the first time. They speak Etruscan, which is not remotely related to any other human language. Apparently they are an ancient people of the Pyrenees Mountains.

We saw a Basque wedding in Bayonne and a group of young women stalking the wedding party. One of them had a hat with giant penis hat with testicles. I’ve always wondered what that was all about and if it was an ancient Basque tradition. I Google "Basque" and "penis hats" quite frequently, but the Internet can shed no light on this strange event.

The Basques came to Red Harbor, Labrador, about 1517 A.D. merely to fish, not to explore or colonize. It’s a piece of lost history. They caught cod, salmon and harpooned 20,000 Right and Bowhead whales over a 50 year period which they rendered into barrels of whale oil. They built shelters and workshops with terracotta tile roofs and returned to Basque ports laden with 1,000 or more barrels of whale oil to light the lamps of Europe. At one point over 800 Basque whalers were spending the whaling season in Red Harbor. You could get 2,000 ducats for 1,000 barrels of whale oil back then, a small fortune. Red Harbor, Labrador, is one of the finest natural ports in North America. An island protects the mouth of the harbor. An archeologist, reading old Basque documents, such as the wills of two fishermen who died in Labrador in the 1500s began to suspect that the Basques were some of the earliest travelers to the new world (other than the Vikings). There is no proof that the Basques arrived before Columbus, but then they were very secretive about their fishing grounds.

An English archeologist read about a whaling shipwreck in a document that was actually a power of attorney relating to lawsuits over 1,000 barrels of lost whale oil cargo. As a result, an almost intact Basque whaling ship that went down in Red Harbor, Labrador, in 1565 was subsequently discovered. Ice had quickly crushed the ship which was then covered with mud. That and the cold water preserved the ship (which was proven to have been laden with about 1,000 crushed barrels of whale oil) in pristine condition. Careful excavation provided some very interesting detail of ancient Basque shipbuilding techniques. On the land, pieces of copper kettles which were used to render whale blubber into oil were unearthed. Many pieces of broken terracotta roofing tile and other artifacts (cooperage artifacts from barrel makers) were also discovered to confirm the early visits to Newfoundland by the Basque fishermen. All in all, it was an interesting day trip.

Kilroy Was Here

L'ans aux Meadows, Newfoundland

As a child, they told us in school that the Vikings might have visited North America 500 years before Columbus. Back then there was no convincing proof. There were only the Icelandic “sagas” that described the Viking voyages of Leif Erickson and Eric the Red back about 1000 A.D. These sagas were passed on verbally for 300 years until they were written down by Norse Christian Monks about 1300 A.D.
The search for the site described in these sagas went on for over 200 years until the mounds on the Northern tip of Newfoundland were discovered in 1960. The archeological digs here made the case that the sagas were true.
They’ve done a nice job building sod huts that represent what the buildings may have looked like in the base camp established by the Vikings.
The archeological explorations have discovered evidence of iron working to build ship nails, spindles from a loom and a lost bronze clothing pin that nails totally down the Viking connection. They also found well preserved wood shavings in workshops where boats were constructed.

A beautiful river runs though the Viking camp which must have contained the bountiful salmon described in the saga. They can’t do dendrochronology because the area has been largely deforested over the years for firewood. However, with carbon dating they are pretty sure that the camp was established about 1000 A.D. (plus or minus 2 years) and was a going concern for several years.

They say that Greenland is only 650 miles from here as the crow flies. The Vikings probably took about 35 days to make the trip. They navigated about 1,300 miles by always keeping land in sight so they probably went from Greenland to Baffin Island to Labrador to here (the Northern tip of Newfoundland). The saga is consistent with geological features of Baffin Island and Labrador.

There is the natural wild wheat described in the saga, the river for salmon, the peat to build shelters and iron and coal. It’s a good place for a base camp. When the Vikings left here they burned the buildings which were made of peat over wood frames.

When you look at the mounds, you can easily imagine the Vikings forging iron, weaving wool, building boats, catching salmon and burning seal oil in smelly, smoky lamps. I’m convinced that this is the real deal. The voyage was as epic as the first landing on the Moon.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

The End of the World

L'ans aux Meadows, Newfoundland

We drove all day though fog and rain to reach the Northern tip of Newfoundland. More than 1100 years ago my Viking ancestors established a settlement here in North Anerica. They called the place Vinland because of the wild grapes. The dig is about 2 kilometers from our campsite.

I have a recessive disease called
Dupuytren's contracture, which is also called "Viking's disease". This causes my fingers to curl up so it's hard to grasp my tennis racket or put my hand in my pocket. About every three years I have my fingers surgically straightened. I'm lucky. Sometimes it also causes one's penis to curl up.

We're wondering how exactly they have this archeological site dated. The trees here are not long-lived, so dendrochonology may not be all that helpful. I read that they have done some carbon dating on the site, which is not that precise.. However, the bronze and iron artifacts they've recovered leaves little doubt that Eric the Red spent some time here.

We'll visit the digs in the morning and report our findings. Forget Columbus day. This is the real deal. My quivering, curled fingers tell me that my European ancestors were here first.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Oligotropic Lakes

Western Brook Fjord, Newfoundland

We're on the west side of Newfoundland, about 240 miles north of the ferry port. It's an approximately equal distance north to the short ferry over to Labrador.

Last night we had planned to go to a pub for mooseburgers and music. Newfoundland has the highest concentration of moose in the world. There are four moose per square kilometer in moose suitable habitat. These all came from four moose imported here about a 100 years ago. We haven't seen any yet. When we arrived at the pub we found that it required tickets and was sold out (filled with old people from an RV caravan). We found a little local restaurant that served us white wine and a lovely deep-fried codfish. I plan to eat more cod in the future.

The Western Brook Fjord is a narrow channel carved by waves of glaciers in billion year old igneous rock. The walls reach a height of 2,000 feet even after a billion years of being ground down. It is believed that about 40 glaciations have filled the fjord only to eventually retreat. You reach the boat tour of the long fjord by a 3 kilometer hike though bogs and marshlands. The blue star iris very common along the trail this time of year.

The last glacier melted about 15,000 years ago. At first it was a true saltwater fjord, but it became landlocked about 9,000 years ago when the land near the sea rose again after being relieved of the weight of billions of tons of ice.

The fjord is now fresh water, oligotrophic and distinguished by nutrient deficiency, as opposed to productive, eutrophic lakes, with an ample or excessive nutrient supply. Oligotrophic lakes are most common in cold regions underlain by resistant igneous rocks (especially granitic bedrock). These lakes are oxygen rich. The water of Western Brook is so clear and pure that it is a poor conductor of electricity.

Das Rollende Hotel

Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland

Mrs. Phred has been lugging these geraniums around since May. They go into the sink when we travel. They seem to like the alternating days of wet weather and then long hours of sunshine.

We found a place in Rocky Harbor to buy fresh fish right off the boat. This morning we take a hike of about an hour to a boat on a "pond" in the park. The pond is about 12 miles long and has cliffs that rise vertically to about 2,500 feet above the pond. We saw a wolf run across the road right in front of us on the way home yesterday. No moose yet.

I'm really getting annoyed about pipe tobacco prices. Here in Newfoundland the price is up to $28 an ounce, which is enough for three days. My annual budget for tobacco is being totally fractured by this visit to a "nanny state" which requires a helmet to ride a bicycle and thinks smoking is possibly harmful to one's health (and a drain on their health care system).

I think maybe a week might be enough of Newfoundland. I'm about ready to return to our native land. Maybe I'll find something to do back in Florida this winter (improve my tennis, learn a new language, fix up an old house, brew some beer, make wine, write the great American novel) ...or maybe not.

This bus pulled into the campground yesterday. Each of the windows is a sleeping compartment for a German tourist. The compartments are 3x3x6. The Germans get off the bus and each seems to have an assigned task, which they efficiently complete (take a shower, get firewood, set up the kitchen). The buses are run by Rotel Tours. We saw one in a Alaska a few years ago and didn't quite know what to make of it.

We'll be here in the park two more nights. Maybe some hiking tomorrow and than another decision (north, east or south)...west is not an option because of the ocean. Only six icebergs have showed up this year compared to 180 in 2009. The single channel on TV talks about the possible adverse effects on tourism...but we've seen our fair share of bergs.