Raw courage, raw beauty – Red Bay, Labrador, Canada (July 25)

As we traveled northeast up the Strait of Belle Isle during the night, Quebec faded behind on our port side. We had reached Labrador, the other half of the province of Newfoundland Labrador. Here lies Red Bay National Historic Site, which tells the story of the 16th century Basque galleons that plied these waters in search of right and bowhead whales. The wreck of a galleon here in 1565 was the clue which led archeologists to the shores of Red Bay’s Saddle Island, within the natural protection of this small harbor.

1 Morning sky phone

Attracted here initially by the cod fishery, these fisherman from part of present-day Spain and France soon set their sights on the much more lucrative migrating whales, harvested for their oil and baleen. It seems incredible that men had the courage to set forth in these tiny, vulnerable chalupas to harpoon their massive prey, not once but many times. After the first blow, additional harpoons carrying small sea anchors called drogues were used to further tire the whales, at least 25,000 of which were killed here over the years.

4 Chaluga

Like an Indiana Jones mystery, researchers discovered ancient documents hinting at the location of the ill-fated San Juan, which was discovered remarkably well-preserved. The fine condition of its artifacts can be attributed to its rapid destruction and burial in silt. Dad was intrigued by the array of early navigational tools on display in the museum, as well as such fragile items as woven mats and looms for weaving textiles onboard.

A small boat ferried us over to Saddle Island, where the remains of tryworks for rendering the whale blubber into precious whale oil were visible, as well as a burial ground, cooperage, and lookout where fires would be lit when whales were spotted. This was what I had come to see, the weaving of ancient mysteries with the dramatic textures of the far north. More than an hour slipped by as I gently crouched on the edge of the spongy matted vegetation to capture just the right memories to take home.

That night we saw our first icebergs, small ones, a vivid white against the distant bluish gray of what remains of Labrador. In the dark of night, we turned away, headed across the Labrador Sea toward Greenland, continuing on through the murky greyness of another full day. Occasionally the hollow mournful call of the ship’s foghorn would vibrate through the ship and, when I went to swim, I found the pool quite cold and waves surging back and forth in concert with the swells below.









Thanks to Captain James Cook – Corner Brook, Newfoundland (July 24)

The pace of life aboard ship accelerates on a port day. This morning I woke at seven. That would be the new 7:00, as we have moved our clocks ahead 1 hour and 1/2 hour the last two nights. Today I discovered that the Newfoundland Time Zone is only half an hour ahead of the Atlantic Time Zone, something I did not know happened anywhere.

Anyway, after the most refreshing night’s sleep yet, I swam for half an hour with the pool all to myself. Fortunately for me, there are few swimmers aboard, although I love the one older man in a Speedo who out swam me the other morning, going back and forth with a snorkel! 

Then I was off on foot to explore Corner Brook, located on the Bay of Islands, which was first charted by none other than British explorer and cartographer James Cook. Today it is a pulp and paper mill town, so my nose felt right at home as I left port.

A replica of Cook’s naval uniform hangs in front of a model of the H.M.S. Endeavor in the Corner Brook Museum & Archives.

“Snowshoeing the horse for a winter log haul,” by artist Bond Penney, who began working in logging camps at age 16. There were also old photographs of small round horse snowshoes.
The cod fishing industry was the impetus behind Cook’s commission to chart the Newfoundland waters for the British Navy. Dried and salted cod were a valuable British export. Traditional fishing dories were painted yellow or orange above for visibility in the often foggy weather and green to hide them from below.

The extensive Corner Brook Stream Trail system took me by the historic Glynmill Inn (with nice free Wifi on their shady porch), past a pond with swans, and through an attractive birch and conifer forest. It made the perfect do-it-yourself shore excursion. So now I’m going off duty with reporting and will meander back to the ship just for fun. Talk soon!


Fiddling around – Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada (July 23)

Basement kitchen in the Jost House, circa 1786, where I learned that stained glass was shipped here in barrels of molasses and how to test for the proper temperature of the beehive oven with a smoking feather!

Sydney, on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island, welcomes port visitors with a giant fiddle that would dwarf our LL Bean boot back home. It pays tribute to the role of fiddle music, brought here by Scottish immigrants and later influenced by other traditions, including the native Mi’kmaq.

Anticipating a great concert of Celtic music this evening on the ship.

Wentworth Park at the far side of the downtown lies on land originally claimed by the Admiralty to supply wood for the British Navy. Its evolution later included grist and wool carding mills and today brides and grooms being photographed and a young crowd of locals.
I love to visit churches, so you’re sure to see plenty of them. St. George’s Anglican Church served the British engineers who laid out the town in 1784.