2014 Aug 22 – Day 64 – Rocky Harbour, NL to Port aux Choix, NL

The letter for today is H.

H is for HEARTY, as in, “I ate a HEARTY breakfast this morning.”  John ate yogurt, granola and strawberries.

H also stands for, “I am HEARTILY sick of the heavy clouds.”

H is for HIKE.  We hiked to the top of Berry Hill this morning (H is also for HILL).  There were 118 steps with portions of rocky trail interspersed between the flights of stairs.  The view at the top was pretty nice.  Wide open vistas over the grasslands to the mountains and the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the background.

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H is for HISTORIC.  We stopped at Green Point.  From the parking lot you see grass and water.  Once you walk along the road a short distance a steep little HILL reveals some fisherman’s shacks, a lovely curved beach and a grassy HEADLAND.

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Down the HILL and around the corner, right on the shore is a cliff face.  There are four distinct types of rock formations side by side.  Geologists come from all over to study this area.  There have been fossils found in the rocks that set the boundary between two periods of HISTORY in the development of the earth: Cambrian (trilobite – marine anthropod -lifeforms) 545 million years ago and Ordovician (shellfish lifeforms) 492 million years ago.  The part I liked best were the fine, fine layers of shale and all the different textures.  A very interesting place.

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H is for HULK.  The few remaining pieces of the SS Ethie are scattered along the shore at Sally’s Cove.  The Ethie was a steam ship that worked the Newfoundland coastal trade. Dec 11, 1919 she was caught in an HORRIFIC storm and wrecked off Sally’s Cove.  All 92 passengers and crew were saved, including a baby who was put into a mail sack.

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Did I mention H is for HIKE?  Yes?  Well HIKE #2 was a 6 km round-trip to see the Western Brook Pond.  Which is not a pond at all but a HUGE land-locked freshwater fjiord.  The Pond is very deep, very cold and has some of the purest water in the world.  Unfortunately our HEAVY clouds obscured the tops of the cliffs.  We did not book the boat cruise here, which goes 10 miles up the fjiord right to the base of the 2000′ cliffs.  I was wondering if I would regret that decision since the view from the other end of the pond is pretty spectacular judging from photos I have seen, but when the dumb clouds lingered I was okay with it.  We waited two hours for the clouds to lift; there was blue sky behind us and above us, but none would appear at the end of the pond!

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You can just see the flat tops in this shot.


We gave up and started HIKING back to the car. We had taken a short loop trail which went along the edge of another lake – Long Steady – and met up with the main trail about 1.5 km later.  This was a path, unlike the main trail which is wide and smooth or boardwalk.  We had only gone about 1/2 km and John stopped dead in front of me.  “Moose,” he says.  (H is also for HABITAT.  Newfoundland is great moose HABITAT.There are 48,000 on the island.)  And there she was, not 25 feet away, feeding HAPPILY on the grass beside the path.  She noticed us but didn’t care and kept eating.  I am thinking, “Where is the baby?”  And, a few minutes later there it was.  Momma and youngster were in no HURRY to move along.  They ate their way further down the path, we followed, they stopped, we stopped.  We watched them for about 20 minutes then decided to leave her alone and went back the way we had come and rejoined the main trail back to the truck.

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H is also for HOLES. As in HUGE HOLES through HUGE boulders at Arches Provincial Park. I have no idea what killed all these trees but there was a large grove of them right at the parking lot.

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We arrived at our hotel at Port aux Choix just after 5.  IMG_7439

I noticed the pretty light and nice sunset while writing my blog.

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There is a National HISTORIC site here that we will explore tomorrow.

Oh….one more thing.  H is for HURT.  Like my feet! What a full day!

2014 Aug 20 & 21 – Days 62 & 63 – Corner Brook, NL to Rocky Harbour, NL

As I said in my last post Wednesday, Day 62 was a blog-free day.  We spent most of it in our room doing a whole bunch of nothing; which is nice to do once in awhile.  I got my laundry done, John got Poppy’s oil changed and we even made a trip out to the top of the hill to the Captain James Cook National Historic Site to see the view.  Unfortunately the rain continued off and on all day and decided to start again just as we arrived.  The view was pretty nice though and would have been spectacular on a sunny day.

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Captain Cook is noted for spending 3 years (1763-1767) surveying the coast of Newfoundland – charts that have been found to be accurate for centuries due to his diligence and meticulous eye for detail .  His charts are still used today.


We left our hotel on Thursday morning and drove to Rocky Harbour which is only about 115 km away.  We had reservations for a boat cruise into Gros Morne National Park.  The drive was very similar to going through the lower mountains around home or on the way to Revelstoke; a little rockier perhaps, but reminiscent of our area.


We stopped briefly at Steady Brook to see the Newfoundland Labrador Heritage Tree. It was erected in 1999 as a 50th anniversary project to commemorate Newfoundland and Labrador joining Confederation in 1949.  The 50′ tall tree was cut by a Labrador man working for Western Forest Products.  The forestry company donated the log and spent $15,000 having  it moved to the dock side for pick up by a transport company.  It was moved via various transport companies, at half the regular rate, to North Sydney, NS  where Marine Atlantic had it loaded on one of their ferries and brought it to Newfoundland – without charge.  They have counted 417 rings on it so it began to grow about 1583 which was when Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed this land for England.  Newfoundland became Britain’s first and oldest colony.  The tree is carved with images of people and events in the Province’s history since then. Pretty cool project I’d say.

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We also drove a short distance up a very bumpy gravel road for a clamber through the bush to view Steady Brook Falls, which was really flowing due to all the recent rain.


Steady Brook is also the turn off for the Marble Mountain ski area – which looked very much like the Blue Mountains ski resort in Collingwood, ON.


A couple of quick stops at view points and the Visitor Center of Gros Morne National Park and we were on our way to Norris Point; a few kilometers down the road from Rocky Harbour where we are spending the night.

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At Norris Point we boarded the boat for our two hour cruise on the South Arm of Bonne (pronounced Bon) Bay to see the scenery and the spectacular Tablelands.  But…..the stupid clouds came in and covered the top of everything so it wasn’t as spectacular as it might have been.  And….aside from a few interesting rock outcroppings and the cloud-topped Tablelands we could just as well have been spending our afternoon on Shuswap Lake.  It was a nice trip, we talked to some nice people, but I admit I was a little disappointed.  Most of the rest of the people were in awe.  I guess I am too used to spectacular scenery living where I am fortunate enough to live. But, all in all it was a fine day – and we only had clouds, no significant amount of rain which was very nice.

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IMG_7169The Tablelands in the distance, which are a slice of an ancient ocean floor; one of the best and most accessible examples of exposed mantle material in the world.  This geological wonder has made Gros Morne National Park a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Surrounded by green forest, this barren rock is a complete aberration; it shouldn’t be here at all, let alone as high as it is.  Virtually nothing grows on it due to the high iron content of the rock. We plan to drive up to see it at close range on our way back down from St. Anthony next week.

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2014 Aug 19 – Day 61 – Channel-Port aux Basque, NL to Corner Brook, NL

It poured rain, with thunder and lightning, most of the night and the rain came and went all day.  It is supposed to rain for the next three or four days so our boat tour in Gros Morne might be a little more gray-colored than we had hoped.  Oh well, the weatherman rarely gets it right.  And, the nice thing about Newfoundland is that there is mainly one route you must go to get everywhere.  I figure if we have a poor day on the 21st at Gros Morne we can stop in again on our way back down from L’Anse aux Meadows in a week’s time.



This isn’t the ferry we came over on but ours was a sister ship.  They are very large boats.

It was boarding for the trip back to Nova Scotia.


We left our hotel in Channel-Port aux Basque a little after 10 and   we hadn’t been driving for very long before I said to John, “This looks just like Scotland.”  “That is what I was thinking,” he said.  And it really did; high rocky hills covered with brush and grass and no trees.  Perhaps our ferry ride was longer than we thought…

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We were impressed too that Newfoundlanders seem to know the difference between hills and mountains because formations we would call hills at home are called hills here.  Due to the rain there were lots of waterfalls coming down the sides.

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We drove into Corner Brook about 12:30 but carried on along Highway 450 to the ‘end of the road’ at Bottle Cove on the Outer Bay of Islands.  We had made a couple of photo stops along our way, but due to the inclement weather most things were pretty gray.


It had stopped raining for awhile then just as we pulled into the parking lot at the Bottle Cove Trail it began again.  Undeterred, the umbrellas came out and off we went.  The climb was well worth it too.  We climbed through the trees first to Sunset Rock, then to the grassy plateau at Trails End, before taking the boardwalk back to the parking lot.

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We arrived back in Corner Brook at 4:30 checked in to the hotel, had dinner and then got two loads of laundry done .

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Tomorrow will probably be a blog-free day as I am going to do a bit more laundry  and John is going to find a Quick Lube and get Poppy’s oil changed.  The trip odometer turned over 12,000 km yesterday so she should get a ‘spa’ treatment while we are stationary for a day.

2014 Aug 18 – Day 60 – Sydney, NS to Channel-Port aux Basque, NL

We had only one thing to do today and that was to board the ferry for Newfoundland.  Our ferry left North Sydney (about 30 km from our hotel in Sydney) at 11:45 this morning.  We had to be checked in at the terminal by 9:30 so we had to get up at 7:30  to have time to shower, dress, breakfast and drive to the terminal.  First morning in quite awhile we have had a schedule!




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The crossing generally takes 6 hours.  Sometimes the ocean slows things down quite a bit.  We had windy conditions and quite a lot of rocking of the boat but no where near the worst conditions we have had on a ship.


We sailed on the Marine Atlantic ferry “Blue Puttees”  which was named for the WWI servicemen from Newfoundland. (They were a British colony at the time and not part of Canada.  Newfoundland did not join Canada until 3 years after the Second World War in 1949).  The British army uniform was khaki with green socks.  Newfoundland had no green wool so the soldiers all wore blue socks.  They were teased goodnaturedly about their blue socks and when they told the other units they were blue puttees, the name became synonymous with Newfoundland Soldiers and Marine Atlantic named the ferry in their honor.

Part way across the  Gulf of St. Lawrence the wind was accompanied by rain and it rained all the way to Channel-Port aux Basque.  Newfoundland has been experiencing a heat wave of late – days of 30-33 C (very much above normal for this area) so they badly need rain.  For them we are pleased (I wish BC would get some too to help with the forest fire situation at home), but for us, we want some non-rain days especially when we do our boat tour in Gros Morne National Park.  I really want to see those 2000′ cliffs from the water.

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Our hotel is the green building on the hilltopIMG_6925

We are settled in our hotel, have been fed and watered and will be retiring for the night very shortly.  You have just received one of the shortest blogs I have written on this entire trip!

2014 Aug 17 – Day 59 – Sydney, NS

We had one thing to do today and that was go to Louisburg.  It is about 30 km from Sydney right on the coast and is the largest restored fortress in North America.  There are over 60 buildings or marked sites and this comprises only 1/5 of the original fortress. The remainder is preserved and untouched.


Louisburg was a unique site because there had never been a settlement of any kind there before the French fishing community was established and after the British sacked the Fortress in 1745 nothing else was built later.  Archaeologists spent 20 years documenting artifacts and building sites.  There were over 250,000 diaries, documents, etc and 500 maps of the city; plot plans, architectural drawings of buildings, date of death inventories of the citizens and merchants of Louisburg.  A treasure trove of data. Plus researchers, historians and archivists combed through thousands of documents, letters, diaries, maps, and government papers; both in Canada and in France to locate things, confirm things, pieces together differing accounts or conflicting information.


There had been a museum with a model of the fort build in the mid-1930’s and during the 1960-1970 work at the site people would come and see what was going on.  The ‘official’ opening of Louisburg was about 1987.  One of the things I liked was that Parks Canada, during the construction of the fortress buildings, employed many of the out-of-work coal miners from the area. They were re-trained on-site.  It took almost 20 years to complete the project.

We were there walking around non-stop for five hours and did not read all the information in the exhibit buildings nor take in any of the special talks or entertainment.  Many of the buildings are ‘manned’ by people in period costume portraying the lives of actual citizens of this 18th century French community.

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Selling the bread made at the bakery this morning.IMG_6767 IMG_6770 IMG_6784 An off duty soldier.
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This lady is making willow lobster traps.



The Fortress was built solely to provide security for the cod-fishing.  As in the British community on Grassy Island, just up the coast, Louisburg was a seasonal job for most people. At the height of the summer there would be between 6,000 and 7,000 but in the winter there would be about 2,500.  30,000,000 fish would be taken from the waters of the coast off Louisburg each season.  This amounted to 4 times the value of the fur trade every year.

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Virtually everything used in the fort was imported through codfish trading with Europe, the US and the Caribbean.

IMG_6748 IMG_6763 IMG_6769 IMG_6843 IMG_6844These rooms are from the governor’s house or other well-to-do merchants. The average person had a much more basic home and furnishings.

Today was Acadian Day at Louisburg so there was the History of Acadia told – accompanied by French songs – in the Governor’s Chapel, an Acadian Kitchen Party (impromptu, amateur entertainers) in the tent a the end of the street, and other special events during the day.  These children were gathering for their turn entertaining at the Kitchen Party.

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There were a lot of very interesting articles, paintings, models and artifacts in the many exhibits throughout the fort. I liked the ship models.

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This is a three-man French fishing shallop



I must admit that my feet hurt a bit; but it was another good day.

2014 Aug 16 – Day 58 – Antigonish, NS to Sydney, Cape Breton Island, NS

Warning:  Another long blog.  Too much interesting stuff!!!

Our plan for the day was to drive from Antigonish, near the eastern end of mainland Nova Scotia, to Sydney, on the SE end of Cape Breton Island.  We were going to go via the southern side of Bras D’Or Lake, the huge lake that almost cuts Cape Breton in half, but somehow made a wrong turn and ended up driving the north side.  This worked out well – the north side is designated as a Scenic Drive and we were fortunate to have nice weather again today.

Two thirds of the way up the lake – which is full of inlets and islands – is the town of Baddeck where Alexander Graham Bell and his wife lived for many years in a large house called Beinn Bhreagh, Beautiful Mountain in Gaelic.  The house is still owned and lived in by his descendants.  The museum was a lovely building in a large park-like setting.

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We, like everybody else, knew that Bell invented the telephone.  What we didn’t know was that he was a modern-day Leonardo Da Vinci!  The Interpretive Center at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site was a VERY large building  chock-a-block full of information on Bell and his experiments and inventions.  I would have to write, write, write and write some more to tell you all we learned about Alexander Bell.  I will spare you, but I am inserting photos of some of his inventions and the cards with the information about them so you can skim through them at your leisure and get a grasp of the man’s genius.

I will tell you this:  His father  Melville Bell created, in 1864, the Visible Speech Phonetic Alphabet to teach deaf people to talk.  His grandfather was a man devoted to Elocution and taught proper speech. Aleck spent a summer with his grandfather and he credits that time with giving his life direction and a purpose.  He  was devoted to helping the deaf his entire life.

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After the death of his two brothers from TB the family moved from Scotland to Ontario in 1870 when Bell was 23.  He had great success using his father’s Visible Speech techniques to help the deaf learn to talk, or to talk better and was hired by the Boston School for the Deaf in 1871.  At the age of 30 he married Mabel Hubbard (age 20) who was one of his students and was devoted to her his whole life – they died within 9 months of each other.  Mabel lost her hearing at age 5 from scarlet fever.  She could speak but Bell greatly improved her pronunciation and elocution.

He patented the telephone in 1876 and in 1877 formed the Bell Telephone Company. His wedding gift to Mabel was 90% of the stock; he retained the other 10%.  Mabel managed all of his business affairs, financed the AEA – Aerial Experiment Association of Bell and four young flight enthusiasts, and took an interest in many of the experiments and inventions, even flying in some of the early kite-planes developed by the AEA.

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In 1879 he invented the audiometer which detects hearing loss or residual hearing.  1880 he invented the photophone which transmits sound on a beam of light.  The graphonophone, which was an improvement on Edison’s phonograph and was powered by a treadle sewing machine, was sold commercially in 1887.  IMG_6575 IMG_6576 IMG_6577 IMG_6580 IMG_6581 IMG_6583 IMG_6584 IMG_6586 IMG_6587

In 1888 Bell co-founded the National Geographic Society and was invited in 1916 by President Taft to participate in a League to Enforce Peace, a precursor to the League of Nations and the United Nations.

He also invented the metal detector and tried unsuccessfully to locate the bullet in President Garfield after he was shot.  The President was lying on a metal-framed bed which caused static.  Bell requested that the President be moved to another bed not made of metal so he could get a better reading, but the skeptical physicians refused.  Garfield died of his wounds.

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He developed the principal of tetrahedral (using triangular shapes) construction.  A 1300-cell tetrahedral kite flew supporting one of his AEA associates.

The group captured the Scientific American Cup for the first flight over 1 km in Hammondsport, NY in 1908.   In 1909 the Silver Dart was the first successful powered flight in Canada.  She lifted off the ice and flew 800 meters.  Bell also invented the hydrofoil and in 1912 the HD-2 clocked 50 mph.  The HD-4 set a marine speed record of 70.86 mph (113 kilometers per hour).IMG_6598 IMG_6633 IMG_6619 IMG_6620 IMG_6621 IMG_6623

And that truly is the SHORT version!  Honest.

We finally continued on our way about 2 hours later; climbing over Kellys Mountain, a continuous rise of 267 meters with lookouts on both sides of the top, and then down the other side to Sydney.

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We are spending two nights in Sydney but we drove on by the town without checking into our hotel because we wanted to go to the Miners Museum at Glace Bay, 16 km away.  Glace Bay, and many of the towns of Cape Breton were coal mining towns – Company towns, where in the 1920 and 30’s you earned 68 cents for every ton of coal you sent up the to the surface.  The Company owned the house you lived in, the water supply, the electrical supply, and all the stores.

You purchased all your tools from the Company store, your blasting powder and everything you needed to do your work and to care for your family.  Usually when you got ‘paid’ all you received was an envelope showing all you owed deducted from all you earned putting you constantly deeper into debt to the Company. They used this leverage to force longer hours (10 hours day shift; 12 hours night shift – 6 days a week), and regularly cut wages.  The Company spent as little as was necessary on maintenance and safety in the mines.  If a man was injured or killed, his family would be told they needed to send some one to do his work or they would be evicted from the house and it would be given to someone who could do the work.   This often forced boys as young as 8 to leave school and work in the mines.

The youngest boys were Trapper Boys who would open the doors between the air vents as miners moved in and out of the mine for their shift.  They sat alone in total darkness for 12 hours for 65 cents per day.  As they aged they would work with the Shetland ponies that hauled the coal carts to the surface before advancing to shoveling coal, getting 17 1/2 cents for each 2 ton cart they brought up.

The miners tried several times to unionize and get better conditions and wages but their strikes were broken violently every time.  It wasn’t until after WWII that they succeeded and their wages were returned to the same level they had lost in the mid-1920’s!

We put on our hard hats and our poncho slickers and traveled into the mine with our ex-miner guide. We went down 65′ with decreasing height in the tunnel as we descended so we were bent over as we moved along.  This is how the miners worked every day.

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The Miners Museum was opened in 1967 at the suggestion of a local woman to help all the out-of-work miners after the government shut down all the mines. The coal seams along the coast of Cape Breton extend far out to sea and the mine at Glace Bay had reached 6 miles out with a depth of 2700 feet below the seabed and was now too expensive to viably extract the coal.  It took 2 hours to get to the working face of the mine each day.  Our guide, Sheldon, had great stories and really painted a vivid picture of the conditions of the miners in those early years.

So….our brains are full and you have wisely skipped quickly to the end of this Social Studies lesson and we can all go to bed now.  Tomorrow – Louisburg, the French fortress and the largest restored fort in North America with over 50 buildings.  Can’t you just wait??

IMG_6701 Enjoy each day.  We do.

2014 Aug 15 – Day 57 – Halifax, NS to Antigonish, NS

There had been weather predictions for rain the last couple of days and today it came true.  We woke to pouring rain blown sideways by the wind.  Apparently there had been horrendous thunder and lightning at 6 am but I slept through it.


Today was basically a travel day.  We stuck to our coast road even though it wouldn’t be very scenic with the heavy clouds and rain, but if you drive through the interior of Nova Scotia from Halifax to Antigonish on the freeway all you see is trees.  I would rather see some coves and harbours than just trees.  I can see trees at home.  Of course, I can see water at home too, but it isn’t salt water which is an important distinction!


The rain stopped and started all day.  During one of the stoppages we paused at a picnic park for a light lunch.  That was our only stop until we reached Canso and the Grassy Island National Historic Site.

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Grassy Island is a 7 minute boat ride off the coast of the little SE town of Canso.  Unfortunately due to the high winds we couldn’t go over to the island.  There are only archaeological excavations and traces of what was once a busy fishing community but you get a 15-minute walking tour around the place.  We were, therefore, limited to the small interpretive center, but as with all the Canada Parks sites we have visited, it was well laid out and interesting.

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Grassy Island was frequently fought over between the British and French (like pretty much everything in this part of the country) because it is a prime fishing area with a protected harbour.  The cod would be caught from boats one at a time with a hook and line and in a season 8,000,000 fish would be brought in.  It was dried on racks and shipped to Europe, if it was of a good quality or to the Southern States and the Caribbean if it was poor quality as food for slaves.

The end of the community came in 1744 when the French, in retaliation to a raid by a British Captain (who had no orders or authority to do so) raided a French fishing community.  300 French troops arrived at Grassy Island, which was very poorly defended and surrendered quickly, and burned all the fishing sheds, racks, homes and the run-down fort to the ground.  It was never rebuilt and remains uninhabited.  In 1978 excavations were begun at several places on the island and five stories of life on the island were pieced together.  Archaeological work is ongoing.

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From Canso we drove up to the north coast and then westward for about 30 km to Antigonish; a university town with a population of about 5,000.  We are spending the night in the O’Regan Building, one of two new residences on the campus of St. Francis Xavier University.  They rent the dorms out during the summer season.  This campus is full of tidy brick buildings, but the twin Riley and O’Regan buildings are really nice – very New England Colonial looking.

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2014 Aug 14 – Day 56 – Halifax, NS

Our last day in Halifax was supposed to be a cloud and showers day.  It was quite windy and overcast when we left the hotel, but it turned out to be a much better day than forecast.

There were still a few things on the to-see list so our first order of business was the Atlantic Maritime Museum. There were lots and lots of ship models in there  (and two originals moored outside that you could tour).  There are a couple of fellows – members of the ship model builders guild – who make them.  One fellow is 77 years old and has been working on a model of the Halifax Harbour as it was in the 1800’s for 26 years.  They hope to have it finished this year.  He was there today working on a model of a cruise ship.


The icebreaker HMCS Labrador

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The Liverpool Packet, a privateer boat that served on both sides of the war between the British and the USA

The USS Constitution, built in Canada for the US in 1797IMG_6344 IMG_6345  The Duchess of YorkIMG_6351  The Montroyal


The Mauritania

Also in the museum was a really good, albeit heart-wrenching display about the Halifax Fire of Dec. 6, 1917.  I had read about it many years ago but had forgotten a lot of the particulars.

At about 8:45 am the fully loaded French cargo ship SS Mont-Blanc collided at slow speed (about 1 1/2 miles per hour) with the empty Norwegian vessel SS Imo.  The Mont-Blanc was carrying highly explosive benzol ( a type of gasoline) in barrels on the open deck.  The lower decks were packed with TNT and other dangerous goods on their way to Bordeaux, France for the war effort.IMG_6320

IMG_6322  The Mont-BlancIMG_6324  The ImoIMG_6330

Fire immediately broke out on the deck and 20 minutes later the ship exploded.  It was the largest man-made explosion prior to the development of nuclear weapons.  1 sq. mile was flattened – totally destroying the community of Richmond.  A university professor has estimated that 2400 metric tons of explosives blew up. 1,250 people died instantly, over 9,000 were wounded, 6,000 were homeless and 25,000 people lacked adequate shelter.  The blast was felt 483 km away.  Part of a 517 kilogram anchor was found 3 km away and a gun barrel flew 5.5 km.  The death toll was 8 times that of the Chicago Fire and 4 times that of the San Francisco Earthquake.

IMG_6319  The destroyed areaIMG_6340

A railway telegraph operator sent this message: “Hold up the train.  Munitions ship on fire and heading for Pier 6. Goodbye boys.”  Soldiers awaiting shipping out to the Front took charge and secured the area, cleared a roadway about 5 feet wide and helped find the bodies of the dead and rescue the injured.IMG_6331

The pressure wave of air broke trees, demolished buildings, blew the glass out of every window, bent the railway’s iron rails and sent fragments of debris flying kilometers away.  One little girl was blown 1/2 kilometer and survived, but she lost her entire family.  One lady that was on the movie clip lost 25 members of her family.

IMG_6339 IMG_6338The tsunami emptied the harbour and destroyed a Mi’kmaq First Nations community that had lived at Tuft’s Cove for generations.

Relief and aid immediately poured in from all over the place.  The state of Massachusetts sent a warehouse of goods and building materials. The Province of Nova Scotia sends a Christmas tree to Boston every year as an ongoing thank you.  Streets of the rebuilt city were named for the state and the governor of the day.  The T. Eaton’s company sent railway cars of household goods and people could just come and get whatever they needed.IMG_6333 IMG_6336

Governor McCall of Massachusetts came to see the rebuilding progress.IMG_6335

And one of the worst blizzards in the history of the area hit the next day so many of the injured that were trapped in debris froze to death. What a horrible tragedy – and in the middle of a World War too.

We wandered the waterfront boardwalk down to The Historic Properties – seven business and warehouse buildings that have been preserved and have become a mini-mall of shops.IMG_6357 IMG_6358 IMG_6368 IMG_6370On our way into town this morning I noticed the top of a tower poking above the trees.  Our hotel is a little drive west of the downtown and there is an inlet called the Northwest Arm dividing the west side of Halifax from the area our hotel is located.

I had looked, unsuccessfully, on the map several times trying to find Dingle Road because there is a tower, Dingle Tower, that was built between 1908 and 1912 to commemorate the  150th anniversary of the 1758 convening of the first elected assembly in Canada.  When I spotted the tower I searched the area of my map that it looked to be in and found Dingle Road so after we had wandered around the waterfront we went looking for it.

And I had guessed correctly, this was Dingle Tower.  It was in the Sir Sanford Fleming Park.  Sir Fleming had a summer home on the shore of the Northwest Arm when he lived in Halifax in the 1880’s that he called Dingle.   He donated 95 acres of the estate to the city of Halifax for a park and suggested the Memorial Tower be built.  Donations were received from all across Canada and many parts of the world, especially the British Empire.  There are 122 steps inside the tower but by the time we got to the top the sun was shining and we enjoyed a glorious view.  Sir Sanford Fleming, by the way established Universal Standard Time in 1884 and designed the first Canadian postage stamp in 1851.

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IMG_6421I apologize for the wordy blog today, but the story of the Halifax Fire is, for the most part – outside of the Maritimes – a not often remembered one and I felt it should be shared.  In 1991 the National Film Board made a 1/2 hour documentary on the disaster. We watched the film at the Museum.  I don’t know if it would be available online but it is well worth a watch if you can find it.

2014 Aug 13 – Day 55 – Halifax, NS

Our second day in Halifax was another beautiful summer day.  We had made a list of the places we wanted to visit during our stay and the Immigration Museum at Pier 21 was one of our choices, just because it would be an interesting place with lots of stories.

Over 1 million people arrived in Canada  through Pier 21 in Halifax between 1928 and 1971.  When we went to the counter to get our tickets the lady asked if we had any family members who had immigrated to Canada through Pier 21.  I told her my maternal grandparents came from Scotland about 1930 but I didn’t know where they entered the country.  She pointed to a door across the room and said that was the research room.  The people in there could help get some information.  We went off to watch the film and read the placards and see the photos. While we were viewing the museum exhibits I texted my sister to see if our family book had a date for our grandparents arrival and to get their birthdays.  The only date she found was the day Grandpa completed the emigration process; Aug 29, 1930.  Our information was that Grandma and the four girls arrived about a year after Grandpa.

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After we finished looking around we went to the research room to enquire about my grandparents.  The fellow was unable to find any information on my grandfather’s entry to Canada as William Young is a common name and we had no accurate date.  He looked all through early 1930 and found nothing.  But he did find my Grandmother and her four daughter’s – our mother being the youngest at 8 months of age.  They arrived via Quebec City, not Halifax, on the ship Laurentic from Grennock Scotland on October 11, 1930.

He printed out the documents for me: the departure log, the arrival log (with enlargements of the pertinent information), a photo of the ship with it’s stats and history, and a six page article with photos about the Quebec City Port of Entry.  I couldn’t believe it.  We had no notion of checking out anything like that and a remark from a ticket clerk gave us another piece of our family history!

We will be back in Halifax next July on a cruise we are taking and between now and then I am going to see if I can find out a bit more data about my Grandpa Young in the hopes we can find his records too.  The Pier 21 Immigration Museum is located in the port cruise terminal so we won’t even have to go far to look again.

The Public Gardens in downtown Halifax were created in 1867 when two older gardens were combined to make the 16 acre park in the middle of the city.  They are one of Canada’s oldest surviving Victorian Gardens.  In 2003 Hurricane Juan decimated the gardens and a public fundraising campaign raised the money to restore them.  We had our lunch on a bench in front of the bandstand and then wandered among the flower beds for almost 2 hours.  It is a lovely place and the Haligonians are very fortunate to have it.

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IMG_6229 (2) IMG_6231 (2)  These serpent gardens had ‘heads’ like a snake on one end.IMG_6235 (2) IMG_6232 (2) IMG_6239 (2) IMG_6245 (2) IMG_6253 IMG_6259 IMG_6268 IMG_6272We left the Gardens at about 3 and decided to cross one more thing off our list before we returned to the hotel; Point Pleasant Park which has the Prince of Wales Martello Tower (part of The Citadel outer defense network).  Britain built over 200 of these round towers in areas outside their port forts to be able to fire upon enemy ships attempting to enter.  We were hoping to be able to climb in this one as we did in Quebec City, so we could see the view of the harbour but the roof and the top floor of the tower had been removed in the 1870’s and the bottom part was locked.  It was a nice walk along the trail – it is all bush land though, not an open grass-type park, and it is a popular off-leash dog walking area.  We met about 8 dogs on the way up and back down, so that made the trip worthwhile for me: tower or no tower.IMG_6278

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2014 Aug 12 – Day 54 – Halifax, NS

Our first day in Halifax was a lovely day.  We wanted to do The Citadel right away since we expected to be there most of the day.  We arrived just in time for the firing of the Noon Gun.  This cannon has been fired precisely at noon every day except Christmas Day since the stone fortress was completed in 1856.  They actually call Ottawa every day to confirm the time. IMG_6015 IMG_6021 The gun fires over the rampart so you can’t see the smoke, but you can sure hear it.  It is a 12-pounder and rattles windows in town every day. The original fort was one of four built to defend the new city of Halifax in 1749 and was constructed as a counter-balance to the French stronghold Louisburg (located further up the coast – we’ll be there in a few days) but it has been re-fortified and expanded four times into what we saw today.  It is officially called Fort George after British King George II, and was considered militarily obsolete by the time it was finished – it took 28 years to build; 1828-1856.  Halifax was the headquarters of the North American Station of the Royal Navy with The Citadel as the port’s principal landward defense.  Fort George became a very important defense during the War of 1812 and continued to play a significant role right up to WWII when Halifax harbour was targeted by German U-boats trying to impede supply convoys sailing to Britain and the allied forces in Europe. University students work at The Citadel every summer.  They act out the duties of the 78th Highlanders Regiment who were stationed here for 3 years; they do shooting and bayonet drills, marching, firing of the cannons and talking to the tourists about the duties of the 19th Century soldier. IMG_6009 IMG_6010 IMG_6025 There are also a couple of museum displays: one tells the story and importance of the fort over the centuries, the other is a really thorough display of Canadian military units, battles and memorabilia. Two 45-minute films are available as well but we didn’t watch either because we had already spent 4 hours touring around. IMG_6004   The place is huge and is built into the hill.  Only the tops of the ramparts are visible from outside. IMG_6023 IMG_6027 IMG_6055  The front gateIMG_6056 IMG_6068 IMG_6070 IMG_6078 IMG_6141 Firing a 6-pound gunIMG_6142 IMG_6178IMG_6180Going down the stairs through the outer wall to exit the fort.  Look how thick the walls are.



After we left the Citadel we walked the steep path and steps past the Prince Edward Town Clock.  The Prince was commander-in-chief of all military forces in British North America. He was a real stickler for punctuality and wanted to resolve the tardiness of the local garrison.  He commissioned the clock before he returned to Britain and it began ticking Oct 20, 1803. IMG_6148 IMG_6151  City HallIMG_6152 The War

Memorial with St. Paul’s church behind (also with design elements contributed by Prince Edward)   Province House is located almost at the waterfront so it was down a lot of steps and steep sidewalks.  (Halifax is built up a steep hillside with The Citadel at the top)  It is a solid no-nonsense sort of building but has some very nice plaster-work and art. IMG_6156 IMG_6161 IMG_6163 The most interesting bit of knowledge we were told today was about Joseph Howe the young owner of The Nova Scotian newspaper (He bought the newspaper when he was 23).  He was charged with seditious libel after publishing a letter highly critical of the corruption among local politicians who were pocketing public money (things haven’t changed much, have they?).  No lawyer would take his case as they felt it would be a doomed defense, so Mr. Howe defended himself.  The court took place in what is now the Legislative Library at Province House.  Joseph Howe spoke for over 6 hours and received an acquittal at the end.  He is directly responsible for our right to Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press.  There is a statue of him in the garden beside Province House.  This is a piece of our history I don’t remember ever hearing before. IMG_6172IMG_6171 By then our feet were tired, our brains were full and we climbed up the hill and steps back to The Citadel to get Poppy and return to our hotel.