Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Worlds meet - 2: Europeans at L'Anse aux Meadows and Red Bay

July 4, 2009--Day 3

L'Anse aux Meadows

Anchored near L’Anse aux Meadows, but couldn’t see anything owing to the fog, which made landing at LAM mysterious. Expeditioners divided into two groups, the Nanuks (polar bears) and the Oopiks (snowy owls). Dottie and I are Oopiks. Oopiks boarded the Zodiacs after the Nanuks had left.

The Lyubov Orlova through the fog

When we got to the dock, I thought I recognized where we were, but didn’t confirm that till later. We were at the Norsestead restaurant that Dottie and I had really liked in 2005.

[We were accosted by a Viking, a short guy with a sword, helmet, shield; a gravely voice; an inexhaustible supply of energy; humorous threats; and none (IMHO) of the male Viking seductiveness that made the English worry about their women.

Oarlock on faere, with leather strap

[On the way to the LAM World Heritage visitors center, the Nanuks had seen a moose, so we drove slowly, even stopped. No luck. At the visitors center, my first big question was what I would notice that I hadn't noticed 4 y ago. Ruskin said, "Art arrests." The oarlock on the faere stopped me and took my breath. Functional and beautiful.

[I slipped past the group gathered around the Viking at the stunning East-meets-West sculpture, and was grabbed by the architecture of cones.


[Next--find an interpreter and ask about grass v. vine. Just before the replica Viking houses at the visitors center, an interpreter was standing alone. I mentioned how the Ingstads had used the Icelandic Sagas to find this spot, based in part on their translation of "vin." He said "vin" had both meanings. He added that Canadian archaeologists had excavated the site after the Ingstads and had found the nut that isn't native to Newfoundland, which led them to think that the Vikings may have found vines elsewhere. He smiled and said, "And don't forget that Leif Eriksson was the son of Eric the Red, who called Greenland green in order to get people to come there. Maybe . . .," and he trailed off into laughter.

[On to the replica houses. B-i-g change right off. The doorway was tall enough for most 21st cy people, whereas the 2005 replica still had the entry that required people to enter by bending over. Interpreter: Canadian government required the change. I had heard 4 y before that the low-headroom entrance was a defensive feature, permitting the inhabitants to attack any enemies one by one as they bent over to gain access

New sod house entrance

to the room. Also back then, when I bent over to enter the house, any critical thinking I could have done got scraped off in the long, low access tunnel. And I left it lying there, when I went back outside. But now, I wonder, what would have happened, when defenders attacked intruders? Would they kill them right there? That would produce a big pileup. Not to mention the mess. Which would be a safety hazard for those inside. Before long they could trap themselves. Would they capture and bind the intruders? Where would they put them? More to ask next time.

[The chief's room and beds were interesting. A little claustrophobic for me. Tried on the helmet, picked up the sword, but not the shield. Then on to the replica Norse village in Norsestead.

My arthritic right leg was hurting me so badly that I stretched, instead of going in to see the exhibits. [I had really liked those exhibits when we were here in 2005. The replica of a Viking seagoing ship had particularly fascinated me. It was incredibly beautiful.

[Dottie was excited about seeing a nail being made. Blacksmiths at work are art in motion. Nails were what the Norse made in LaM, apparently for their ships. They found bog iron, which they smelted and worked into nails.]

Excruciating pain climbing ladder. Exercises eased it.

[Skipped Susan's lecture, "Plants we expect to see." Won't do that again, if I take another cruise like this.]

Red Bay

On the 2nd trip of the day, to Red Bay, my leg hurt less and I could climb stairs OK. Used my walking stick a lot to help with pain.

The ship peeking around rocks on Saddle Island

[When we went to Red Bay in 2005, we drove from the ferry landing in Blanc Sablon, Quebec. Fun and interesting this time to see Red Bay from the Zodiac and from Saddle Island, to see occasional remnants of Basque whaling activities there, and to see the ship from the Island.

[16 Sept: Nearing Red Bay] Saw an iceberg in the distance. First I'd ever seen. One major goal reached. The other is seeing a polar bear. This iceberg was trailed by a small, low berg. Even with the camera on telescopic, it looks small. But it looks bigger when I telescope in on the pic. This a.m. saw a larger one in the distance, just barely discernible.

Iceberg from Saddle Island

[In 2005, the wind was much stronger, but still not strong by the standards of our Parks Canada interpreter, who is a former cod fisherman. I saw him at the museum where we landed.

[Dottie's and my first task was to get to the store and see if they had any of labradorite hot pads like the one we got there before. The clerk said that the store had ordered some, but whatever they had ordered had been smashed in transit, so they didn't order more. Dottie told her that they should just sell the pieces. In St. John's we bought some beautiful polished shards of Labradorite for just a bit less than we paid for the intact hot pad in 2005!

[We don't generally buy T-shirts, but Dottie got a Red Bay T-shirt and I got a Red Bay fleece, which I really needed later that afternoon and for cold-weather excursions.

After Zodiacking back to the ship and before supper, we saw a whale spouting not far from the ship. Whale waved flippers for a brief period then went back to swimming and spouting. Just before we got there the whale had breached. We didn’t see that. Darn.

[Skipped Songs in Stone. Another thing I won't do again is to miss this kind of scheduled event.]

Worlds meet - 1: Being safe; Expeditioners meet Inuits, get ready for the Arctic and Red Bay

7/3/2009--Day 2

Got to bed too late, slept OK, but was still tired this a.m., went to breakfast about 8:15, had pancakes, oatmeal, pineapple juice, terrible coffee. Intro to Zodiacs at 9:30 a.m. Zodiac orientator, Benoit, was funny. He described the dangers of too many people on the ladder at one time--swaying; the ladder becomes detached from the ship; waves raise the ship several feet above the Zodiac and then drops it down again (below the Zodiac?) , and other comic possibilities better left to stunt artists.

The sailors' grip, for safe transfer between ship and Zodiacs

Orientation to Arctic @ 11, mandatory lifeboat drill at 2. Slept through tea time, but still got some coffee cake before 4:30 lecture on migration of various animals. Will have recap of the day and briefing for tomorrow at 6:30, documentary on Red Bay Whaling Station at 9:15. Not getting as much exercise as I need. Mostly we’re sailing through fog or through reduced visibility and briefly this morning I heard the ship’s horn, which I assume was related to fog. And eating too much.

Orientation to Arctic was interesting, but dozing won out in last 15 min. Gaia hypothesis. Planet responds to stimuli. In late 18th cy humans killed and ate last Great Auk, after rendering its oil.

Big circle at SE corner of Hudson Bay is a meteor crater.

Inuit people were so isolated that, until they saw explorers, they didn’t know that there were other people in the world.

Started reading small book that recorded meeting of Inuit elders in 1996. Interesting info there.

Worlds meet 1: Our Inuit interns, with staff. facing expeditioners. Isaacie is third from the right.

We have met and conversed two Inuit interns—Isaacie, who has another name, Alec, which he used on this trip, and Mae. I showed Isaacie the little book with the notes of the meeting of the Inuit elders, and he looked at one of the names and said, “That’s my grandfather!”

[16 Sept: One of the elders' concerns in the meetings reported in this book was the future of Inuit games. I asked Isaacie about Inuit games, but somehow the question didn't connect, and we began to talk about where he comes from. The next day he brought a map which shows his village. More about the games in the blog that mentions Jenna Anderson.

This morning we had waves that were a bit bumpier than when we left St. John’s. But the swells didn’t go over about 2-3 ft. There were, however, occasional whitecaps that dissipated quickly. At the end of the day, the fog is back and the sea quiet. We’re about even with St. Anthony, expect to anchor near L’Anse aux Meadows around midnight, will eat early and go to LaM then on to Red Bay. Great documentary on Red Bay this eve in the forward lounge.[20 Sept: Video traces Dr. Selma Barkham's 10-year research, which started when she didn't yet know Spanish and ended in archives in Spain, on a vessel that sank in Red Bay sometime in the 1500s. Whaling started in Red Bay about 1540. The website, Labrador Coastal Drive, says that Red Bay is one of sixteen whaling ports of the 16th cy along the SE coast of Quebec and Labrador. It ways that "Red Bay is the most complete and best preserved example of these ports" ( What impressed me about Barkham's study was the degree to which it depended on business records. As an academic, I hadn't paid much attention to the importance of business records in providing historical information.
[It was in Red Bay in 2005 that we found the first reasonably priced labradorite. The closer we got to Labrador, the lower the price for labradorite. We were looking forward to getting back to Red Bay and getting some more.]

Have to get up early, abt 6:30, breakf at 7, disembark for LaM at 8:15.

I’m very excited about what I’ll see and notice this time.

[Dottie and I were in L'Anse aux Meadows and Red Bay in August, 2005. At that time, I was fascinated by the claims that Anne Stine Ingstad and her husband translated "vin" as grass, not as wine or grapes. So they were not looking for vines. They were looking for grasses, which they found at L'Anse aux Meadows. Shoshana Jacobs said before we got to LAM that there were other sites in Canada where scholars may be able to document Viking landings, and grapes. So one of my goals was to ask an interpreter at LAM about the grass v. vine translation.

[Inwardly, I tighten up when I hear information that other digs may unearth traces of Vikings. It's as if I know this one thing--there is one authenticated Viking settlement in the New World, it's at LAM, and I'm going to hold on to it and not let in something else. And another thing I "know" is that Leif Eriksson is the Viking who landed at LAM. That's what I've been telling everyone I've told about my excitement about going back to LAM. More about that later.

[In 2005 the guide to the historic dwelling sites, said that he and other children had played on the "Indian" mounds that the Ingstads and other archaeologists identified as Viking. Locals made fun of the archaeologists for thinking that the Indian mounds had a Viking origin. I asked him what made him change his mind. He said, "When eleven of the top archaeologists in the world say that this is a Viking site, who am I to disagree? But there are some who still doubt that the Vikings were here." Like the moon landing hoaxers.]

Same with Red Bay--what will I see that's different?

Not getting out on deck to watch for birds and whales, etc. Will do more of that tomorrow and for the rest of the trip. [Learned from last night's dinner with whale sightings to respond quickly to announcements of wildlife and not to continue what I'm doing.]

Slow, gentle rolling during the night from side to side gently, and sometimes from bow to stern. Sometimes the rocking feels like airplane landing and deceleration. Feels very powerful.

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