Friday, September 18, 2009

Grady Island and the Wonderstrands

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6 July, Day 5

Rough night, many people seasick and not in dining room both dinner and breakfast. As we got started, there was a knock on our door, which we didn’t recognize as a knock till the 2nd or 3rd time, by which time the young woman who takes care of our room was entering, asking if she could come in. behind her was a strong young man who went straight to the porthole and started closing it. He took a screwdriver to twist the handles on the porthole, so I can’t budge the handles now. Gotta get a screwdriver.

As we got going the waves began to mount and we began to feel a little queasy, but we didn’t get sick. After about 2 h I went to the day’s look back and the briefing for today—a stop at an abandoned whaling station on Grady Island and this afternoon, still coming up, the Wonderstrands, near Cape Porcupine. The Wonderstrands are mentioned in the Icelandic sagas as a very long beach. This was a clue for the Ingstads that they were on the right track in their search for the Viking settlement in North America.
Grady Island

Zodiac ride this morning to GI was rough and wet. Eventually I turned my face toward the stern and let the water spray on my back. It was cold in the Zodiac and I got colder the farther we went. My gloves were wet and Dottie’s got wetter, too. I decided to buy her the Inuit mittens that were in the window of the gift shop.

Today’s whaling station has been abandoned since probably the mid-1930s. Shoshana said her thoughts about it were extrapolated from her experience in Antarctica. She said that whalers initially concentrated on flensing the whales and rendering down the blubber. As the fisheries began to dry up, whalers began to use more of the whale and eventually rendered the entire whale grinding up bones and all, which had a lot of oil in them. Apparently some whale oil is still needed for certain machinery.

[Susan Aiken noted that the nutrients from the whales made the deep grasses possible and drove out other plants and flowers. Boy does she move fast. I couldn't keep up.]

Walking at GI was difficult bc we had to do some climbing, the ground was spongy, and there were large areas of grass that were deep and spongy and hard to traverse. At one point I was going too fast and I lost my grip on Dot’s hand and she fell backward in the grass. Thereafter we disengaged from the easy hike that focused on flora on the Island, made our way back to the loading area for the Zodiacs.

Shortly after lunch, Gloria, the hotel manager announced that the gift shop would be opening in 5 minutes. We got down there first and I was able to get the mittens, which are sealskin and very warm.

[Grady Island was the first site on which I felt threatened by wild animals, not because I saw them, but because armed crew members patrolled the area to protect us. It was cool seeing Shoshana carrying the bear rifle.]


This afternoon we went to Wonderstrands, the miles-long beach that is mentioned in the Icelandic sagas. At first, I didn’t think I’d go, but I began to think that the walk should be easier than the one at the whaling station.

I asked about seasickness and was told that if I didn’t feel sick yet, there was a good chance I wouldn’t. But other passengers suggested Graval, an odd-name for an anti-seasickness medication. And they suggested that we get some from other passengers, “your colleagues,” one of the passengers, Marion, said. Marion gave me a Graval, which I took right away. Pierre and Jean (?) gave me three more. I gave 2 to Dottie, and then we waited 30 plus minutes to eat. People kept asking how Dottie was doing, and I thought she was fine, except for being cold in our cabin. I got some crackers for her, which she ate, and then pulled her covers up around her and went to sleep,

This morning she said that she was up for a while in the night and that she had seen some very large waves. One, she said, washed by our window. I have to find out how high that is.

This afternoon the Zodiac trip was smoother, although it started with a rough exit from the stairway to the Zodiac and ended the same way. The waves pushed the Zodiac around and banged the stairway against the side of the ship. Still, we were able to make our way up. As we got closer to the beach, the waves diminished and we didn’t get bounced around so much. The waves were smoothest at the beginning of the return trip, but our Zodiac helmsman, Michael, is very careful about not bumping into rough waves so overall our return was smoother than our trip out.
The walk on the beach was great. The sun was out, the temperature was up, and there were tracks of a very small bear and caribou in the sand. People joked almost endlessly about how the animals would come out and puzzle over our tracks the next morning and how they would wonder about the hole in the ground that my walking stick made. The flora and evidence of fauna were very interesting and the walk was easy. I’m very glad we went.
An Inuit elder is on this expedition. He spoke this evening about how bowwhales were hunted, according to the stories he heard from the elders when he was younger. He has hunted whales, but not bowwhales. One of the hunters stepped on the back of a sleeping bowwhale. If the whale didn’t shake, that meant that the whale accepted the hunter, who would then begin cutting strips of blubber from the back of the whale. Eventually the whale would react and it would fold up as with a broken back or beach itself near the community of 2-3 nomadic families that was living at the beach at that time. One of the things that the hunters had to do was to wait until the whale was pointed toward the tiny village. That way the whale would come to a stop near the village.

The Land God Gave to Cain

5 July, 2009-Day 4

Late evening last eve. Back to ship from Red Bay 7:45 p.m., dinner 8 or 8:15, meeting at 10, conked out at 11:30 without meditating or flossing.

Addition on 23 Sept.: Someone mentioned that the Americans had not made much of Independence Day yesterday. Didn't even occur to me. I was too busy getting on board the Zodiacs, getting around, stretching to relieve my pain, and taking pix of LaM and Red Bay. You could say we were celebrating Independence Day by pouring ourselves into something that really interested us. Just saying, for myself.

Battle Harbor.
Building at Battle Harbor

Light rain, then rather hard. "Battle Harbor" is an English bastardization of the French, which means “boat harbor.” BH is the only remaining outport of Newfoundland/Labrador that is authentic and that hasn’t been touched by industrialization of cod fishing or groundfish fishing.

Battle Harbor from Reception Center

Has been deserted since 1966, when govt resettlement was complete. Govt re-settled people in communities all over Newfoundland and Labrador, because it said it couldn’t provide hospitals, schools, post offices for the communities that were re-settled. Our Newfoundland Wildlands tourguide told us before the cruise that some communities were so small that there was considerable intermarriage. As in the south, many people took their houses with them, either in pieces or by floating them to another un-re-settled settlement. [Fascinating pic of a house floating, but I didn't get it.]

Stained glass windows of St. James Church, Battle Harbor

Mournful song in St. James Anglican Church at BH about abandoning the old communities. I loved the stained glass windows, which bring together the Trinity, the cross, sailing, waves,
and nets.

Store provided salt for cod, wouldn’t provide salt, if fisherman sold his cod to another buyer, so people were locked into the store. Cod particularly
. . .

Additional comment 18 Sept., 2009--This
was the first time that we got to enjoy other voyagers' talents as part of a visit to a site on shore. Peter and Hannie played the organ, Peter and Benoit played the guitar.

Hannie playing "What a Friend We Have in Jesus"

Mike, if I remember his name correctly, was our host from BH. He sang a couple of songs, including "The Land God Gave to Cain," the words of which can be found at the following URL:, accessed 22 Sept., search words, "Land God Gave to Cain."

Mike (?) telling about re-settlement, closing of the fisheries

Peter at the organ, Benoit on guitar

During the Newfoundland Wildlands tour before the cruise, the tour guide on O'Brien's whaling and birding boat sang a similarly heart-rending ballad about fishermen being wrenched from their work and transplanted to the oil fields of Alberta.

Some years ago, someone left the door open in the church in winter. The sanctuary filled with snow and eventually the building collapsed. The people decided to rebuild the church, and they insisted "don't touch the organ." So the re-builders had to work around the organ as they replaced the floor, sanded and finished the floor, repaired and painted the walls, etc. Peter and Hannie remarked that the organ sounded very good for all it had been through.

As we sailed from BH, Benoit showed his video of his bicycle ride from Paris back to Montreal (?) via Siberia and Alaska. I didn't blog about his video, but put a bit in my personal journal about turning deficits and difficulties into something that contributes.

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.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

All Aboard!

Cruise North friends:

Dottie and I are going to post my daily notes and post-trip additions here. The URL for this blog is When I started a Yahoo! group for our cruise, a few people joined, but haven't posted much. I thought that there might be some posts here, but when I searched the site, I saw that all the posts start with the cruise that followed ours. I added material in brackets after the voyage.

Above: Port of St. John's from the Lyubov Orlova, sailing ship sculpture behind docked ship Upper rt: St. John's Harbor, seagoing tugs load supplies for oil well platforms Rt:Fishing vessels on S side of the Narrows

2 July 2009

Boarding was 1 – 3 p.m., we asked our ride to pick us up at 2, which worked out well. [20 Sept.: Our ride was provided by Newfoundland Wildlands Tours (NWT), which we learned about from Cruise North Website: three days of seeing whales, dolphins, puffins and gannets, etc. nesting, and touring SE NL.]

The sign says: "A beacon for over five hundred years--The Port of St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador."

We went through security, which was a pale imitation of airline security. We have no idea what they did with our luggage [20 July 2009 Like scanning it in some way] or whether they did anything at all. When the security person wanded me, my glasses reported in from their case. I took them out and that took care of the beeping. We had to wait a while to get checked in, then got to our room and went back to the forward room to hear some Irish singing to pass the time or warm us up or sell CDs.

Then we had orientation.

Jason Annahatak, expedition leader, welcomes passengers. Iconic pic of boy between cod is behind him.

We were supposed to sail at 6 p.m., when the pilot could accompany us out of the harbor, but the ship needed to calibrate the compass or something like that,so we went around in circles for nearly two hours, but all of a sudden, I felt the engines pick up and we seemed to be moving out. Shortly thereafter we were passing through the narrows. [20 July 2009 By then, we were eating.] Before we got

Crewmember calibrating compass

through them, someone had sighted a whale off the port bow and more whales were sighted a few minutes later off the starboard bow. But I was finishing supper and didn’t rush out to see what I could see. Nothing. No whale footprints, no spouts, nothing.

The Lyubov Orlova

As we left the narrows we turned north, as I determined from our road map later. The clouds got lower and lower until fog touched the water in front of us and turned the waves dark. By then the light was failing, so we went to our room.

Got a nice pic or two of the sunset through St. John’s harbor and then through another gap in the coastal hills.

Sunset through the Narrows

[20 July 2009--A lot of us were up top at the front of the ship for a long time after we sailed out into the Atlantic. The captain came out and looked, anxiously, it seemed through his glasses at something off in the distance that was not visible through the fog. This went on for 10-15 minutes. Then a little dot became visible. Was it a big ship, an iceberg, a fishing vessel? Gradually it emerged as a small fishing vessel that passed harmlessly off to port at some distance.]

Fog-mantled hill near St. John's


Dinner started while we were still going around in circles in the harbor. Dinner was the last cruise event of the evening.

[Sept. 15: Before we left, our expedition director, Jason Annahatak, led us in a toast to the cruise. Then two ocean-going tugs left St. John's Harbor for the oil fields. One of these was the Atlantic Osprey. After returning from the cruise, we saw a documentary on Discovery or the History Channel, which showed a sister ship of the Osprey, the Atlantic Kingfisher, and another tug trying to move a huge iceberg out of the path of an oil platform. That didn't work, so they moved the platform. The Kingfisher was in port as the Osprey sailed off. And a Canadian Coast Guard vessel exited the harbor.]

Left: Jason Annahatak leads
expedition in a toast
at St. John's.

Right: Atlantic Osprey leaves
St.John's Harbor for
Grand Banks oil field.