Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lots of History

We woke up a 7 this morning, after a good night's sleep.  Had a lovely breakfast with Fraser and Elaine and their two other guests, Laurie and Vince from Ottawa, she a part-time teacher and he a structural engineer.  Very interesting to meet new people and converse over breakfast.  We relaxed in our room for the morning.  I had time for a vigorous walk.

Around noon we left for a drive around the north part of the Avalon Peninsula. Today was another overcast day with showers.  Driving through Conception Bay South we passed Tiny's Bar and Grill.  We hadn't overshot yesterday--we didn't go nearly far enough!

Elaine had recommended stopping at Brigus and Cupids, and we're so glad we followed her advice.

At Brigus is the Hawthorn Cottage Heritage Site.  This house was built in the 1800's.  Captain Robert Bartlett was born here.  He became a very famous sea captain, in the tradition of his family, and also an Arctic explorer and world reconized expert on the Arctic.  It was he who helped Peary on his journey to the North Pole.

Apparently he was a very opinionated, irascible man who could drive his underlings mad, but by the same token was able to carry out amazing accomplishments.

He commanded The Karluk, a ship commissioned to explore the "Northwest Passage" from the west, around Alaska and into the Arctic.  It was a poor ship and became stuck in the ice.  He made sure all his men were safely housed in igloos and then, with one native companion, walked back 700 miles through Siberia, across the Bering Strait to Alaska.  From there he organized a rescue expedition and retrieved his men.

CBC had an excellent program about him in its series "Life and Times of...."

His grandfather Abram, also a sea captain, had men bore a tunnel through rock to his wharf on Conception Bay in 1860.  They drilled holes in the rock with hand tools and used only black gunpowder, not dynamite, to set off the blasts.

Bob Bartlett died in New York City (sorry no date) of pneumonia.  His spinster sisters inherited Hawthorn Cottage from him and supported themselves by opening a famous and well respected Tea House in Brigus.  They, too, were full of spunk.

From Brigus we went on to Cupids where there is an Archeological Dig, unearthing the site of a "plantation" started in 1610 by Governor John Guy and 39 colonists of the London and Bristol Company of Merchant Venturers.  This is noted as the birthplace of English Canada.

We had an excellent guide for our tour of the site: a young man named Justin, very knowledgeable and pleasant.  Here he is showing us the graveyard that was uncovered quite by accident, and only after a huge pile of dirt had been deposited on it from the dig site.

John Guy kept meticulous records, but knowledge of the exact place was lost for years.  Recently an archaeologist became interested and was able to find the site through Guy's careful description.

Many foundations have been uncovered, slag from a forge, this small graveyard, and the cellar, chimney base and a cobblestone floor of the main house.  The cobblestone floor is within the foundation outline of the main house.  This shows that their domestic beasts were kept inside the house--both to protect them at night and to provide heat to the settlers who slept on the second floor.

We passed up on an opportunity to visit the Archeology Museum in favour of driving further north up the peninsula.  Route 70 more or less follows the coastline, a narrow two lane road, continually curving, dipping and rising.  We had hoped to get all the way to the norther tip of the Avalon Peninsula, but the weather was deteriorating and the scenery was more of the same.  So at Kingston we turned around, and at Victoria we caught Route 75, a much newer, faster highway, south to Highway 1, called the TCH (Trans Canada Highway).

After supper at Smitty's in Mount Pearl we drove back "home" in thickening fog.

This has been a very interesting day.

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