Monday, August 15, 2011

The Northern Peninsula

First a few photos that haven't made it to the blog yet, because of various difficulties.  Here we have a carefully laid cobblestone floor from the Avalon colony, still good four hundred years later, and showing the drainage system.  The larger cobbles at the right slant downward toward each other, forming a shallow ditch that channels rain and waste water away from the buildings.

The building outlined in the rear was a storage building, proved to be such by a lack of a fireplace, and therefore an unheated building.

Baking bread in an open hearth:  the bread is in the Dutch oven, which has a lid.  The pan (called a Dutch oven) is placed in heaped up coals on the hearth, and more hot coals are shoveled on top of the pot.  After about half an hour the bread is ready.

Walking on the 14 foot wide, cobblestoned Main Street of the Avalon Colony.  The selfsame stones that Lord Baltimore and all the other colonists walked on in the 1600's.

Some additional comments on Sunday's drive: Highway 1 west is mostly a 2 lane highway, but with many, many, many, many passing lanes, so few people are tempted into dangerous passing.

In St John's there was a noticeable absence of horn blowing in spite of congested, narrow streets with traffic often at a standstill.  Drivers trying to exit a parking spot and enter from a side street were allowed into the traffic stream.

Seems that Newfoundland drivers have good manners!

Cross-country impressions: lots of stunted trees, rocks (all sizes), water: ponds, lakes, inlets, coves, bays, ocean, clouds, and of course rain and fog!

Sunday evening we were fortunate to find a room at the Candlelight B and B in Rocky Harbour in Gros Morne National park.  This nifty place used to be a church and was converted to a B and B by Winston Pearcey, who runs the place singlehandedly.  We certainly admired him, with all his accomplishments and his friendly way of doing things, including cooking the breakfast for all of us this morning.  The only reason there was a vacancy was because St. John's was fogged in and the planes were unable to take off for Deer Lake.

Monday morning we drove north of 430, Viking Trail.  This is a 2 lane road, dotted with many small villages, with the Gulf of St. Lawrence on our left. The land around here is quite level and very boggy.  We drove through patches of sun and fog and I kept watching for moose, but never did see any.

Gros Morne Park is overrun by moose--around 500 of them--way too many.  They are altering the ecosystem by their numbers.  After much discussion it has been decided to "harvest" some moose.  The hunters are called "harvesters."  Nowhere are the words, shoot," "kill" or "butcher" used.  It's funny, beef are butchered, moose are harvested.  Are we more unfeeling toward our domestic animals than toward wild animals?

By the time we reached St. Anthony the weather was gorgeous.  Best day of the summer they've had here.  We had managed to reserve a room at Hotel North, (newly renovated and under new management) and were able to check into our room.  We have a good room complete with a small kitchen, so I went across the road to the Foodland and picked up some groceries, including lots of fruit.

By 3 p.m. we were at L'Anse Aux Meadows, the site that Vikings stayed at 1000 years ago.  There is a very nice visitor center with a good film about how the site was discovered and authenticated.  Authentication actually depended upon the finding of a bronze cloak pin (typical of Norsemen), one iron nail and a stone whorl, which is the weight used on a drop spindle.

The name L'Anse Aux Meadows is a corruption of the French "L'Anse Aux Medea"--Anse meaning a cove and Medea after a ship that anchored there, which ship was named after the tragic Greek heroine Medea, wife of Jason the Argonaut.

I've been attracted to L'Anse Aux Meadows ever since I first heard of it many years ago.  It's the pull of touching history--visiting the very spot where the Viking worked and lived 1000 years ago.

But it was a little disappointing.  In contrast with John Guy's colony in Cupids and the Avalon Colony, there is not much to see, just these grassy areas that show where the walls and doors were.  The excavation has been filled in again.  This indentation was identified as the women's workshop--because the weight for the drop spindle and several stones used as loom weights were found here.

Of course, these building were made with sod walls and sod roofs on top of wooden frames.  So there is really nothing remaining as there was in those other colonies.  Also, this was not a permanent settlement, but a way stop for repairing their ships and it was occupied during a 25 year span, perhaps not even continually occupied.

There is a separate area where the settlement is replicated.  We're told that this is 90% accurate.  All was carefully researched both by archaeology and by a careful study of the Norse sagas.  Here Jim is peering into one of the small dwellings.

This is an interior of one of the sod homes, showing some of the activities that would have taken place there.  I had some other pictures taken in the large building, with a woman in period costume who explained much of the work that had been carried on there, but those pictures turned out too dark to include.

We're glad we went.  It was interesting.  Two other interesting things we learned today: There are loads of piles of cut wood beside the highway.  Families obtain a permit to cut logs in a certain area.  They go in and cut and stack the logs for their winter firewood.  There are also many small fenced gardens in the cleared areas beside the highway.  One of the rangers working the L'Anse Aux Meadows explained that the gardens are there because that soil was turned over in road construction and the tannic acid in the soil leached out the bottom, leaving dirt that has a pH high enough for growing a garden.

Now it seems to me that these piles of firewood and vegetable gardens, unprotected and unmolested beside the highway, say something pretty good about the character of Newfoundlanders.

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