Sunday, July 29, 2012

Across the Border

We’ve left the Great White North and are back in the USA. The Border Patrol confiscated a lemon. It appears that citrus cannot be brought into the US from Canada. It seemed a bit strange, since the lemon was grown in California and imported to Canada. But I know enough to never argue with the Border Patrol, so the reason for this lemon law will remain a mystery.

We’re at Bar Harbor, Maine. I could say that we stopped here again, as we did heading north, because of the incredible scenic beauty of the Maine coastline. That would be a lie. We stopped here for popovers. The restaurant at Jordon Pond House in the Acadia National Park makes the world’s best popovers and there’s no way we can be within 50 miles of the place and not stop for lunch.

Today we visited a little, isolated section of the park located about 20 miles east on the Schoodic peninsula. I can definitely say we visited this area because of the incredible scenic beauty of the Maine coastline. DSC_0385

Unfortunately, it was raining and foggy, so we didn’t see much, but what we could see was very pretty, which is probably why the National Park Service made it part of Acadia NP, even though it’s not on Mt. Desert Island.


I had to hold an umbrella in one hand and the camera in the other to get these shots. But heck, it is Maine, and rain and fog are not unknown weather conditions here.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Still More Fundy Fun

Saint John, New Brunswick is on the Bay of Fundy and when we got to town we spotted a sign for “Reversing Falls”. Now, I’m no physicist, but even I know water doesn’t run up hill, so we figured it was something to see. Now, a few days ago, when we were in Digby, Nova Scotia, we saw, and followed, a sign leading us to “Balanced Rock”. We drove along a narrow, bumpy road for 25 or 30 miles and never found the rock. So we turned around and went back to camp. We figured “Balanced Rock” was one of those things like the moose -- signs put up so the locals could laugh at tourists.

We hoped that “Reversing Falls” wasn’t the same kind of deal, so I looked it up on line and Wikipedia, that reliable source of all information, said that although it had been renamed “Reversing Rapids”, it was quite real.


So here it is. This first picture was taken at low tide. The water flows rapidly out the river into the Bay because at low tide the Bay is lower than the river. By the way, there’s a jet boat that takes passengers through these rapids, but we didn’t go for a ride.


Here’s the same place at high tide. Although it’s difficult to see in a still picture (I haven’t figured out yet how to shoot videos with my smart phone), the water is flowing in the opposite direction, out of the Bay and into the river. And yes, that is a power plant across the river. And yes, I wondered why they burn fossil fuel instead of using the obvious energy from the changing tides like they do at the tidal generating station in Nova Scotia mentioned earlier. And no, I don’t have an answer to that question.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tidal Power

On the opposite side of the Nova Scotia peninsula from Halifax is the shore of the Bay of Fundy. This is across the Bay from New Brunswick, as reported here earlier. Since first experiencing the extreme tides in the Bay of Fundy I’ve wondered why the tides couldn’t be used to generate electricity. If course, if I was really, really curious, I would have researched it on line and found that a tidal generating station does exist near Digby in Nova Scotia.


The station has actually produced 20 megawatts of electricity since it went on line in 1984. It was built as an experiment to see if Fundy’s tides could be harnessed to generate electricity, and it definitely worked.


The Annapolis River feeds into the Bay of Fundy through a large basin. The Bay is actually about 15 miles away, but since the existing bridge over the river at this point needed to be replaced, it was decided that this was an ideal place to build the small dam and generating station.


When the tide comes in, the water level of the lake behind the dam increases. When the tide goes out, the water in the lake is released through a turbine built into and below the dam.


The turbine actually has the generator built into it so there’s no energy lost in transferring energy to a separate generator. By the way, I didn’t draw this cross-section, I borrowed it from the Nova Scotia Power web site. 


The station generates electricity only when water exits the lake, but the technology is used in other places in two directions – making power when the tide comes in, and making power when the tide goes out. Here in Nova Scotia the existing lake was considered too important to destroy to build a bi-directional generator. There are several demonstration projects around the world using this technology to make electricity, but this is the only one in the western hemisphere. There have been some environmental issues raised regarding this technology, but it does seem a whole lot cleaner than fossil fuels and nukes.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Men in Skirts, Women in Tall Ships

But first, some catching up. I mentioned a couple of times previously our belief that the only moose in Canada are those on the road signs warning drivers to avoid hitting moose. Well, most of what I blog about has to do with things I’ve taken photos of, so I forgot to mention that we did see two moose in Newfoundland, but they weren’t in a place where we could get pictures. So there are moose in Canada.

There are also foxes. We saw 5 foxes cavorting along the roadside in Prince Edward Island, and one in Newfoundland. But no foxy pictures.

We’re still near Halifax, Nova Scotia, and a big historical feature of the city is the Halifax Citadel, which is the latest of several forts built on a hill overlooking Halifax Harbor to protect the city from invaders like the French at one point in history and Americans at another. However, we were welcomed with open arms, even though the Canadian dollar is almost par with the U.S. buck.

Like so many other historical monuments in Canada, the citadel is staffed by costumed reenactors. Since Nova Scotia was originally settled by Scots, and since the garrison at the citadel was from the Scottish HighlandsDSC_0317, the folks (mostly college students) in soldier costumes wear kilts.  And the Canadians don’t discriminate. “Soldiers” at the citadel are of both genders, and wear the same uniforms.



And I didn’t ask soldiers of either gender the age-old question about what they wear under the kilts.

As at the other historical sites we visited, the reenactors at the citadel were extremely knowledgeable about the period and people they are portraying.

We were lucky enough to be visiting Halifax during the Festival of the Tall Ships in which 23 old-style sailing ships are visiting the harbor and are open to the public.


Probably the most famous of the ships is the HMS Bounty, of mutiny fame. This Bounty is a replica built for the movie about the mutiny several years ago. This ship is actually 1/3 bigger than the original to make room for the movie cameras. The ship has been used in other films as well, including some of the Pirates of the Caribbean series. DSC_0365

We were surprised to see some of the “Pirates” crew members posing for pictures on the wharf. (I don’t think that’s really Johnny Depp.)

One of the other ships is the Unicorn, the port of registry of which is Clinton, NJ.


We were a bit surprised to find that a sailing ship is based in Clinton. After all, how could they have gotten her into and out of the Spruce Run Reservoir?

As it happens, the Unicorn is owned by Dawn and Jay Santamaria of Clinton, and the port of registry can simply be the residence of the owners.  Dawn operates a non-profit on-board leadership program, Sisters Under Sail. The core mission of the program is building confidence in young women, enhancing their self-esteem, developing their social conscience and teaching each trainee the value of working together towards a common goal.

The ship is actually based in Bridgeport, CT, not Clinton, NJ.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Peggy’s Cove

The lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove is billed by Nova Scotia tourism as the most photographed lighthouse in Canada…make that North America…no, make it the WORLD. DSC_0288

I don’t know about that. New Jersey does have the Cape May Lighthouse, which ain’t chopped liver.

But it is a pretty lighthouse in a very pretty setting, in a really pretty fishing village. When we were there some 30 artists were scattered around town painting seascapes for a show to be held at the end of the week. So, for this episode of the blog, I’ll be miserly with words, and generous with pictures. Without further ado, I present Peggy’s Cove. By the way, the road signs around here call the town Peggys Cove. The sign makers apparently ran out of apostrophes.





Friday, July 13, 2012

More Vikings and Some Loons

As previously mentioned, Canada and the provinces do a remarkable job in preserving history. The previously noted Viking Village was constructed by Parks Canada. A couple of miles away is another Viking Village operated by a local group. This one depicts a more permanent settlementDSC_0238, thus the different style of building construction. These buildings still had sod roofs, but the walls made more use of timber than the blocks of sod used in the transient settlement.


We were the first visitors to arrive at this settlement (not really the first, those were more likely local natives, and that happened more than 1000 years ago). So we were greeted by this guy who sure talked a lot. He kept on rambling about nothing in particular until another group of visitors arrived and we were able to slip away.


The next day we departed Newfoundland on the same expensive ferry. This time I was able DSC_0245get a picture that better demonstrates the size of the ship. It is really as big as a medium sized cruise ship, or maybe an iceberg.

So, six hours later we were back in Nova Scotia, where we will remain for at least a couple of weeks.


I was also able to get a shot of the vehicle deck we were parked on. As mentioned earlier, it reminded me of the hangar deck of an aircraft carrier.

Our current campground in Nova Scotia is right on a pretty lake, and it has several loons swimming around. I don’t know if the loon is Canada’s official bird, but it is depicted on the dollar coin which is known as the loonie. So here’s a picture of a loon family that swam by this morning.


Saturday, July 07, 2012

Icebergs, Whales & Vikings

We’re at the northernmost point of Newfoundland, and the area has a sort of Alaskan feel to it. The town is St. Anthony, and if you feel like looking at a map, you’ll find it on Newfoundland’s western peninsula, at the very tippy-top. The most surprising thing I learned was that in the Spring, polar bears actually come onto land here chasing seals. We haven’t seen any seals, and certainly no polar bears, which I think is a good thing.

The other thing we’ve learned was that my preconceived  notion, mentioned earlier, that this area was once populated by Eskimos, was partially correct. The early natives were related to Eskimos, but were mostly separate tribes. Those black and white photos I recall from elementary school or National Geographic of Eskimo-like people with bad teeth and dressed in furs did populate this area a little more than 100 years ago. But the area is quite civilized now—regular small towns and a a serious fishing economy. St. Anthony actually has a decent-sized hospital.


Now for the icebergs. This little fella was the first one we saw. He was nice enough to get himself stranded among the rocks right next to a viewpoint, which was convenient. He’s not long for the world though, since the temperature today is around 80.

Each year, mainly is late Spring or early Summer, chunks of ice that fell off the Greenland glaciers float on by this area.We were told that last year a seven-mile long ice sheet came floating past. It’s a good thing most local boats have radar on board.


Also visible from the same viewpoint, way out past the point of land, was an iceberg big enough to make the Titanic captain take notice…if it was daylight and if he was looking.


To give you an idea of the size of this ice cube, this picture was taken from the tour boat while we were about two miles away, chasing whales.  We were told that this iceberg is about the size of a cruise ship…700 feet long, and about 200 feet showing above the water.


And you know what they say about the tip of the iceberg? Well this one is grounded on the bottom of the ocean which is 450 feet deep in this spot. As the tour boat approached, the crew played the theme from the “Titanic”, which seemed somehow to be inappropriate.


We circled the iceberg at about 500 feet away and were able to see waterfalls along it’s sunny side where it was imitating the Wicked Witch of the North, but doing it quite a  bit slower than Maggie Hamilton.

We’re told that DSC_0204this berg had already lost about 1/3 of it’s bulk in the few weeks it’s been stuck on the bottom. In a couple of months it will be completed melted.

The tour boat stayed out about 2.5 hours and we saw a bunch of humpback whales feeding on schools of small fish that populate the area.  We also learned that Orcas show up in these waters later in the Summer. We didn’t see any Orcas. It we had, it would have made a whale of a tale. (Sorry.)


A few miles from St. Anthony is a National Historic Site called L’Anse aux Meadows and it is widely accepted as the spot where the first Vikings landed in the new world more than 1000 years ago. The site was discovered in 1960 by a Norwegian archeologist.  There’s a reasonable chance that this is where Leif Ericson first came ashore in North America, but there’s no way to substantiate that as fact.


The actual site of the settlement was excavated during the 1960s and 70s, so the foundations of the sod houses and other buildings are plain to see. Very few artifacts were found at the site, leaving archeologists to believe that this was a temporary settlement and the Norsemen (and women) either returned to Greenland, or moved further south. Parks Canada has rebuilt the village nearby the old foundations. DSC_0227

Here’s one of the reconstructed buildings. The person in the doorway is not a Viking. The area was known as Vinland 1000 years ago, and those of you who know Penny will know that the name of the place somehow seems appropriate.


This guy isn’t a real Viking either, although he looks like one. He’s a re-enactor who works for Parks Canada. Like re-enactors we’ve met in many Canada Historic Sites, he’s extremely knowledgeable about the era and people represented at the site, but I don’t think the authorities allow the re-enacting to go as far as plundering and pillaging.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Fabulous Faux Fjord & a Shipwreck

We’re now in Gros Morne National Park on Newfoundland’s western peninsula. When we first realized that Newfoundland was an island and a long, expensive ferry ride from the mainland, we thought we might not come here. But I was leafing through a travel brochure and saw an aerial picture of an incredibly beautiful fjord and said “we’re going to Newfoundland.”

Now, I knew this spot was in Gros Morne NP but I didn’t know how to find it. At the park’s visitor center we learned that tourists can take a boat ride in the fjord, which is formally known as Western Brook Pond.


We also found out that to get to the boat, we would have to walk 3 kilometers along a gravel and boardwalk trail. Oh, and after the boat ride we would have to walk 3 kilometers to get back to the truck. We were told the trail is mostly flat, but six kilometers for these old bones seemed a bit daunting. The picture above is taken from the near the start of the trail. The boat dock is in that V-shaped notch you can see in the distance. (We’ve decided that Canada forces people to walk that far to see this amazing scenery as part of a national fitness program.)


This is what it looks like from about half-way along the trail. By the way, I referred to it as a “faux fjord” because a true fjord is salt water and accessible from the sea. This was a true fjord thousands of years ago, but since then the access from the sea was silted in and turned into a bog and and the salt water was replaced with fresh water.


There are currently two tour boats making the cruise up the pond and back. Since the pond is completely land-locked, we wondered how the tour operators got the boats into the pond. The one we were on, which is the older, smaller boat and carries about 80 people, was actually trucked in across the bog. When a second boat was needed, Parks Canada told the operator they had done too much damage to the bog, so that boat, the one in the picture which carries about 100 people, was flown in by helicopter in several pieces and assembled on site. Our tour guide said it was held together with duct tape, but I think he was kidding.


It was difficult to capture the scope of this majestic place, especially with all of those tourist’s heads blocking the best shots, but the beauty of  this “fjord” is on a par with that of Yosemite Valley in California. DSC_0104

And like Yosemite Valley, it has it’s share of waterfalls cascading down from the tops of the granite peaks. Unlike Yosemite Valley though, one must really work to get to see this place, but it was definitely worth the effort. Although frankly, I would have liked to see a tour bus waiting for us when we got off the boat.

The title of this entry mentions a shipwreck. In days of yore (I don’t think I’ve ever started a sentence like that!), most commerce along this western Newfoundland shore was carried out by coastal steamers making ports of call at the various fishing villages along the coast. In the autumn of 1919, the SS Ethie was caught in a huge storm and forced onto the rocks at a spot that is now part of the National Park. DSC_0060

The local folks managed to rescue all aboard, including a baby who was taken ashore in a mail bag, but there was nothing to be done to save the ship. Ethie’s remains remain on the rocks, rusting away like the Titanic. I think the big chunk in the picture is what’s left of the steam engine.

Speaking of the Titanic, tomorrow we leave for St. Anthony where we plan to take a cruise through “iceberg alley”. Don’t worry, the tour boat is said to be “unsinkable.”