L’Anse aux Meadows

July 28, 2019

Just west of where I was staying in Quirpon, Newfoundland is the small coastal village of L’Anse aux Meadows. It was here that a husband/wife team of archaeologists helped unearth what is now the only known Viking settlement in North America. This discovery only “recently” occurred in the 1960’s.

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My Airbnb host actually works at the National Historic site there and it was clear from our discussion the night I arrived that he is very passionate about it. I’m normally not much of a history buff and don’t often visit or spend much time at these types of places but I was planning to see this one anyway (they’re the Vikings for crying out loud…). He said there would be a 17-minute movie and I could then take a 45 minute guided walking tour of the grounds.

I went to the Visitor Center and took a casual look around. This is a model of a Viking “landing craft”. They had a number of different of ships for various applications.

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And this is a model of the replica village, near the actual archaeologic dig, which depicts how it might have looked 1,000 years ago when they first arrived. Yes, the Norsemen came to North America 500 years before Christopher Columbus. When they arrived they encountered the indigenous Dorset people (who, under there breaths were probably saying “dibs”).

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I often skip the introductory video but my host had convinced me that I should take the time to watch it and I’m glad I did. I must say that it is, by far, the best such movie I have ever seen. Modern and extremely well done.

After the movie it was time for our tour.

This is the view from the back deck of the Visitor Center looking down at the recreated village and neighboring landscape:

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Our extremely knowledgeable guide, Paul, took us down a series of wooden walkways and, with his permission, out on some of the actual ground where the foundations were discovered, and explained the likely background of the arrival and the people who landed here. First of all, Viking is generally misused. According to Paul, Viking isn’t something you are it’s something you do – you go “a Vikin”. The proper term for people from Scandinavia is Norsemen.

Second, the overall image people have been “taught” about Norsemen is somewhat incorrect. Think the “Vikings” had dragons at the front of their huge sailing ships and wore helmets with horns? OK – where’s your proof, Skippy? Yes, the Norsemen were skilled ship builders and sailors and possessed strong military prowess. Yes, they did have dragons (well, dragon heads) carved at the front, and sometimes rear, of their oceangoing ships. Horns? Not so much. There is NO archaeological evidence to support the notion that Norse helmets had horns (or worse yet that they had horns growing out of their heads!).

The “Vikings” have a bad reputation as a people who would swoop in and rape, pillage and plunder their victims. That they were violent pirates and heathens. To use a word my Airbnb host said during our discussion the night I arrived, the Norsemen have been demonized, themselves made victims of clichés and stereotypes. More likely, to use a phrase I read online, they merely “raided and traded”.

Norsemen built a variety of ships, either for merchant trading or warfare, and were highly skilled sailors. They came through Greenland, Iceland and eventually here – at the northern tip of Newfoundland. They named various regions of this “new world” for their various attributes: Helluland (stone), Greenland (open farmland), Markland (forests) and Vinland (wine country – yay!!).

That last one, Vinland, is rather curious. What became known as Vinland covers a wide area – the south coast of Labrador, the north and west coast of Newfoundland, the eastern portion of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia provinces and all of Prince Edward Island. Only one problem – grapes don’t grow in Newfoundland. Never have. In fact, the only one of those areas I mentioned which grows grapes (and has butternut trees) is New Brunswick province yet there were very small traces of butternuts found here.

Ok, so we walk around the grounds listening to Paul and eventually come to little mounds which were the foundations of buildings unearthed during the archaeological dig in the 60’s. Artifacts found here tell the story of who was here, how many and what they likely did. They weren’t here long in the grand scheme of things.

Once Paul “released” us we were free to roam through the reconstructed village and interact with the people working there who were in period costumes (like the guy on the left in the first photo below), who shared stories of how the people lived.

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The brown you are seeing around the doorways isn’t wood, it’s peat.

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION – Added after original post:

My friend and frequent commenter Shawn asked if I had taken any photos of the interior.  I did not take inside photos.  It was understandably very dark inside and with all the other tour guests watching and workers explaining their crafts I didn’t want to use the flash.  I looked online and there are photos of these structures specifically and of similar structures at other venues.  These modern recreations have safety and aesthetic enhancements (like wooden paneling and benches for guests) which the originals likely wouldn’t have had.

Thanks, Shawn, for a great question.


 

And one more thing – Icebergs!! I was really bummed that I didn’t see any but I had read in my research for this trip that I might. They are generally small by the time they get this far south, but there are organized “iceberg” boat trips which embark from this area and there were several icebergs (maybe the size of a small strip mall), floating by just offshore, in the introductory video I had seen. When I arrived Saturday night my Airbnb hosts offered me a drink and it was served over actual iceberg ice!

As I walked back up the path to the Visitor Center I returned to this piece of artwork, recently installed, which we had seen on our walk down to the village.

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It depicts the “new land” on the right, and the Norse ship with it’s billowing sails and evil dragon head at the front, on the left.

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And finally, in the little village of L’Anse aux Meadows not far from the site, a huge statue of Leif Erikson (some prefer Ericson).

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Please note that he didn’t have horns!

Tickle Me Elmo

July 28, 2019

With apologies to the Sesame Street brand….

In addition to what they taught me Saturday night about gannets, my Airbnb hosts also helped me understand what a “tickle” is in the nautical sense.  I had seen several “tickles” on maps of Newfoundland and Labrador.  Black Tickle in Labrador is known for having an abundance of polar bears.  In Newfoundland there is Tickle Cove, Tickle Harbour and, my favorite, Leading Tickles.

A tickle is a short, narrow strait between two pieces of land.  The waves in the water “tickle” the coastline or “tickle” the bottom of a boat.  Apparently it is a nautical term unique to Newfoundland and Labrador.

If I understood my host correctly, this is a “tickle” on the opposite side of town from where they live in Quirpon:

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Raleigh, Newfoundland

July 28, 2019

I live in Durham, North Carolina and people often combine our town with our state capital, Raleigh, which is about 1/2 hour away.  They then call our area Raleigh/Durham.

There is a town called Raleigh not far from where I was staying in Quirpon so before I left Sunday morning I had to go check it out.  They recently completed a Historic Village, recreating what the town’s cod fishing area looked like years ago.  They built what would have been fisherman’s bunkhouses…

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… and a pier, or wharf, with buildings called “stages” out at the end.  These buildings were where the cod were processed for salting and drying.

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The photo above is almost identical to the picture on the cover of the Newfoundland and Labrador travel map!

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These metal bars appear to be anchors.  I wasn’t allowed to walk all the way out on the wharf since I wasn’t on an organized tour.

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Sunrise in Quirpon

July 28, 2019

My Airbnb hosts told me that if I was up early enough Sunday morning to be sure and go outside to see the sun rise:

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While I was waiting between shots I got some photos of what appears to be a cormorant and (definitely) a seagull hanging out together in the water.  The cormorant would dive periodically and the seagull would flap it’s wings like it was going to fly away but they pretty much stayed in the same area for a while.

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Gros Morne to Quirpon, Newfoundland

July 27, 2019

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Saturday, after my boat trip on the Western Brook Pond fjord, I continued north on Route 430 up the west side of the long Northern Peninsula portion of Newfoundland.  After leaving Gros Morne National Park the road pretty much runs right next to the Gulf of St. Lawrence most of the way north until it turns inland towards St. Anthony which is on the east side of the Peninsula.  I would be spending Saturday night at an Airbnb in the little town of Quirpon (pronounced kar-POON – which I wouldn’t have guessed in a million years), north of St. Anthony – almost as far north as one can drive in Newfoundland.

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I made a quick side trip into the town of Port au Croix.  There I found a replica of a “chaloupe,” a longboat often used by 8 to 10 oarsmen.

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Further up the road – more mountains, different in appearance from what I had seen so far while in Newfoundland.  These have some lighter shades of green and have “bands” of rock running across them.  They were pretty far from the highway so I can’t tell of they are covered with trees or just vegetation, and they appear to be bare at the top.

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As I drove further north this is a closer shot of the mountain on the left in the photo above:

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And even further up the road, another one.  I can’t tell from my map which mountains they are or how tall they are.

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Meanwhile the road continues to go straight for long stretches as a time, right next to the water.

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I finally made it up to where the road crosses the Peninsula over towards St. Anthony.  I passed the St. Anthony airport, whose three letter designation is YAY which I thought was pretty cool.

I finally made it to Quirpon.  Quirpon used to be a fishing town until the government put the kibosh on the commercial cod fishing industry in 1992.

This is the view from my Airbnb host’s front yard overlooking Quirpon Harbour.

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We sat around a fire pit (without a fire – it was quite warm all day) talking and my host pointed out something I had never seen before.  Out beyond the first island which juts in from the left of the photo, white birds were diving into the water from fairly high up.  These were Northern Gannets (rhymes with Janets).  I was too far away to get photos, even with my zoom lens, but here are photos I found online:

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(Photo credit: en.wikipedia.org)

A unique thing about gannets is that when they dive they pull in their wings and develop a long, slender profile – like a dart.  Here is a sequence showing the dive.  Note how the bird looks just before hitting the water:

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(Photo credit: benporterwildlife.wordpress.com)

JohnBoy, you are so childish….

July 29, 2019

Sometimes I see things that bring out the juvenile in me.  There are now three things I have to tell you about – one I knew about before I left home but the other two I only discovered during this trip.

ITEM ONE – Simple

When driving near Belfast, Maine the day I arrived in the area for my 4-night stay at the start of this trip I drove over a bridge with this sign next to it and had to chuckle to myself.  I didn’t go back to take a photo of it as I assumed I would find one online (I did):

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(Photo credit: tnotw.com)

I hope you find it as amusing as I did.

ITEM TWO – More complex (and arguably adult content)

You may want to send the children outside for a while…..

This one I knew about before I left home.  Tuesday I left where I was staying in Deer Lake to head east towards Gander.  Along the way I made a few side trips on scenic roads, including a drive up to a town called Twillingate.  As expected, I drove past this Provincial Park near the north end of that drive:

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Once again, laughter from JohnBoy.  But it gets even better.  There is a town of Dildo in southeast Newfoundland (I may be driving through it tomorrow on my way to St. John’s).  The New York Times wrote an article about the town’s bizarre name back in 2016 and included this photo (in color so I assume it was on their website):

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(Photo credit: nytimes.com)

The article started out as follows:  “An hour’s drive from the town of Come By Chance, past Spread Eagle Island, there is a large green traffic sign that often functions as its very own destination: “Dildo,” the sign proclaims, with an arrow pointing straight ahead”.

Now the definition of dildo used to include such things as a cylindrical object, a type of tree, or nautical pins.  Let’s just say my Google search didn’t bring up any photos of trees or nautical pins….

As for the locations name, they are mostly accurate.  And the arrow on the Dildo sign points left, not straight.  As I write this I am staying at my Airbnb in Sunnyside (south of Clarenville and Goobies).  Come By Chance is only 3.7 miles away, in fact it was the same exit I took off the TCH but I would have turned right instead of left.  I can’t find Spread Eagle Island but there is Spread Eagle Bay just across from the town of Dildo and there is a Dildo Island located inside Spread Eagle Bay.  I will let you ponder that and make your own conclusions.  The town of Dildo, population around 1,200, is 38 miles from where I am sitting but requires that you overshoot it on the TCH and then backtrack, so it would be shorter as the crow flies.

I’m not making any of this up (I’m not nearly that clever).  Feel free to Google all this to confirm the facts but before you do let me caution you – I already did and now shutter to think what kind of pop-up ads I’ll be seeing as I surf the web for the next month or so…..

ITEM THREE – Current events

This one I just learned Saturday as I took the boat ride through the Western Brook Pond fjord.  The crew of the ship pointed out several waterfalls along the sides of the fjord.  Unfortunately, most were on the side facing the sun and from 11am to 1pm my photos of them were all washed out.  I did post one photo of a very thin waterfall on the “sunny” side of the fjord walls.  We could see mist from the others but they were hard to photograph.

The funny thing is the name of the last waterfall they told us about.  It is called “Pissing Mare Falls”.  Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up.

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(Photo credit: bobsnewfoundland.com)

Here is another photo I found online which doesn’t so much show the falls but does show it at that perfect moment on the right day when the setting sun hits it just right and makes it appear to be on fire:

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(Photo credit: curiocity.com)