Friday, August 31, 2018

Route of the Vikings - Post 7

August 24, 2018

At Sea

Today we are headed to the final proven stop on the route of the Vikings.  We are at sea all day as we pass down the Labrador coast, still seeing the occasional iceberg.  The wind is 25-35 knots on our stern, but at least the temperatures are around 50 degrees.

August 25, 2018

L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, Canada

The Seabourn Quest pulled into a bay a few miles from the tender landing point and anchored shortly after 0700.  By 0830 we were ashore and headed first to Norstead, a re-creation of a failed Viking settlement from the time of Leif Erickson, predating Columbus in North America by 500 years.  The actual site was discovered in the 1960’s and the archeological evidence confirms the written sagas from the Viking era.

Norstead was built for the 2000 Millenial Celebration to avoid too much damage to the actual site from the tens of thousands who attended.

The actual site is now a Unesco World Heritage site and a Canadian National Park.  At the site, the foundations of the sod houses are still visible, but have been recovered with sod to preserve them for future generations.  Adjacent to the foundations is another recreation of what the site would have looked like 1000 years ago, complete with actors in period attire doing daily activities similar to what historians believe may have taken place.

Forge at L'Anse aux Meadows

Recreated settlement at Norstead

Inside the sod houses

Using Norse tools


Entrance into Sod Houses

Primitive Lathe

Sod House

Large Sod House, Contains Viking Longboat

Sod House Church
Cooking Flatbread

Looking over Archeological Site

Original Foundations recovered to protect the site

Inside Chapel
Leif Erikson Memorial from Seattle

The statue is near the tender landing

Building are filled with items that would have been from 1000 years ago

What a cooking fire and oven may have looked like 1000 years ago

Sculpture at L'Anse aux Meadows

At the small boat landing there is a donated copy of the Leif Erickson stature from Seattle, donated by various Seattle civic groups in 2013.

The site at L’Anse aux Meadows marks the end of the verifiable trail of the Viking presence in North America and is believed to have been used only as a gateway for other explorations, for which no firm evidence has been found elsewhere.  The expansion of easier trade routes in Europe is thought to be the reason the site was abandoned after only 50-70 years.

The archeological sites we saw in Greenland were abandoned in the 1400’s, probably due to the increasingly cold climate from the climate changes then occurring.

So ends the Route of the Vikings, but still more stops before we arrive in Montreal.

August 26, 2018
Red Bay, Labrador

After leaving L’Anse aux Meadows, the Seabourn Quest travelled only 45 nautical miles across Belle Isle Straits back into Labrador and anchored off the small town of Red Bay, only 230 residents.  This town was once a thriving Basque fishing and whaling village, but that is long gone.  There is no cell phone service and few other services.

At 0800 we departed on the tender and boarded a school bus for the lengthy trip west down the coast, passing several more small communities, over a combination of paved and gravel roads, both filled with potholes.  The school bus seats are very close together and the bus had poor suspension.  Nonetheless, after 75 minutes of bouncing, we arrived at one of the tallest lighthouses in Canada, the Point Amour light, which has been in continuous operation for 160 years.  The light is 132 feet above ground and 180 feet above sea level, easily illuminating the 9 mile wide Belle Isle Strait.

Original Light

Miriam at Point Amour

Point Amour Lighthouse

Wind Signal Flags

The lighthouse is one of four “Imperial” lighthouses, so-called because England provided the funds for construction, that provide navigational aids to Belle Isle Strait.  Belle Isle Strait is a shortcut between England and the Saint Lawrence, nearly 200 nautical miles shorter that the deeper water route via Cabot Straits on the south side of Nova Scotia.

We were able to climb the lighthouse and walk through many rooms of exhibits and enjoy some local desserts made from the Partridge Berry.

Returning to the ship we stopped several times for photo opportunities and at 1600 the Seabourn Quest weighed anchor and set sail for Corner Brook, Newfoundland, diagonally west across Belle Isle Strait and 190 nautical miles further towards our final destination in Montreal.

August 27, 2018

Seabourn Quest arrived at the pilot station about 0600 and was tied to the dock by 0730.  Our tour today was a bus tour to Gros Morne National Park.  The park is a combination of geological anomalies, wildlife, beaches, small villages, historic lighthouses, and most importantly, the barren tablelands.

Gros Morne

In front of tablelands

Barren Tablelands in Gros Morne

Lobster Head Bay Lighthouse

One of four "Imperial" Lighthouses on Belle Isle Strait
Moose Windvane in Gros Morn park

Lots of rosehips in Gros Morn
The tour took most of the day, and we were the last tour group back on board before our scheduled 1600 departure.  The departure was marred by a massive power blackout as we moved away from the dock, with the ship drifting powerless, the lights out, emergency hall lighting on and massive clouds of white smoke coming from the stacks.

The ship was close enough to the dock that they were able to throw heaving lines ashore and slowly winch the ship back to the dock.  The problem was resolved, apparently, and the ship finally departed Corner Brook at 1930.

August 28, 2018

Seabourn Quest continued into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and entered the river about 1900.  Quebec City is some 200 miles inland, but the river is still very wide.  We spent several hours trial packing our luggage for the trip home on the 30th.  We also had the final lectures on “The Route of the Vikings”, this time looking at the Eastward expansion into the Caspian and Black Seas.

August 29, 2018

Arriving at the cruise ship terminal just below the Chateau Frontenac at the foot of the old part of Quebec City at 0730, we joined 17 fellow passengers whose travel agents were part of the Virtuoso Network.  After a driving tour of the old city we headed to Ilse d’Orleans, an island just downstream from the city.  Originally named Ilse d’Bacchus by Jacques Cartier in 1536, it was renamed by XXX after himself about 1540.

Visiting a Cassis farm and winery we tasted several concoctions of Cassis or Black Current wines and liqueurs.  Following a sightseeing tour of the eastern end of the island, we stopped at a restored dwelling dating from the 1500’s that belonged to a surgeon and landowner.  The host was in period costume and the house was well done.  Lunch was at a small restaurant “Moulin Laurent”, a converted mill, hence the “Moulin” or windmill in the name.  During lunch the skies opened up and we boarded our bus in the rain for our final stop of the day, the “Isle de Bacchus” winery where we tasted three varietals and toured the operation.

Approaching our dock in Quebec
Old City Streets
One of Quebec city gates
Cassis Farm


L'Isle de Bacchus Winery


Historic Mansion from 1500's

Inside Mansion

Moulin Laurent Restaurant

Heading back to the ship in the rain, we finalized our packing and met with friends in the Observation Bar for last drinks before departure and disembarkation the next morning.  The final “sailaway” party for the ship was moved to the Grand Salon because of the rain.  After being underway for several hours, the captain made an announcement that there was a main engine cooling issue that required immediate attention and that we would be anchoring in the river until it was rectified.  We were worried since we had an early flight and any delay would mean missing the flight on a holiday weekend with no backup flights.  After some time, the problem was rectified, no firm explanation given, and the Seabourn Quest raised the anchor and proceeded at full speed towards Montreal, with a one hour delay expected.

August 30, 2018

To our surprise, time was made up and we docked only 30 minutes late and we actually made our transportation 5 minutes early, only to run into traffic jams on the way to the airport.  Arriving at 0835, we checked in and found Patrick had been randomly selected for additional screening (searches) which took extra time.  However, we still arrived at the gate in time for our flight to Chicago and the connection to Seattle.  We had a 7 hour layover at O’Hare, but our passes to the “United Club” provided a place to wait with some food, drink and fewer crowds than in the main terminal.

The United flight to Seattle was uneventful and our trip ended with our arrival home just before midnight.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Route of the Vikings - Post 6

August 20, 2018

As expected, the winds and seas increased overnight as we approached our next wildlife stop, Akpatok Island, which has more than one million Brunnich’s Guillemots nesting and breeding in crevices in the 800 foot high limestone cliffs.  The island is also home to walruses and polar bears.

With the seas at 2-3 meters and sustained winds to 35 knots, the captain cancelled the planned zodiac expeditions due to safety considerations in launching, boarding and retrieving the zodiacs.  The 38 degree temperatures combined with the winds made for chilly viewing as the captain substituted scenic cruising several miles off the beach for 2 hours.  There were purportedly 2 polar bears on the beach, but our enlarged photographs showed only light colored limestone rocks which had fallen from the cliffs.  We headed for our next stop, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, two days away.  As we cruised back out of Hudson Strait the ship motions and shuddering increased for a while as the winds continued to build.

We were treated to two more impromptu lectures, one on Inuit art and one on killer whales and the impact on the arctic as the whales range further north in search of prey.  Finally, near evening we turned the corner back into Davis Strait and paralleled the Labrador Coast.

August 21, 2018

About 0200 we briefly watched the Northern Lights under clear skies.  Unfortunately, they were faint and not much color, impossible to photograph from a moving ship.

Dawn brought sunny skies and cool weather, with the coastline in the distance on the right and a steady parade of icebergs as we continued our journey.

There are three lectures today, one on ocean trash, one on Arctic Seabirds and finally, a presentation by Trevor Potts and his amazing recreation of Shackleton’s voyage in 1993 in a similar open boat with no liferafts or other support equipment.  The boat is now on permanent display in Cambridge, England.

August 22, 2018

The clear but cool weather we enjoyed yesterday has been replaced by wind, low clouds and rain as we continue to make our way to Happy Valley-Goose Bay.  We are out of Davis Strait and in the Labrador Sea.  Later in the day the rain was replaced by fog, so once again we hear the foghorn going off every two minutes.

The fog lifted as we approached the entrance into Lake Melville, a large tidal estuary where Happy Valley-Goose Bay is located.  The ship picked up a pilot and proceeded into the relatively narrow entrance.  As we transited the entrance we were treated to the sight of three Orca splashing alongside the ship.

By dinnertime, the rain returned and continued throughout the night.

August 23, 2018
Happy Valley-Goose Bay

Seabourn Quest continued the 100 nautical mile journey up Lake Melville overnight and docked at the Port of Goose Bay shortly before 0800.  Rain was expected to continue most of the day, with mild temperatures. The dock is about 5 miles from the Happy Valley town center and several miles from the airbase at Goose Bay.

We had selected a shore excursion to the town of North West River, which is literally at the end of the road system in Labrador.  Until a bridge was built in 1981 the only ways to get to North West River were by boat or a cable car spanning the river.

Trapper’s Monument

Cable Car from 1981

Hudson Bay Company Store Museum

The Northern Lights Store even sells bulletproof vests

Part of the Labrador Interpretive Center

Northern Lights Military Museum

Historic Fire Extinguisher in North West River

Our Inuit Host Joan McLean, for Lunch

Until the early 1940’s when the airbase was built, this was an Inuit barter economy town where people hunted and trapped and traded at the Hudson Bay Company store for items they could not gather for themselves.  Our first stop was at the Hudson Bay Company Store, now a museum, showing how the store looked and operated in the early 1900’s.

After wandering through the displays we walked for several blocks, some on a re-creation of the old boardwalk, to a little cafĂ© where the local Inuit ladies had prepared a lunch of soup, sandwiches and desserts, all home cooked.  It was a delightful experience as we learned what life was like in the small town of 500 people from the people who actually live there.  After lunch we travelled by bus to the Labrador Interpretive Center, going down a road called “Airstrip Road” since it started as an emergency airstrip.

The interpretive center was well done and had lots of information on the different peoples who have lived in Labrador, going back 10,000 years, plus a special focus on the transition in recent years from a barter economy to a wage economy and the restoration of Inuit lands and rights.

North West River is also the location of a Canadian Discovery Channel reality TV show appropriately called “Last Stop Garage” and one of our guides has a brother who is in the show.

Following the tour at the Labrador Interpretive Center we were given a short detour to Happy Valley and the Northern Lights Military Museum, a private collection in the basement of the “Northern Lights” store (formerly a Hudson Bay Company Store) that stocked a little bit of everything from clothing, camping, guns and souvenirs.

Returning to the Seabourn Quest, the sun finally came out and many local inhabitants lined up in their cars to wave us off, sounding their horns while our Captain replied with the ship’s horn.