Copyright (c) 1997 by Caryl L. Bergeron - Distribution for personal use permitted. Distribution for other uses with written permission.
Chapter 43 - Aug 11 to Aug 24, 1997 Shelburne, NS to Sherbrooke, NS Canada 26,829 KM (16,634 MI) cumulative
Headed to Halifax we decided to take one of the side loops along Rt 3 through the town of Lockeport and we were so glad we did. Not just because the town has a georgeous white sand beach that was once featured on the Canadian $50 bill, or that the route to and from it has some beautiful coastal views, or that the town itself is so picturesque. No. What peaked our interest was just outside of town. Nestled in a little bay was a fleet of the most eclectic collection of boats we'd ever seen, all in miniature. There were perhaps 30 boats, several little bouys with tiny ringing bells, one sail plane, a floating light house, a whale, duck, and other odds and ends done in a bizzare set of scales. The bouys were taller than many of the boats. Standing with our mouths open, we were greeted by the creator of this strange collection, Floyd Stewart. He put it together because he likes boats and meeting people. He started pointing out some of the more obvious ones. There was the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, the Mayflower, the Thomas R. Lawson a one of a kind 7 masted brigantine reputed to have been the largest wooden ship ever built, a dredge and tug boat that he worked on once, his father's boat complete with dad and a dingy trailing behind, sailing sloops that twisted and twirled on their loose moorings looking like they were sailing, the MV Scotia a Canadian ferry that runs the Alaska route, and, my favorite, the Titanic complete with iceberg. There were many, many more and each with it's own story.
A bit further down the road is the picturesque and rather hilly town of Lunenberg. Nestled between two harbors it was a major ship building and fishing port. Fishing is still a major industry, but tourism is rapidly taking over. It's not horrendously touristy, like Bar Harbor as it just has one street with a few trinket shops and about 4 restaurants. But, bus loads of tourists do come to town every day in the summer primarily to see one thing, the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. Housed in an old fish processing plant, it contains over 3 floors of artifacts from Lunenberg's and Nova Scotia's seafaring history. We started on the third floor where displays of Nova Scotia's rum running days are shown. During the 1920s alcohol was made illegal to make, sell, and distribute in both the U.S. and Canada. Captains in Nova Scotia quickly learned there was big money to be made smuggling rum from the West Indies. They started with converted fishing scooners but soon switched to specially built diesel ships having harder to see low lines and painted gray, stealth technology you might say. Of course Canada and the U.S. Coast Guard countered by building faster and faster ships. Stories of crafty captains and crews as well as attempts by the law to reign them in fill the walls. The money disappeared the day prohibition ended. In fact there was even a funeral procession, complete with herse and black arm bands, held in St. Pierre an island off the coast of Canada, mourning the loss of a very profitable business.
The main feature of the second floor was the two masted fishing/racing schooner the Bluenose. Built in 1921, the Bluenose was created for one and only one reason, to beat those damn yankees. For as long as fishing has been a major activity off the Great Banks around Newfoundland sailers from Nova Scotia and Massachusetts plied the open waters looking for a good catch. Naturally there was a bit of spirited rivalry going on. Competitions of all sorts especially racing were common. Along about 1918 both sides were having a particularly good time making fun of the America's cup races. After all these weren't real working ships. They were just whimpy little things used for that one race. The crew weren't real sailors, just hoity-toity weekend yachtsmen. They found it amusing when the races were cancelled due to a little 23 knot wind.
Their response was to create their own race for real men with real boats. In 1920 the Halifax Herald newspaper put up money for an International Fisherman's Trophy and a $4000 prise purse. $4000 in those days could buy a small house so it was a pretty substantial sum of money. The rules for the race were 1. it had to be a working fishing boat, 2. it had to be manned by working fishermen and 3. it would be raced in any kind of weather. The Lunenberg fishermen were confident to the point of being quite cockey that they would win. Of course there'd be no competition but they'd let the Massachusetts team come and give it their best. Well, they lost. The schooner Esperanto out of Glouster, Mass soundly beat the Delawana of Lunenberg and the Nova Scotians returned home, tail between their legs.
There was no way in Hell they were going to let that happen again. The next year money was put up to build a new ship, intended for fishing but also specifically to be a racer. She was designed by a 41 year old Halifax marine architect William J. Roue and built at the Smith and Rhuland boatyards in Lunenberg. It was a beautiful 161 ft long 2 masted tern schooner having over 10,000 sq ft sail area just meeting the race's length, width, depth, weight and sail restrictions. The launching, held on March 26, 1921, was a major event for Nova Scotians as the honor of the entire province was at stake. Schools and businesses shut down, the government gave folks a day off, and special trains were hired all to give people a chance to see the launch. In all 5,000 people came. She was christened The Bluenose, a Massachusettes nickname for the Nova Scotian fishermen who always had blue noses from rubbing their noses with blue dyed mittens in the cold weather. She gently slid into the bay, bow toward the ocean which was considered a good omen by all.
Before being able to race she had to catch fish. So her decks loaded down with dories, the 2 man fishing row boat used to catch fish off of the schonner, she headed for the Great Banks off Newfoundland for the summer. She returned in the fall the "highliner" of the fishing fleet, meaning she had the biggest catch. So all was set for Nova Scotia's revenge. The race was set for October. The boats making the finals were the Elsie from Glouster, Mass and the Bluenose. The crew was made up of captains and fishermen who had proven themselves over the years, each one being a highliner in his time. The master, a short, wirey, nononsense man named Capt. Angus J. Walters. The first two races ended in a tie, each ship winning one. It came down to the third which the Bluenose won, hands down. It was a crowning achievement for this ship that carried the hearts and souls of all Nova Scotians. But, her story was just beginning. She won again in 1922, 1931, and 1938 thus never relinquishing the trophy again. The race in 1923 was contested by the Americans as the Captain of the Bluenose went the wrong way around one of the bouys and the race was declared with no winner. The Bluenose was and is still famous. She has appeared on no less that 3 Canadian postage stamps and even today her image appears on the back of the Canadian 10 cents piece.
With the advent of steam trawlers there was no longer need for the tall masted fishing schooners of the 1800s and early 1900s. Bluenose's racing career ended with that final victory in the final International Fishermen's Trophy race of 1938. Her use continued to decline and, despite Capt. Walter's best efforts, she was sold in 1942 to be used as a freighter in the West Indies. On Jan. 28, 1946 her days came to an end when she foundered on a Haitain reef. Her remains still remain in the murky ocean bottom. Sadly all the ships who challenged her, the Henry Ford, Columbia, Elsie, Gertrude L. Thebaud, and others all met similar fates. Not one of the originals remains.
In 1963 an identical ship, christened the Bluenose II, using the same hull design, rigging, and sail plan was built in the very same Smith and Rhuland shop by some of the very same men who built the original. Funding for its construction came from a private organization and it was then sold to the government of Nova Scotia in 1971 for a whopping $1. It became part of the Nova Scotian Maritime museum complex. In summer, it sails to ports in the U.S. and Canada to promote Nova Scotia tourism. This year it was in the Great Lakes. Next year it'll be sailing up along the west coast. Imagine if they could sail the Bluenose and Star of India in San Diego's harbor at the same time. In winter, it's harbored in Lunenberg. The crew consists of 5 officers, 1 cook, 8 seamen, 4 cadets. We happened to be lucky as she visited the Halifax harbor for one day while we were there and we got to go on board. Ah, what I wouldn't give to be a crew member for a summer.
Getting back to the Fishermen's museum, the first floor had an aquarium. Tanks were filled with salmon of various ages, eels, lobsters, a turtle, and other fishes. A touch and feel tank let you pet crabs, clams, starfish, scallops and other odd looking creatures. The lobsters were a big hit, of course. I always have to wonder how in the world anyone, and I mean anyone, got the guts to try eating one much less grabbing it in the first place. With those dangerous looking claws I wouldn't want to give it a try. Much to my surprise we learned that lobsters come in right and left handed varieties. Some have the small, pincher claw on the right and the large. crusher claw on the left. Others are opposite. There was a display on whale and seal hunting. Although completely banned now, Canada used to be quite big in both of these. And one last room contained various marine machines, small make and break motors with 1, 2, and 3 cylinders used to power small boats and much larger machines for boat winches used to get boats in and out of the water.
Out back, tied to the warf, were the museum's centerpieces, two former members of the Lunenberg fishing fleet. The first was a steel hulled, steam powered side trawler. Loaded full of ice so she could bring back fresh fish. She'd head out to the great banks with a crew of 8 on board. The men would use one of those huge, cone shaped nets tossed overboard to catch their prey. Once on deck, the fish would be tossed below and packed in ice. She'd be out plying the cold waters for 8 to 10 days, head inshore to unload, then turn around to do it all again. In all she was out of port over 190 days each year. However, this was far better than the old fishing schooners which were out of port for months at a time.
The second was the last 2 masted fishing schooner to fish the Great Banks, the Teresa. E. Conner. Amazingly she was still in use up to the early 1960s. In the spring of 1962 she was made ready for a summer of fishing. Food, supplies, dories all were stored onboard. Her captain took her up to Newfoundland in search of men to man the dories. He could find none. With the steam and deisel trawlers fishing was far safer and easier than sitting out in this little 2 man dingy hauling up fishing lines all day long. This was the last trip for the Conner. She does have a bit of a dark history. For years there were rumors that passengers and crew board the R.M.S. Titanic had spotted a 2 masted schooner and tried to hail her. She turned off her running lights and left the Titanic to her fate. On his death bed the Captain of the Conner, having carried his guilt for so many years, finally admitted the act. He'd been up hunting seals illegally and had a hold full of pelts. For some reason he thought the Titanic was the authorities trying to chase him down. Another of those strange twists of fate that lead to the worst maritime diasaster in history.
There's lots more to see on all three floors of the museum. Certainly plenty to keep one occupied for a good day. And since it was rainy, overcast, and cold we thought it was a perfect place to wait for good weather.
>From Lunenberg we had just an easy 2 days ride over a few rolling bumps in terrain to arrive at the largest city in Nova Scotia, Halifax. Halifax is located about halfway up the southern coast of the penninsula on the second largest natural harbor in the world, Sydney, Australia being the largest. The harbor is long, narrow, and extremely deep, 75 meters in places. It's mouth is guarded by several small islands making for a highly defensible port. It's got calm waters that are completely ice free in winter. Consequently this port has been vital to England in its wars with the colonies and later Canada in both world wars.
The city of Halifax was founded in 1749 on the west bank of the harbor at the base of a couple small hills, drumlins left by the glaciers. Prior to this time the main British presense in Nova Scotia was the small town of Anapolis on the north/west side fronting on the Bay of Fundy. In the 1713 treaty the French were compelled to leave the south banks of Nova Scotia and move to what is now Cape Breton Island. They proceeded to build a large fort at the town of Louisbery where they continued a buildup of arms and forces. The British responded by founding Halifax as a fort for their troops. The first fort consisted of a wood pile fence surrounding the town with 5 star shaped forts along its length, the third being near the top of one of the drumlins was named the Citadel. A few defenses were placed out on the islands at the mouth of the harbor, but in the town itself they were more concerned about attacks from the Mic Mac Indians who were quite friendly with the French. Eventually the British invaded Louisberg and kicked the French off.
Following the defeat of the French the fort, being made of wood, quickly fell into disrepair as the number of British soldiers garrisoned at the fort during this time of peace was quite small. But, Halifax's importanceas a military base was to be quickly revived during the American Revolution. Those British soldiers who were rousted out of Boston at the start of the war retreated to Halifax. Due to the large military presense during the war the townspeople of Halifax always remained loyal to the crown. This situation did set them up as a prominent military target for the rebels. So once again the Citadel on the hill became important. This time a large rather disorganized zig-zag earthen wall was built surrounding the hill top. Cannon were placed all along the wall and wooden spikes were planted outside. A wooden barracks was built on top to house the soldiers throughout the war. However, once again following the war most soldiers left and the wooden structures decayed.
It wasn't too long before another Citadel was needed. This time for the war of 1812 once again to defend against the U.S. This version of the Citadel was quite a bit smaller than the second and had a more regular shape for the surounding earthen walls, sort of a rectangle with star points on each end. As before the barracks as well as the defensive walls were all made of wood which meant that everything decayed away once the war was over.
They finally got their act together and decided to build something more permenant in 1838. This time they were to build a stone Citadel with thick, thick walls designed to repell the most offensive weapons of that day. Work was started, but since there wasn't any immediate threat to British rule in the area at that time, it took a full 28 years to complete. The final work was definitly lasting as it still remains as a well preserved fort today. Its shape was similar to Citadel no. 3 except two additional star points were added to the previously flat sides. The purpose of the star pattern, of course, is to allow maximum crossfire at any and all points along the exterior wall. It is surrounded by a 9 to 10 meter ditch with vertical limestone block walls. The interior of the walls were riddled with rooms and passages with many openings for rifles and cannons. Getting caught in the middle of the ditch under full fire means certain death. Along the tops of the walls were many cannon, most facing toward land, ready for the attack that never came. More cannon were placed out on the islands and shores at the mouth of the harbor making for a 4 layered defense system. The harbor was virtually inpenetrable.
In 1906 England withdrew their forces once and for all leaving the Citadel to the Canadian military. It was used two more times, once during WWI and again during WWII. It was finally closed in 1951 and given over to Parks Canada. The days of heavily fortified earthen defense systems had passed. The fort can be visited, for a fee of course, every day. During the summer there are men dressed in the kilts of the 78th army who were posted at the fort prior to British departure. One man maintains sentry duty in front and is not permitted to talk, move, or laugh. He gets tormented a lot by kids trying to make him smile. I had to wonder what he's thinking about that helps him keep a straight face. The sentry is changed hourly making for something a little exciting to watch. The fort itself is in remarkbly good condition, having been decomissioned so recently, and you can virtually explore anywhere you want as long as you don't climb on the walls. They're a bit worried about having someone fall into that deep ditch. One room contains diaramas of the fort at each of its four stages of building. Another has a history of the military presense in Halifax. There's a theater that shows a 4 part audio/visual program on the military history as well. Another has a museum of artfacts ranging from the revolutinary war through WWII. In addition several rooms are set up as barracks, guard room, school, powder room, and ammo stores.
One of the most interesting things was the signal towers placed at the south end. There were two, both used as communications towers to prvide information to the town and the military regarding nautical activities on the harbor. Flags of different shapes, colors, and patterns indicated vessel type and company or country of origin. Disks, cylinders, and crosses hung in various positions meant numbers. On the commercial tower they might indicate numbr of vessels and which pier it would head for. On the military tower the numbers had secert meanings, such as "vessel not headed for this port" or "enemy vessel headed this way". Each of the outposts on the outlying islands would have similar towers. Messages would be transmitted from the outer most post inland in a matter of minutes, giving several hours warning to the town.
The dock area now is a mix of ultra modern shops and business buildings mixed with the old warf warehouses turned trinket shop and restaurant. A highlite of the warf is the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. A large 2 story building houses displays from Halifax's and Nova Scotia's naval and shipping career. There's the room on sailing ships filled with models of sailing vessels used for shipping. Another room is devoted to the huge steamer vessels again filled with models of many ships that visited Halifax in days gone by. The main floor has a display on WWI and WWII and several small sailing dingies with full rigging and some even with sails. Outside you can tour the SS Acadia, a ship build specifically for hydorgraphic studies, mapping the ocean floor primarily. This ship served for 50 years creating detailed maps of the Canadian shoreine and St. Lawrence rivers.
Of particular interest was the display on the Halifax explosion. During WWI and WWII Halifax was a main point for assembling those huge convoys of slower moving cargo vessels taking ammunition, arms, supplies, and soldiers to Europe. Ships that were either loaded in Halifax or elsewhere would meet at Halifax. Secret orders would be given and the entire entourage of some 40 boats escorted by Canadian Corvettes would head out. The idea was to keep the supply shipments protected against those nortorious German U boats that regularly reeked havoc on these convoys.
It happened at 9:05 AM December 6, 1917. The French ship Mont Blanc, loaded with 2,300 tons wet and dry picric acid, 200 tons TNT, 10 tons of gun cotton, and 35 tons of benzol was arriving to join her convoy. She'd been too late the night before to get into harbor before the submarine nets were closed. The neutral Norwegian ship, Imo, was supposed to leave on December 5, but delays in loading her cargo of relief supplies meant she missed the net closing as well. Both ships weighed anchor early in the morning of the 6th, the Imo headed out the Mont Blanc in. They met at the narrowest part of the channel and, after a few bad moves, the Imo struck the Mont Blanc on the bow. Though not severe, the collision started a fire. Knowing what they were carrying and expecting the ship to blow immediately the captain and crew of the Mont Blanc abandoned ship, heading for the Dartmouth shore. The Imo drifted further out along the bay.
Unfortunatly the Mont Blanc did not blow right away. In fact, it burned for another 20 minutes, continuing to drift inland toward Halifax where it came to rest, still aflame, at Pier 6. People from town were all excited, running toward the docks to see what had happened. Then just before 9:05 AM she blew. An enormous explosion causing winds, fires, an earthquake, and tidal wave. It destroyed an area some 2 km around the center killing over 1,700 people, wounding over 4,000 and leaving more than 25,000 homeless as most structures in town were constructed of wood which burned in the ensuing fires. This tragedy was the largest manmade explosion created until the dropping of the bomb in Hiroshima. Seeing photos and miscelaneous items found after the explosion I was reminded of the museum we'd seen in Hiroshima showing some of the aftermath of the bomd. So much was the same. The only difference was, the survivors did not have to deal with after effects of radiation.
Another interesting display talked about ship wrecks. Located about 160 km off the shore of Halifax is what is probably known as the largest ship graveyard ever, Sable Island. It is a small 40 km long island essentiall sitting on a shallow sandbar that extends out from its shores for quite a distance. It's in an area where cold winds from the north meet warm Gulf Stream winds setting up perfect fog conditions. Add to that difficult currents and you've got a sailor's nightmare. Needless to say many a wreck happened along its shore, more than 250 from as early as the 1500s to 1947. Rumors were circulating that some unscrupulous people were setting fires on the island, goading unsuspecting ship captains into thinking they were headed for land. The ship would become marooned on the island, the robbers would murder all on board and take everything. They finally proved this when a very wealthy family packed all their belongings on a ship headed for Europe. The ship and family disappeared, but their belongines reappeared in various markets. This lead the Canadian government to set up life saving stations out on these desolate islands. Cabins with sufficient food and water to keep a reasonable sized group alive until the regular supply ship from mainland came were built. These stations were manned continually until 1958. With the advent of more modern navigation tools the last wreck happened in 1947. The station was determined to be unecessary. Currently there are just a few people on the island, scientists doing nature studies and a few people maintaining the navigation aids. But, perhaps before too long even that will be no more.
One other shipwreck will soon have its very own display, the RMS Titanic. Halifax's role in this marine disaster occured after it had sunk. When word got out of its sinking Halifax sent out ships to locate and return bodies and whatever debris they could find. Bodies that could be identified were sent to family if money was made avaiable. But, there are over 150 unidentified remains buried in a local Halifax cemetary. Many artifacts that were recovered during this initial search have made their way to museums. In Halifax it's a deck chair, carved wood panel from the main dining room, and part of the grand staircase. Since the discovery of the wreck many, many sleazy entrepeneurs have scavanged the wreck looking to make a quick buck. A guide told us some even pick up chunks of coal lying on the ocean bottom to sell. The museums tend to stay out of this and only display items found right after the sinking. The display they have now is fairly small, but a new much large one is under construction. We understand thee'll be a full size blow-up photograph of the grand staircase so visitors can take pictures, "Look ma, I'm on the Titanic".
Halifax and Dartmouth seem to be towns filled with parks and gardens. Everywhere we looked there was another grassy filled area surrounding ponds or lakes. There was Schubee park where we were camped located between two large lakes. There was another much smaller lake on which the 1997 World Canoe racing championships were about to get underway, We happened across the Italian rowing team on one of our bus rides. In Halifax there is the Citadel surrounded by a grassy hill that is used for snowboarding and sledding in winter. There are the commons, anothre grassy area more for play and picnics, and my favorite, the Public Gardens. These are reputed to be some of the finest Victorian style gardens Canada has to offer. We just had to take a stroll. Liesurly sauntering around the large central duck pond, having a model of some ship looking suspiciously like a mini Titanic permenantly moored in the center, we passed fountains with toga cladd women and chubby cherubs all drippong water into a large bowl underneath. Flower gardens filled with a wide assortment of summer blooms some of which I recognized, like the many colored mums, and others I did not, circular, rectangular, or just some symmetrical NIKE swish type shape accented the fountains and walkways. Tall trees, still filled with summer green and not showing any signs of autum, provided shade on sunny days and a retreat from rain when needed. Children ran helter skelter, the smallest ones screeching with delight when the ornery ducks they chased decided to take flight. These garden were immaculent, well cared for, and well planned. In our short meander we saw no less than 5 gardeners. Somehow I think tending a garden as spectacular as this might actually be a labor of love rather than just a job.
Three days in Halifax and we got to know her pretty well. We found their bus system to be efficient, easy to use, and gets you virtually anywhere you want to be. We found the shopping malls, looking for some camping equipment, bike shops, all the tourist highlites and some things not found on the tourist maps. It's a large enough city to have all the amenities one could possibly want, including a WalMart and KMart. Yet it's not so large as to suffer from horrible urban sprawl found in most cities with over 500,000 inhabitants. No more than a 5 to 10 minute drive by car and you're out in the country. By bike make that 1/2 hour.
East of Halifax we continued along the coastal route advertized by the tourist bureau as the Marine Drive. For some reason our guide book describes this drive as not having much to see and not great scenery. Granted, it's just a quiet drive along the coast, going up and down gentle rolling hills through small villages whose main attraction might be the fishing. However, we found the ride to be quite charming. Passing cove after cove each studded with its own set of protecting islands, beached or partial sunken fishing boats occasionally provided an added surprise. Bouys marking the nets surrounding some of the worlds most prolific commercial mussle farms created a bit of mystery until they were explained. Traffic was light, only increasing slightly as we approached each town, and drivers were uncommonly courteous. It was not unusual for a driver to follow us slowly as we climbed over the crest of a hill or rounded a blind curve. These are folks with time on their hands and an easy going attitude. We understand this coast provides kayaking adventures that are world reknowned. In fact, there are plans to actually develop a kayak trail all along the coast. I guess that means providing camping shelters at specific spots. We think this coast was vastly underated by the book.
Weather was starting to be a concern. Even though it was still mid August, storms were starting to roll in about once ever 4 to 5 days. There had been a severe drought in this area during the month of July. Wells were dry, crops stunted, the ground cracked and brittle. So the locals were quite happy to see rain, any rain, at long last. Needless to say it made bike touring a bit more difficult. Storms seemed to consist of a day long continual drizzle, the kind that isn't too annoying at first, but slowly creeps under your skin and rain gear making you soaked and miserable. To make matters worse, the wind usually turned giving us howling headwinds to fight. The morning we were to leave Sheet Harbor we awoke to another one of those wet, wet mornings. The radio kept promising a sunny afternoon, but the morning was a torrential downpour. We finally decided we weren't going bother going out just to get soaked when we really weren't in a big hurry to get anywhere. So we stayed. The sun came out in the late afternoon and we dried everything out ready for the next rainy day.
Appendix A - Route
Rt 3 and 103 and back roads along coast through Shelburne, Lockeport, Allendale, Sable River, Port Joli, Port Mouton, Liverpool, Brooklyn, Eagle Head, Medway, Cherry Hill, Broad Cove, Petite Riviere, Crescent Beach, La Have Ferry to East La Have Rt 130, 3, backroads to Riverport, Lunenburg, Mahone Bay, Martins River, Chester, E. Chester, Queensland, Armdale, Upper Tantallon, Lakeside, Halifax Rt 207 through Cole Harbor, Lawrencetown Rt 107 to Ship Harbor, Rt 7 to Sherbrooke
Appendix B - Campsites and hotels
Thomas Kaddall Provincial Park ($), Rissers Beach Prov. Park ($), Lunenberg City Park 2 nights ($), Jasmine campground near Hubley ($), Shubee Park in Halifax 4 nights ($), Porters Lake Prov Park ($), Murphy's on the ocean at Murphy's Cove ($), East River Lodge in Sheet Harbor 2 nights ($), Riverside camp in Sherbrooke ($)
($) indicates fee camping