Greenland, Newfy, and Labrador - 2005

Travel Arrangements: Vantage Travel

GREENLAND NEWFOUNDLAND

LABRADOR MYSTERY HISTORIES Author:Lois Gray Photos: Kay Gilmour

Sept 2005

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Table of Contents INTRODUCTION ......................................................................................................................4 WILDLIFE MYSTERY ...............................................................................................................4 OTTAWA MYSTERIES.............................................................................................................6 Parliament Building light show...............................................................................................6 Cat Sanctuary........................................................................................................................8 Lost Souls..............................................................................................................................9 Rideau Canal.......................................................................................................................10 Weather...............................................................................................................................10 Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica ...........................................................................................11 Byward Market ....................................................................................................................13 National Gallery of Canada .................................................................................................14 Fairmont Chateau Laurier....................................................................................................17 GREENLAND MYSTERIES....................................................................................................19 Spy Ship Mystery.................................................................................................................20 Ship Accommodations .....................................................................................................21 The Mystery of "Who's in Charge Here?" ............................................................................23 The Viking Mysteries ...........................................................................................................25 Who Were the Vikings? ...................................................................................................25 The Vasa Viking Ship ......................................................................................................26

Viking Ship Museum ........................................................................................................27

Iceland Connection - The Sagas .....................................................................................27

Eric the Red.....................................................................................................................28

Why Did THE VIKINGS Vanish? .....................................................................................29

GREENLAND ITINERARY .....................................................................................................30 Iqaluit & Kangerlussuaq.......................................................................................................30 Nuuk ....................................................................................................................................33 Paamiut ...............................................................................................................................37 Narsarsuaq ..........................................................................................................................39 Helicopter to the Glaciers ................................................................................................39 Eric the Red’s original settlement. ...................................................................................47

Brattahilde's Church ........................................................................................................48

A Long House..................................................................................................................50

Above the town ................................................................................................................51

Narsaq.................................................................................................................................52 Hike to Gardar (Igaliku) .......................................................................................................56

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NEWFOUNDLAND MYSTERIES ...........................................................................................60 Leif Ericsson's Mysteries .....................................................................................................60 What Viking Legacies? Not the Helmet ...............................................................................62 Inuit Mysteries .....................................................................................................................62 The Mysterious Basques .....................................................................................................66 Where Did the Basques Go? ...............................................................................................67 What About the French?......................................................................................................67 An Avian Mystery.................................................................................................................68 The Glacial Mysteries ..........................................................................................................69 NEWFOUNDLAND ITINERARY ............................................................................................71 Settlement of Red Bay.........................................................................................................71 Woody Point ........................................................................................................................77 Gros Morne National Park ...................................................................................................80 Ramea.................................................................................................................................84 Isles of St. Pierre & Miquelon ..............................................................................................88 Sailor's Island ......................................................................................................................88 St. John’s.............................................................................................................................90 CONCLUSION........................................................................................................................93 INDEX.....................................................................................................................................94 MAP OF GREENLAND...........................................................................................................95

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M YSTERY H ISTORIES

A Cultural Expedition to Greenland, Labrador and Newfoundland August 31 – September 15, 2005 Escorted Travel: World Wildlife Fund

INTRODUCTION Actually, there were lots of mysteries on this trip and not all of them centered on any kind of history. However, all of them probably require research of some kind to figure out how this adventure happened at all. But the most enjoyable parts of the trip turned out to be the many history lessons we learned and the many unanswered questions the cultural situations produced. WILDLIFE MYSTERY So, let’s get the first puzzle out of the way first! Why was this trip billed as an arctic wildlife viewing opportunity? The brochure that arrived from World Wildlife Fund, causing Kay and I to make the decision to go in about 5 seconds flat, was even titled “Arctic Wildlife: A Trip to Greenland, Labrador and Newfoundland.” And note again that this brochure came from World Wildlife Fund! What else could we have expected other than the chance to see lots of marine mammals and lots of Arctic land mammals? The brochure even described and provided photographs of all the wonderful creatures we would see, like polar bears, walrus, at least 7 varieties of seals, sea lions, 7 kinds of whales, musk ox, caribou, moose, and millions of migrating seabirds. But see them we did not! Now this was truly a puzzle and mystery to us for a short while. Maybe we’re just unlucky we might have postulated—until we talked some Greenland natives at the airport in Kangerlussuaq. There the natives just laughed when we asked about polar bears. After they got over their hilarity, they told us that there hadn’t been a polar bear in that part of Greenland for over 50 years! How about walrus, we naively continued? Again with the laughs—walrus need pack ice and ice bergs—there are neither in this part of Greenland and its waters at this time of year. How about seals? All hunted out years ago and those that still exist stay far away from Southwest Greenland waters. Besides, they need pack ice as well to survive. Okay then, where are the caribou - they don’t live on this half of the island of Greenland (actually they thrive in Northeast Greenland). Finally, what about the musk oxen? At last, they smiled a satisfied smile rather than a smirk and took us on a musk ox safari on the hills about 250 feet above the landing strip. There, our guide pointed enthusiastically! See? Well, we could see, after much looking into the binoculars, a very

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distant dark spot about 3 miles away. Then the guide explained that yesterday was the start of the musk ox hunting season so most of the beasts had wisely moved much deeper into the interior than we could go on this safari. Oh well, when will we see all the migrating seabirds? Again with the surprised looks! Oh, our guide related, the migratory season is about over and besides the waters around SW Greenland have been so fished out over the centuries that the birds do not cluster here because there is insufficient food for them. All right then, we will settle for some whales. Ha, cried the Greenlanders, fat chance! For the same reason the birds do not congregate here anymore (fished out waters), whales are rare sights indeed here. Are you now as puzzled as we were? After these exchanges with the native Greenlanders, we surmised that that brochure was a lot less than accurate and truthful. Even later, we learned that the brochure sent to potential travelers with Smithsonian Journeys did not call the trip a wildlife adventure. Their brochure had advertised a cultural and historical voyage instead. Same dates, same ship, same guides! So what do you think now? Probably you have drawn the same conclusion we did—a letter must be sent to World Wildlife Fund protesting the false advertising as soon as we get home. My letter went out on 9/20. We still believe in the mission of World Wildlife Fund and we will continue to support its excellent work all over the world; but we do think their travel department needs to “clean up its act” regarding travel program brochures! Otherwise, it’s going to be up to us to do our own research more carefully so that we know when advertisements do not reflect the truth! Actually, I’m sure we will do that very thing in future, no matter whose brochure it is. Now that the first mystery has been solved and explained, I will go on to report that even with this disappointment, we nevertheless enjoyed the visits to those three unique parts of the world immensely. And there were mysteries still in store for us as we continued along the itinerary.

Our trip started in Ottawa where we met the other travelers and guides on September 2 and then took a charter flight to Greenland early the next morning.

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OTTAWA MYSTERIES Since we had never visited Canada’s capital city, Kay & I decided to spend a couple of days exploring before the organized tour began. The city is a contradictory sort of place, but then probably most capital cities are. It contains some really impressive government buildings that are obviously cherished and well maintained. The only one of the original government buildings, The Library of Parliament, a copy of the exquisite Bodleian Library at Oxford University in England, was completely swaddled in scaffolding and white plastic like a giant hay bale while it awaits its rebirth after a 5 year renovation both interior and exterior—it will emerge early next year according to the plans. Might be worth a return trip just to see it unveiled. What will it look like? Parliament Building light show The Parliament Buildings and the artful copy of Big Ben in London are quite attractive, especially during the wonderful “sound and light” show that plays across their Gothic facades. The show’s theme is “Spirit of a Country” and the pictures of the magnificent scenery in Canada from the Maritime Provinces on the East Coast to the towering Rockies in the West and splendid Vancouver on the West Coast truly convey the beauty of the country in all seasons of the year.

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Expressive faces also flow across the buildings revealing the many cultures and peoples that have melded to form this very admirable northern neighbor of ours: First Nation Peoples (Indians), the Inuit (Eskimos), Europeans of French, English, Scotch, Irish, German ethnicity, and more recent citizens from the Caribbean Islands, Asia (particularly Hong Kong Chinese), and Indians from the subcontinent. All these different peoples make for a truly diverse citizenry. The marvelous cinema continues running across the structural faces of the buildings in mimicry of the equally varied world of animals in this country. Grizzlies lumber across the screen in scenes from Alberta and British Columbia. Elk, deer, wolverines, wolves, moose, and coyotes follow. Then the superb polar bears of Hudson Bay country appear and fill the “screen” along with the other marine mammals like walrus, seals and whales. Canada is a beautiful country and this “sound and light” show clearly and effectively reveals its many wonders under a starry sky with balmy breezes playing around among the folks looking raptly at the Parliament Building “clad in majesty”! The East and West Blocks of the Parliamentary complex on Parliament Hill are matching structures that complete a fine governmental trio; it’ll be a quartet again with the rebirth of the newly improved Library. The lawns contain statuary pertinent to Canadian history, some of it pretty pedestrian (like the horseback riding Elizabeth II which does not look at all like her at

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any age in her life so far) and some of it droll and inventive (the likenesses of Canada’s suffragettes—known to all Canadians as the “Famous Five, in naturalistic poses—such as drinking tea, talking with each other, speaking fervently). Why did it take so long for Canadian women to get the vote? Because first they had to convince the British Colonial Office that women were actually “persons.” No kidding!

Cat Sanctuary

The most touching area of the grounds was the Cat Sanctuary, tucked in a small, forested area at the rear of the West Block building. There we found living cats, not statues, occupying cozy concrete houses which are modeled on English cottages. There are stands for feeding stations and perches for observing the passing scene. These felines are free to roam the Parliament Hill environs and all are friendly. Interestingly, many of these multicolored cats are multi-toed as well; all have been vaccinated and neutered so the only way the population expands is by immigration of new strays into the compound. This haven has been run by Ottawa residents since World War II and is entirely funded by private donations. Needless to say, we added to the “alms box” that was conveniently located for tourist gifts. Huge black squirrels and outsized seagulls cohabit with the cats in apparent unconcern and very “unhuman” toleration for differences.

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Lost Souls

Another mystery we discovered in Ottawa centered on the human “strays” who wandered about on Rideau Street which runs right past Parliament Hill. Our B & B was located only two blocks east and two blocks south of the government buildings, but it might as well have been in another city entirely. The neighborhood certainly doesn’t qualify as squalid, but it’s heading that way. The young people looked lost and disaffected and the older ones seemed like tramps or folks with mental troubles. There was much sleeping under overpasses, beneath bridges, below elevated walkways. The dress of the young was like left over 60s clothing and the attire of the older folks was dumpster dirty and tattered. The kids had spiked and wildly colored locks as well as body–wide piercings. The older folks had straggly, filthy beards and matted hair. It seemed strange and even a little threatening to walk among these people who were mostly alcohol drunk or drug high. Canada must be another tolerant society because we saw policemen pass these folks on the street and not even seem to notice them. Perhaps there is major unemployment in Canada for young people or perhaps these folks were just dropouts from society as their elders appeared to be. The mystery for us was what happens to these outdoor residents when Ottawa winter sets in. It is hard to believe that they could survive the long and very cold conditions. And there is no Florida for these Canadians to head for when the wintry blasts begin. All in all, it was a sad scene in a capital city of a

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modern country. However, we were not “judging” Canada by this unhappy spectacle because we would find it in our cities as well, including the direst poverty and awful conditions in Washington, D. C. However, there is not the constant juxtaposition of public grandeur in buildings and personal degradation in the people. Rideau Canal The picturesque Rideau Canal runs through the city and offers a linear public park as well as water recreation in the summer and then it really comes to life when the waters freeze and it becomes a many miles long skating rink. Originally built to facilitate commerce between Ottawa and the town of Kingston in the mid nineteenth century, it has always been a beauty spot for the city as it washes through lakes, ponds and rivers connecting them all into one continuous stream. The Ottawa River is one that flows into the canal and keeps the waters fresh, clean and moving. Many fancy restaurants sit on its banks as well as art galleries, theatres, museums and fancy homes. Weather The weather while we were in Ottawa was truly spectacular: brilliant blue skies, crisp temperatures, and fresh air. We were thus inspired to take an ominous sounding city tour with a company called “Lady Dive” (we felt like we were already living among the “dive” portion the city), plus since this was also a water exploration of the city, that connotation of the word “dive” didn’t sound too comforting either. The huge bus like vehicle was also amphibious and after touring us about the town pointing out the various sights, the driver took us right down a boat slip and we floated on the Ottawa River seeing the city from the water. An interesting concept though the vehicle seemed a little top-heavy to us and it swayed a bit though there were no waves. We weren’t too happy on the water portion of the tour. However, we were given a pretty complete look at the Ottawa attractions and we did learn where we wanted to explore more completely.

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Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica

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Our first walk was to Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica; this largest church in the city was built in l841. The contrast between the rather severe exterior and the completely rococo interior was astonishing. Outside, the church is Gothic with twin spires sheathed in silver but the façade is statue-free except for a large depiction of Mary and the Baby Jesus over the front entrance. The gray stones are uniform in color and rather dull, offering no hint of the resplendent decorations of the nave and apse. There, colors run riot, statuary is everywhere, paintings fill the walls, stonework is elaborate in the extreme, and the vaulted painted ceiling ranges over all this grandeur in a likeness of the night sky with starry, starry points of light. We did not get an organ concert here, but the pipes are a wonderfully integral part of the adornments of the church building.

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Byward Market

The Byward market was also a “happening” place though it is was very reminiscent of other such sections in other cities—like the Slave Market section of Charleston. There were many inviting restaurants and bakeries with seductive odors emanating from their open doors, myriad little boutiques selling clothes only teenagers can wear, tourist traps with tiny replicas of bears, Royal Mounties on horseback, the Big Ben-like clock tower, and maple leaves tricked out as key chains, figurines, tie tacks and earrings, old book stores and bars. Funky but lively and enjoyable walking route.

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National Gallery of Canada

The next place that called to us was the magnificent National Gallery of Canada, designed by the architect of the controversial Louvre addition in Paris. However, there is no reason to criticize his creation here because it is a totally new museum entailing no need to integrate the design with something old, famous and beautiful.

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This museum is a glass structure with 4 towers at the corners of his fortress-like design. The glass walls are designed to capture the reflections of Parliament Hill structures across the river and Notre Dame Cathedral across the street. The result is a constantly changing façade as the light plays with the colors and shapes of these buildings, not to mention the trees and plants surrounding the structure like a moat Outside the entrance to the museum stands an amazing 30 ft. high, 15 ft. across steel statue of a spider carrying an egg case of stones, created by Louise Bourgeois, and entitled “Mother.” We were happy to see an excellent traveling exhibit of Renaissance paintings while there as well as a fascinating display of British drawings. However, the biggest attraction here is the wonderful museum building itself, sparkling and flashing in the sunlight.

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We had come to Ottawa two days before the start of the escorted tour in order to take in the sights. During that time, we stayed two nights in a Gasthaus B & B were none too enjoyable since we had been mistakenly assigned a room with a double bed and there was no way to change the room once we had arrived. The bed was really a broken back piece of furniture too. And it insured that we awoke with backaches ourselves. The air conditioning was minimal and, surprisingly enough, after a breezy and cool day, the nights were warm in the B & B. Watching the coverage of the horrible aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans was also so dispiriting that our nights there were certainly uneasy and uncomfortable. However, the hosts at the B & B made up for the sleepless nights by serving amazing breakfasts with all sorts and varieties of delicious Swiss things to eat.

Fairmont Chateau Laurier

Our transfer to the impressive Fairmont Chateau Laurier was a welcome change. The chateau is a vintage hotel built by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company at the same time it was constructing the Banff Springs Hotel and Chateau Lake Louise. It’s a stone replica of a French country chateau and opened in 1912. The hotel has been in continuous operation since then and caters to government officials and celebrities as well as tourists in its perfect

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location at the foot of Parliament Hill. It’s a mystery why our tour company housed all of us here for the night before our charter flight to Greenland. It must have been pretty pricey with all its history and magnificence. However, we certainly did enjoy the amenities and the comfortable and spacious rooms. Our two double beds, comfy chairs, a sofa and lots of lights dramatized our move “uptown.” The halls of the Chateau Laurier were wider than our room at the B & B! Our welcome meeting was hosted in one of the grand reception room but it was a stand-around mixer.

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GREENLAND MYSTERIES

Then came the bad news! We had to be up at 4 AM to ready ourselves for our early morning charter flight to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. The flight unloaded supplies at Inaquit in the new Nunavut province of Canada before continuing on to our destination—an airport facility built by the USA in l941 as a staging area for bombing raids in Europe. Greenland was characterized then as an island aircraft carrier. We used the facility as part of the DEW line defenses during the Cold War and then in 1991 gave it over to Greenland for a single US dollar. It is now one of the three airport facilities on the island capable of handling big jets. The other two are also legacies of the USA war machine in WWII.

The installation looks like a big military base with many outlying buildings used as barracks, mess halls, hospital and clinics, recreational arenas for sports and swimming (indoors), hangars, maintenance sheds, power stations, and officers quarters—all built on glacial till (just very finely ground sand) with no vegetation around.

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Up on top of the hills surrounding this shoreline facility, there are low tundra plants with some arctic flowers still blooming. Since the Raven Hills were heavily glaciated, there are also enormous granite slabs scattered over their tops shining with glacial “polish” (when the granite is rasped down by the moving ice of glaciers, it becomes smooth and glistening). Further evidence of the glaciers is easily seen in the many glacial “erratics” strewn over the landscape (those huge boulders that only something as strong as a glacier could have moved to these resting places). It is very bleak looking here, but not unlike all the other cold-weather military bases we have seen in the Arctic and Antarctic! Now the real trip was going to begin! Remember, we still thought we would be seeing lots of wildlife and were eager to get started with the advertised “musk ox safari.” The result of that van ride is already on record so I won’t go into our disappointment any further. So, we will forget wildlife, and get on with the enigmatic histories we encountered on our “cultural- historical” expedition. However, we did achieve a notable goal at Kangerlussuaq: we were 60 miles above the Arctic Circle, the northernmost point in Greenland we would attain.

Spy Ship Mystery

After our brief tour of Kangerlussuaq on the Sondre Stromefjord (third longest fjord in the world), we boarded our expedition ship, the Akademik Ioffe. Here again was a mystery—a double one actually. Our brochure had described our ship as the Peregrine Mariner, so why were we boarding this Russian ship? This ship has been recently modified so that it can handle tourists but it was obviously not built as one of the “fun ships.” It turned out that the Peregrine Mariner is really a Russian “scientific ship” built for seabed surveillance during the

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Cold War. We were told that Its true function, working in tandem with its exact replica sister ship, was spying on our nuclear submarines beneath the Arctic Ocean. The two ships would home in on submarine “noise” in order to establish the exact positions of our subs. Now it is owned by a Russian scientific institute and leased for tourist work to Australia’s oldest ecotourism company—Peregrine Journeys. During the repositioning tours, the Russian scientists come aboard and conduct their researches—mapping the ocean floor, checking for undersea minerals, analyzing columns of seawater at various depths. The equipment on board, the maneuverability of the ship, its unique stabilization system, and super- sophisticated sound gathering and creating systems make it a very unusual but quite comfortable ship for expedition touring. According to the crew, the acoustical equipment has not been used in more than 10 years. The ship is a 6,600-ton vessel capable of achieving speeds of 13.5 knots. It is vibration-less and runs exceptionally quietly (of course, the spy-work demanded that the ship’s own engine noises not interfere with collecting sonar readings from our ships plus the crew did not want to betray their position to the US spy ships operating in the same waters). It has 4 decks of cabins and even up high on deck 6 where we stayed the stability of the ship is truly astounding. The stabilization system is unique to this ship and her sister. It consists of moving water through many 8-inch pipes running from prow to stern and from port to starboard in answer to the sea’s own tides, currents, waves, and swells. A computer system analyzes the wave and swell patterns and sends the water rushing through the pipes accordingly to compensate for the direction and strength of these wave actions. It creates a remarkably stable platform for scientific experiments as well as for seasick prone tourists (hardly anyone was ever even queasy on this ship during our voyage).

S HIP A CCOMMODATIONS

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The cabins were not plush but they were comfortable and large enough to accommodate two beds, a desk, a love seat, and plenty of closets as well as our large private bath area. The “presentation room” where our lectures were held was on the first deck while we occupied the sixth and there was a seventh deck open to the sky for 360 degree sight- seeing.

The dining room and bar/lounge were on the third deck, and the Library on the fifth. It is easy to see why we didn’t gain any weight on this expedition despite three large meals and afternoon snacks daily—we were constantly running up and down many flights of stairs every day. We never took the elevator even once. And the exercise worked for us! Those Russian scientists must be very fit indeed. The “mud room” where we changed into our Zodiac gear— boots, rain suits and life jackets, was on the 3rd deck as well and it contained the amazing acoustic equipment that was so intriguing. The equipment is at least 4 feet in diameter and reaches from the very keel of the ship (there is an opening into the sea called the “moon lake” there so the sensors can be lowered into the ocean) all the way to Deck 7 where it extends at least 50 ft. into the sky. There are steel pipes running all the way up and down the structure and in the “mud room” are huge toothed steel “feet” to roll the equipment into other positions. They extended nearly completely across the floor so that trips to and from the “mud room” for us meant being careful to step over these installations to avoid “tripping.”

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They rose about 4 inches above the floor, so a misstep was easy. This is the “spy stuff” that tracked the nuclear subs. Maybe that mystery is now solved? Presumably they don’t need it any more—at least not against the USA?

The Mystery of "Who's in Charge Here?" The management and ownership issues on this trip created some of the disorganization we experienced during this expedition. There were too many levels of authority among the Russian crew and officers, the Peregrine Journeys staff, and the High Country Passage staff (working with the representatives of the special interest groups on board—World Wildlife Fund, Smithsonian Journeys, and two university alumni groups). Strangely enough, this potential difficulty had apparently not been addressed prior to our boarding. So the journey was operating under three totally unrelated management companies. Of course, the Russian Captain and his officers were indisputably in charge of the ship itself: operations, safety, housekeeping, dining room staff, and itinerary as influenced by sea and weather conditions. Peregrine Journeys provided the expedition leader, the chefs, hotel management, zodiac drivers, and two naturalists. High Country Passage had contracted with independent travelers, WWF, SJ, and the two alumni organizations to arrange the trip through Peregrine Journeys. HCP staff included a tour director and the photographer and had made arrangements through the special interest groups on board to provide three more speakers, an historian, an archeologist and an ethnographer. So you don’t have to be a Russian spy to see the many potentials for conflict, for disorganization, and for lots of fissures through which important things could fall! The other unavoidable complication was that our cruise was the last of the season for the Russians and for the Peregrine Journeys personnel. Needless to say, all these folks were looking forward to getting home and beginning their vacations. To say that they were “over” the whole thing is an understatement. But, hey, one trip of the season is always going to be the last one, isn’t it? Too bad, those two groups could not hide their eagerness for “making an end” and they also did not disguise their “don’t really give a darn” attitude about our satisfaction! Until the last two days of the trip, they were as uninvolved as they could be and still be said to function; they just went through the motions reluctantly. During the last two days when they could see that we would be soon off their ship, they perked up and were all smiles and all helpfulness. Could it be that they woke up and realized that it would soon be “tip” time and they hadn’t done much to earn one? Some of the objective consequences of this disjuncture in authority lines were most annoying. Often announcements were confusing, contradictory or absent altogether, resulting in mass mad dashes to the mudroom for clothes changing resulting in unnecessary lines. If the tour director and the Expedition Leader had worked together, an organized pattern of zodiac boarding would have been arranged quite simply—for instance by deck or by activity interest on land. If they had communicated well, then one of them could have assumed responsibility

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for all announcements of that variety so that they were complete and clear. Once we were ashore with staff from Peregrine and HCP, we often faced contradictory instructions regarding important stuff, like when the last zodiac would leave shore for the ship. The Captain ran a very tight schedule due to his obvious devotion to conserving fuel; because it took half an hour to power up the ship, he wanted to know precisely when all passengers would be back on board so he could have the ship ready to sail immediately. The Russians and Peregrine were completely unconcerned about our intense curiosity over what was going on in the USA in Katrina’s aftermath and absolutely no help was given in producing any news that could be distributed among the passengers. The really frustrating thing to most of us was that when a few marine mammals were spotted from the Bridge or by the naturalists, seldom were any general announcements made so that anyone interested could rush on deck to look and take pictures. These were only annoyances to be sure, but they were exasperating to many of us. Subjective consequences included the voiced dissatisfactions of many travelers so that there was often an undercurrent of griping and complaining that exacerbated our real disappointment in the lack of wildlife viewing opportunities. However, I never saw any passenger be anything but courteous and friendly to all staff members of whatever organization. One of the worst examples of the “couldn’t care less” attitude occurred when one of the alumni groups wanted to arrange a small afternoon cocktail party for his group in the ship’s library. He asked in plenty of time through the Tour Director who asked the Expedition Leader to implement the necessary arrangements. The Hotel Manager who was under the supervision of the Expedition Leader told the Tour Director that he didn’t have time because he wanted to go topside to view some fin whales who were swimming around the ship! He obviously knew there would be no consequences to his outrageous behavior and didn’t care what the passengers would think. So the Tour Director and her husband (the photographer) scurried about and tried to physically arrange the library in an appropriate manner and pleaded with one of the three chefs on board to help with the refreshments. That person did come up with some minimal “munchies” but no other help. Such was the spirit of cooperation among the three staffs running the ship and the trip! Thus, we learned that a trip at the end of the season is not the best choice and a ship being run by three levels of management is also not going to produce the happiest results. However, I must add that our fellow passengers on this trip were mostly very experienced travelers and they quickly made the best of things. After our first disappointments in the lack of wildlife, the disorganization, and the lack of interest in our satisfaction were digested, we all, without consultation, began to make the most of what was there. There was excellent attendance at the lectures by all staff members; there was conviviality at mealtimes and in the bar/lounge; there were compliments to the chefs, cooks, and wait staff. Almost everyone went on every zodiac landing and everyone adhered to the schedule of landings and reboardings as closely as possible. We did not disappoint our fuel-conserving captain on that score ever.

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Most folks were always enthusiastic and grateful when any staff members made any extra efforts on our behalf.

And the important thing to stress is that there were many wonderful aspects of this voyage! The opportunity to see Greenland with its spectacular scenery and its friendly people was worth whatever inconveniences we experienced. The magnificent fjords with their daunting surrounding mountains, the great ice cap which loomed at the horizon of almost every view like a floating cloud just above the land, the mighty glaciers with their surreal blues and their fractured surfaces and rifle-crack calving sounds, the absolutely unexpected “greenness” of this largest of all islands, the puzzling and fascinating human history of this Danish protectorate, the quaintness and color palettes of the several charming towns and cities we visited, and the welcoming smiles of the Greenlanders themselves made our expedition to their culturally unique land a happy, educational and thoroughly enjoyable experience. Furthermore, Labrador and Newfoundland were worthy goals as well. In these two Canadian Maritime Provinces we learned about human histories with which we were previously totally unfamiliar. We saw different panoramas of scenery, which were equally breathtaking and picture-demanding. The people of these two provinces were also warm and friendly, though surprised to see us at this particular time of year—late for most tourist trips. Once we had adjusted our expectations, I am sure that the big majority of the passengers would count this trip a big success!

The Viking Mysteries

W HO W ERE THE V IKINGS ? Did Leif Ericsson really discover America? Before Christopher Columbus found it? Was his father Eric the Red a murderer and a liar to boot? Did he deliberately mislead his countrymen into a disastrous emigration to Iceland and Greenland? Did the Vikings really dress like those marauders on the Capital One advertisements on TV right now? You know, with those horned helmets? Where do historians get their answers to these questions and others about these Norsemen? Well, this voyage turned out to be much more concerned with providing possible answers to those mysteries than it was to facilitating wildlife photography and bird watching. So we decided that we might as well relax into learning something pretty fascinating. And indeed it did turn into some very interesting lectures, haunting and evocative visits to old Viking sites in Greenland, and real disappointment when we were unable to land on an important spot in Newfoundland! But, let me tell you, we did turn our attitudes around and thoroughly enjoyed this cultural, historical and scenic trip!

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Several fellow passengers besides Kay and I had started their Viking studies in Norway, Sweden, and Iceland during several different journeys. For all of us, this trip would complete that arc of exploration in a very satisfying way, even though that is not what Kay & I were expecting. So I have to go back a little and mention just briefly recall what we had learned about Vikings in three previous trips to their homelands. T HE V ASA V IKING S HIP In Sweden several years ago, we had visited the Vasa, the marvelous Viking ship that had been raised from the seabed and placed on display in a singular museum. The exhibit was particularly interesting because the ship had to be kept constantly wet to prevent its deterioration in the air. Therefore, it sparkled as the waters ran over it and it intrigued the onlooker with its beautiful lines and its excellent preservation after spending so much time under the sea. Now that the preservation process has been completed, the ship no longer needs to be continuously bathed in running water, but I think some of the mystique has probably been lost. The ship, commissioned by King Gustavus Adolphus in 1627, was the largest ship ever built up to that time, so huge it contained 64 bronze cannons weighing 100 tons in aggregate. The mast was 190 ft. tall and the rudder was 30 ft. tall. The ship was one of four battle galleons commissioned by the king for his royal navy. It was splendidly decorated with carvings of lions, mythical beasts, gods, warriors, kings, and demons. It had an ignominious fate, however, sinking only 1 nautical mile from port in Stockholm on August 10, 1628, on its maiden voyage. A sudden squall came up and the ship listed badly to port, so much so that its gun ports, still open from the farewell firing of the cannons, shipped water rapidly and the ship sank in minutes according to contemporary records. The cannons were salvaged in 1663 but the ship herself lay in the frigid, fresh water of the Baltic Sea until she was rediscovered in 1956 and excavated. Because of the very low salinity of the water and because shipworms do not live in fresh water, the ship was in remarkably good condition. As a matter of fact, 95% of the Vasa on display is original. Many of the items found on board, tools, jewelry, ammunition, household good, textiles, crockery, have helped historians and archeologists piece together theories of how the Vikings of that late period lived. It was clear that their standard of living was high for the times and that King Adolphus kept his kingdom strong by patrolling the Baltic and raiding weaker peoples. Items found also suggested that the Viking were great assimilators of other people’s good ideas and inventions and borrowed them freely. It is also clear that the Vikings controlled the areas now known as Sweden, Norway and Denmark from very early times, well before 832 A.D. when it is known that they began to colonize Iceland and the smaller islands like the Orkneys, Shetlands, and Faeroes. They also are known to have gone raiding the coasts of Britain, Ireland, and France during very early 26

years before the colonization of Iceland. The Vasa certainly is a great treasure for Viking enthusiasts, and we really had enjoyed our visit to its museum.

V IKING S HIP M USEUM On a later trip, we visited Oslo and saw the three beautiful burial ships on display at the Viking Ship Museum. These ships were buried in mud and were exhumed between 1880 and 1904. They are much older than the Vasa, dating from 834 A.D. by carbon dating methods. These ships are real works of art with their very narrow keels and their elegant sweeping curvilinear construction with their very high prows. Again, much of interest to history was found in these ships that had been packed with items for the dead to have with them when the ship carried them to the “other world.” These ships added to the knowledge of everyday Viking life and a life-size model of one of the ships was created in the 1970s and sailed from Norway to Newfoundland to prove that the Vikings could have made the trip in 1000 A.D. as the proponents of the Norse discovery of America have maintained. Looking at those graceful, slender ships appearing so fragile in their curved majesty, it was discomfiting to imagine myself on a voyage with the Vikings. One morning on this trip, I awoke to see nothing but thick fog around the Ioffe. Though the ocean below me was hidden from view, I could watch the fog fingering its way softly along the curves and angles of the ship. Suddenly, I felt transported to one of those open-decked Viking ships. How frightening it felt to hear the wind soughing in the sails, to feel the dampness of the cold mists on my face, to smell the salty air rising from the waves slopping against the frail hull, to see nothing but impenetrable clouds of fog coating the ship, to taste the ashes of fear my dry mouth. Lost on the vast sea with no fancy radar or GPS equipment, no radio to make a mayday call to a nearby ship. What stouthearted explorers and sailors those Norsemen were! I CELAND C ONNECTION - T HE S AGAS Our most important stimulus to our growing interest in Viking history came with our visit to Iceland. There in that island the Viking stories and history were finally written down in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries after having existed for hundreds of years in an oral tradition. It is from these sagas that we have learned the very most about the Viking peoples and their seafaring traditions. Two of these sagas are most important to the history of the Vikings in Greenland and America: “The Greenlanders” and “Eric the Red’s Saga.” There are also many sites in Iceland associated with the Vikings clearly described and located in the sagas. The Thingvellir (the first Parliament in the world) is a Viking invention and its location is a tourist attraction and a national treasure. There is some controversy still regarding whether or not Irish priests, women, and/or slaves were brought to Iceland by the Vikings to help in the colonization of the island, but there is no question about whether the Vikings themselves were the first settlers there. Since the Vikings had settlements in Ireland, however, and had been Christianized by the Irish priests, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to postulate that they brought

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Irish people with them. All that red hair and those blue eyes in current Icelanders must have entered the gene pool somehow.

E RIC THE R ED We know from the sagas that Eric the Red was banished from Sweden because of allegations of a murder and other crimes committed by him there. He was supposed to stay away from Sweden for three years. Accordingly, he betook himself to Iceland where he settled for a few years, long enough, certainly, to get himself into more trouble there. He must have been a violent man because he evidently committed another murder and was banished from Iceland as well. He took his family, including the young Leif Ericsson, to Greenland to live out his banishment. Eric died before he could return to either Iceland or Sweden. However, he sent back word to Iceland about the “wonders” of Greenland for a farming people like the Vikings and apparently many folk were persuaded to join him in creating colonies there. He had described how “green” and rich the soil was on the huge island and convinced the folks that a good life could be made there. Historians know that it was not only Eric’s super salesmanship that drew other Vikings to join him in both Iceland and Greenland. Instead, it was the scarcity of available land in the Vikings’ home countries, too much royal regulation for independent-minded people and the wanderlust inherent in their culture. There is evidence that they had already been exploring in the eighth and ninth centuries. This same urge to explore would take Eric’s son Leif to the shores of the North American Continent in 1000 A.D. where he would try to found a colony himself in what he called “Vinland.” Nowadays, Greenland is variously described as a huge island iceberg floating in the North Atlantic, as an Arctic world of snow, ice, glaciers and rock, as a polar region of the world. No one thinks of it as a “green” place. Scientists use Greenland as a testing ground for the theories of global warming since the ice cap is thinning, the glaciers are retreating, and the pack ice is later, thinner and of shorter duration. Greenland is probably a metaphor for a refrigerator in most people’s minds. So we were certainly sure that Eric had been a rogue, liar and swindler, when he convinced fellow Vikings to join him in colonizing Greenland or in following afterwards to live in the settlements and populate Greenland. What a complete surprise it was to find that Southwest Greenland where we visited and where Eric settled really is green! This part of Greenland, though the central island ice cap is right over the horizon, is actually temperate in climate, its seas are ice-free through the year and have been for recorded history, and short summer crops can be grown here. Actually, though the Vikings were farmers, their basic crop was livestock: cows, sheep, goats, pigs, and horses. This section of Greenland was quite amenable to their needs and their knowledge.

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According to the Icelandic sagas, Eric landed in Greenland with his group of settlers in 932 A.D. and their villages thrived until at least 1408 when the last written record of their lives in Greenland was recorded in a Danish religious archive, detailing a marriage that had taken place in a village we visited (Gardar). At the time of the Viking’s arrival in Greenland, it was an unpopulated island. The ancestors of modern Inuit people living here did not arrive until 1200 A.D. The Vikings were a trading and a seafaring people but they did not live off the sea as did the ancestors of today’s Greenlandic people (Inuit). The Vikings traded iron and their technology of ship building most often. They were also raiders of small settlements and monasteries within reach of their long ships. Once they were Christianized, they ceased raiding the religious properties and continued to harass defenseless or poorly defended towns and villages. W HY D ID THE VIKINGS V ANISH ? The biggest mystery the Vikings left us is what happened to them in Greenland? Why did they just disappear from that part of the world? Their civilization had grown and expanded, churches and bishoprics were established (there are 17 excavated ruins of Christian churches in Greenland today), and they had continued their world explorations from their base in Greenland. There are many theories but none of them has achieved universal acceptance among historians of their culture. Most experts believe that it was a combination of factors that doomed their society in Greenland: climate change affecting the ability to farm and to raise their livestock, fierce combat with the Inuit peoples who began to move down into southwest Greenland, disease, trading failures with the outside world, soil exhaustion, and continual raiding by Basque and English pirates.

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