Friday: Whales and Vikings

We are awoken each morning by the voice of Matthew James, our Expedition Leader.  He tells our location, the time, and the weather.  This morning there was an additional treat of a rendition of “Oh, Canada” since today is Canada Day (and as we learned in Newfoundland, also Remembrance Day.)  The singer was the expedition’s musical expert.  Yes, that’s right, we have a music expert. Actually, we have two!  We also have a botanist, an archeologist, a geologist, an author, a bird expert, a historian, etc., etc., etc.  Adventure Canada covers all the bases.

About five minutes after the wakeup call, Matthew James came back on to let us know that a whale had been spotted, then a few minutes later he reported that a bunch of whales had been spotted.  We headed up to the deck and saw at least five whales swimming around.  That number continued to increase so when they got the zodiacs ready they took us out closer to them.  It was really amazing.  Lots of spouts blowing in the air which we were so close we could hear, fins and tails flapping out even big jaws coming out to scoop up fish.  There was also a great moment when a big group of harp seals popped their noses out of the water.  Later in the day the animal guy (yet another expert!) told us that a certain type of fish had come into the area and that had brought the seals and the whales in.  It was a really cool experience, especially to see it from water level in the zodiac.

After our whale tour it was time to sail in and meet the Vikings, or more correctly, the Norse.  You were only a Viking if you were out raiding.  The villages in this area were not permanent settlements, but probably scouting and repair stations for further travel.

There were two landings today.  When I first came in, I went to the reenactment village of Norstead.  There were multiple buildings, chicken, sheep, and people going about the daily business of the Norse.  There was a blacksmith and several women, some trading, others weaving or doing a very interesting type of one needle knitting called naling, I think.  There was of course a small gift shop, and because of the day there was a large cake with the Canadian flag.  The woman offered me a piece, and as I took one, she commented on the crumbs others had left on the floor and proceeded to clean the area with a broom and mop.  I told her I would be careful, so I was really glad she was looking the other way when I dropped my piece, frosting side down, onto the clean floor.  I cleaned it up while she wasn’t looking, and of course, went ahead and ate it as the floor was clearly kept clean enough to eat off of.  Also I was hungry.

I considered staying in town, but the only restaurant looked pretty fancy so I went back to the ship, where my meal was already paid for.  After lunch, it was out again, this time catching a bus to the L’anse Aux Meadows Interpretation center, where there was a tour to see the actual site where the real Norse settlement was located.  The archeological evidence was discovered in the 60’s, the site had been fully excavated and restored to how it would have looked in the 60s, with grassy mounds outlining a series of rooms.  Our Parks Canada guide was excellent and gave information of how the stories in the Sagas combined with the architectural evidence. For example, the common interpretation of Vinland, is land of grapes, but he pointed out that grapes not only wouldn’t grow well there, it was more common for the Norse to name their sites after physical features and if you pronounce Vinland differently it means land of grassy slopes, so our guide thought that was more likely correct.  Really amazing to walk on the spot of such an early settlement, and also probably the site where the European peoples from the East met with the aboriginal people who came from the West, thus completing the circle from the earliest migrations of people out of Africa.  I hope to order a copy of the video: Completing the Circle, which tell that story and the story of this early settlement, so I can show it at school.  Don’t know why I didn’t just buy one at the gift shop.  I also should have bought one of the naling kits to try that one needle knitting.  I was probably confused at the point of purchase.  There’s a lot happening on this trip!

I’m delighted to see that tomorrow’s schedule has a “morning siesta” scheduled, because today was exhausting. In a good way, but exhausting.  I’m also realizing that I had not come to terms with what it means to be on a ship for a week and a half.  I miss reading the news, and I don’t have the megabytes to spare.  But any who, I’m sure I’ll get into a routine and I could also do exciting things like actually read the book I brought.  I’m missing my people at home.  Hello to you all!

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