Day 17 |
Sep 23, 2010

St Anthony and L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland Canada

By Dr Colleen Batey, Archaeologist

Co-ordinates: 51°21’N – 55°33’W 

Weather: Hazy sunshine and brisk winds 

Air temperature: 14 °C 

Following a couple of days of rough seas courtesy of Hurricane Igor, it was a relief to be in the shelter of St Anthony’s harbour. The morning Zodiac transfer took us to the jetty in town and we boarded yellow school buses for the 45-minute transfer to the Norse site of L’Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland.

Discovered by Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad in 1960, this was the first verified European settlement on the North American continent. Settled according to the sages by Leif Eriksson and his followers, the arc of eight buildings indicated settlement and boat repair activities, with nearby iron working for replacement boat rivets. Settled around the year 1000 AD, the site may have served as a bridge between the Greenland Norse and sites yet to be located within the area of the Gulf of St Lawrence. Occupied for a mere 50-70 years, the site was recognised as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1978. Further excavations were carried out by Birgitta Wallace of Parks Canada. Although the visitor centre was undergoing refurbishment, it provided a good introduction that complemented the lectures I had presented on board.

Grass-covered foundations of eight structures could easily be seen as we walked across the site, and nearby three of the houses had been reconstructed to give a more life-like interpretation of the ruins.

Transferring by bus to Norstead we were able to speak with enthusiastic re-enactors who told of seafaring stories and the problems of getting bog iron in the locality!

Back to St Anthony for a return to the ship, our afternoon’s events focussed on the work of Dr Wilfred Grenfell, an Englishman who came as a missionary doctor to the Newfoundland and Labrador people in the late 1800s. His work, in the establishment of a health service for the local population serviced by both small hospitals he set up at Battle Harbour and elsewhere as well as two hospital ships, transformed the lives and social conditions of the region. Still remembered today for his achievements and the awarding of the Canada Cross, Grenfell left an amazing legacy to the land he grew to love.

We were all back on board at the end of the afternoon in time for us to join the Captain’s Farewell Cocktail Party and almost our last amazing feast from our wonderful chef and her team.