Day 11 |
Sep 30, 2011

Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, Canada

By Juan Carlos Restrepo, Geologist

Co-ordinates: N 45º53’34”, W 059º59’04”
Weather: Foggy
Air Temperature: 15ºC
Pressure: 1007 hPa

This morning when I woke up we were already alongside, under very foggy conditions, in the town of Louisbourg. The weather was less than ideal, but as it turned out, it played along nicely with our plans for today.

Nearly all the guests joined us for the tour, and once we were all on the comfortable motor coaches, we headed off for the short ride to the vast windswept compound of the Fortress of Louisbourg - the largest historical reconstruction project in Canada.

This impressive national historic site was originally built 250 years ago when the French ruled much of the territory of North America. The fort was besieged by both the British and New England forces, and eventually this massive fortress was reduced to rubble by 1758, and finally abandoned by the British in 1768. With their focus on developing Halifax as a naval base, much of Louisbourg was destroyed by the British military in order to prevent the French being tempted to take it again.

Two centuries of neglect saw the fortress become an archaeological ruin, but in the 1960s, a fifth of the site was excavated and buildings recreated. Part of the goal of this restoration was to create jobs within the region, but the main focus was to recognize the site’s historical significance. Today, the Fort feels incredibly authentic because those running the project used 3/4 of a million pieces of archival information to make sure the reconstruction was accurate. Thus, not only does the layout of the buildings follow exactly the archaeological evidence, but their structure and form is fully authentic. You really do have the sensation of walking back in time - a sensation heightened by the historical interpreters who dress in period costume.

Today, we went behind the scenes, learnt from the experts what it takes to reproduce the many historically accurate artifacts. We enjoyed a dressing demonstration where we watched and listened as an upper-class lady was dressed by her servant and we were taught all there is to know about 18th-century garments.

We then proceeded to a quill writing presentation and workshop, we saw how feathers are cut to become writing quills and also learnt about 18th-century paper and ink. Then we tried writing our own special letter on period paper and our guests had the opportunity to send it to friends or family via their own letter carrier. We were permitted to keep the quill as a souvenir.

Next, a kitchen servant greeted us in another building to show us how hot chocolate was prepared in the 18th century – she actually put a few of us to work to help her make it! Once we had learnt the art of hot chocolate making in the French style, we proceeded to savour a complimentary cup to the “Food of the Gods”.

To finish, we had 75 minutes of free time to wander the historic streetscapes and explore the fortress on our own. This was fascinating because most of the buildings were open, and we were permitted to wander through as we wished. Inside many of the rooms there were interpretive panels with historic information about life at that time. Additionally, staff from Parks Canada, who were dressed in period attire, would act the part and address you as if you were back in the 18th century. It was a lively, interactive way to learn about the fort and life within its walls. The thick fog never lifted, but instead of distracting from the visit, it actually, in my opinion, added to the ambience and gave it an authentic and almost “romantic” atmosphere.

Once back on board we enjoyed a delicious lunch, which was followed soon after by Robin Aiello’s lecture “1 Fish, 2 Fish, Red Fish, COLD Fish”. In this fun and informative talk Robin discussed some of the adaptive strategies used by fish species to survive the icy conditions in the Arctic.

At 5:30 the Expedition Team hosted a Recap & Briefing, Conrad explained the plans for tomorrow in Halifax and this was followed by cocktail hour with Alfredo and dinner.