Day 11 |
Sep 07, 2009

Hopedale Canada

By Dr Toby Musgrave, Botanist

Weather: winds gusting to 30 knots, cloudy early but mostly sunny.

Air Temperature: 6° C

Such was the peer pressure from Robin in his briefing last night that being the dutiful member of the Team that I am, I set my alarm to awake at 06.00 in order to enjoy last passage to our anchorage in Hopedale bay. This was in the promised expectation of a beautiful journey through the archipelago of small islands all bathed in dawn’s soft sunlight and with pods of killer whales playfully frolicking off the ship’s bow.

OK, OK, I admit the latter expectation is pushing it a bit, but even in my bleary-eyed state it was patently obvious that the gunmetal sea and leaden skies were not the promised weather. So, smug in the knowledge that Srigley, Rob and Robin were on spotting duties on the Bridge and would make an announcement if anything exciting was spotted, I reclaimed the snug warmth of my duvet and snored away happily for a further hour.

With breakfast squared away, the Team took the 500m Zodiac ride to the shoreside in order to prepare for the day’s activities. This being an unscheduled stop, a change in the itinerary forced upon us by circumstance, we were not sure exactly what to expect, especially being as this was Labor Day and thus a public holiday.

However, we were met by the capable David, custodian of the historic Morovian Mission complex, who gave the Team a fact-filled whistle-stop tour of the town before our guests disembarked. With all ensconced in the Church, David proceeded to divulge an insightful overview of how the Mission had been established and had evolved since 1782, explaining along the way the history of the complex of wooden buildings - church, museum, storehouse - which are some of the oldest wooden structures in eastern Canada.

The museum, filled with Hopedale-specific artifacts offered a glimpse into a past that must have been as hard as it was challenging. Of particular interest to me was the account of gardens cultivated as part of the drive for self-sufficiency, but in which were also grown ornamental plants. Evidence of the latter was still to be found around the town in the form of European species such as cranesbill and roses that had escaped and gone feral.

After our historic-cultural introduction to Hopedale we took a walk around the town, which included the compulsory petting of the town’s most friendly puppy (although exactly why he was chewing happily on a pair of knickers remained, thankfully, an unsolved mystery) and watching Susan combat-purchase her way through a sherpa’s-load of carved ornaments. The entertainments were such that a collective decision was made to extend the visit by a further hour, which also gave me time to pay homage at the first trees I had seen in five weeks!

Whilst most continued to potter and purchase, those with itchy feet headed out of town and up a hill. Out of the wind the day had warmed up nicely and layers were discarded with careless abandon, until that was, we reached the pass. Here they were quickly re-donned while we enjoyed the spectacular-but-breezy views down over both bays.

The last Zodiac left for the ship at 13.00, and after lunch I gave the post-prandial lecture on Charles Darwin, his life and works. Then there was just time to prepare a ‘what we saw’ plant presentation for Recap, to gulp down a quick dinner and to write this missive; all undertaken with the heady anticipation that tonight in the Panorama Lounge it is Karaoke Night. Who knows what surprises the night has in store...?