''CANADA’S MAGNIFICENT ATLANTIC COAST'' Voyage 7121 Day 5
Day 5 - September 24, 2011 - Gaspé
By Claire Allum, Archaeologist
Co-ordinates: 48° 50’ N 64° 29’ W
Weather: overcast and misty
Air Temperature: 12 C in the early morning
My day began with a quick breakfast of coffee and a bran muffin in The Observation Lounge. Outside, fog laced through the forest that I could see along the Gaspé coast. Fall colours were just beginning and dark green conifers contrasted with the pale pink and yellow hues of some deciduous trees.
Stephan and I traveled by Zodiac to the harbour of Gaspé where we met Hubert, our guide for Bus #2 today. By 9:15 we were motoring along Highway 132 to Forillon National Park, the blue-green of Gaspé’s large bay glistening to our right. Hubert entertained us with local information: how important the catch-and-release salmon fishing sport was to the tourist industry; that the small town of Penouille we drove through was once an important whaling station; that the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrow made $30,000 annual revenue selling candles. The latter fact reminded me that although filled with churches, the province of Québec is the most secular in Canada. But this wouldn’t apply in small communities, where the church would still be the social hub of the community.
Forillon National Park was created in 1970 and its vegetation is boreal forest in which lives moose, black bears, red deer and dozens of smaller mammals.
Our first stop within the Park boundaries was the Fort Péninsule. During WWII, the Canadian government defended the port of Gaspé, a valuable allied naval base, with an anti-submarine net and three coastal gun batteries. Fort Prével and Fort Haldimand being the other two. HMCS Fort Ramsey and its batteries were inaugurated on May 1, 1942. At its height it had over 2,000 personnel stationed at it, plus 19 warships, 5 minesweepers, 6 patrol boats, 7 corvettes and amphibious planes. It was never attacked. Hubert’s two aunts both married men stationed at the fort. I photographed the large guns for my brothers—both of them military buffs.
The following stop was the cliffs of Cap-Bon-Ami. They stretch out like giant arms from the viewing platform. Their limestone cliffs are horizontally bedded, different rock colours representing different deposition times. Although the birds were absent during our visit the guide told us that the folds and crenellations of the rock serves as home for thousands of black-legged kittiwakes during the summer months. He pointed out the bird guano splashed onto rock ledges.
Just before lunch we visited the Cap-Des-Rosiers Lighthouse, a National Historic Site. Built in 1858, it is Canada’s tallest lighthouse at 34.1 metres and made from white marble imported from Massachusetts. A heavy fog had descended on the site at our arrival—which is no doubt why a lighthouse was needed here in the first place—and a white light blinked on and off at its top; however, no fog horn sounded, as with the advent of satellite and GPS, the warning noise was no longer needed.
We had lunch at the Cultural Centre of Le Griffon. I have no idea how they made the maple cream cake, but I could easily have eaten more of it. After that we went to visit another National Historic site, the Manoir le Boutiller (the Boutiller Manor). An immigrant from the Channel Islands, Monsier John Boutiller made his money in the fishing industry. His house was beautifully restored to the way it was circa 1850-1860. Young women dressed in the narrow-waisted, round, thick-skirted dresses of the period added realism to the visit.
We returned to the Gaspé harbour and I began my duties as shore party until everyone—guests and crew—were back on board the Silver Explorer. Our last Zodiac trip back to the ship that day included the Captain Alexander Golubev and his bicycle. The Captain stays fit on his voyages by riding his bicycle and exploring the ports, villages and towns he visits.
At the end of the day, in the cool evening a mist enveloped Gaspé and its harbour. The lighthouse at Cap-Des-Rosiers may no longer use a fog horn, but as the Silver Explorer left her berth and headed to Bonaventure Island, she sounded her horn every two minutes.
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