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Day 6 - August 20, 2008 - Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, Canada

By Dr. Brent Stephenson, Ornithologist

Co-ordinates: 45 degrees 55.0’ N and 59 degrees 59.0’ W
Weather: Some cloudy periods, but otherwise sunny with wind rising in morning to strong by mid-morning

It seemed we had left the fog behind in St Pierre as we drifted in towards the sleepy town of Louisbourg. Dropping anchor during breakfast, we were able to watch the scout boat zip in towards Louisbourg and return with the Canadian Immigration officials. Due to our afternoon visit to St Pierre, our little piece of France, yesterday we were required to clear back into Canada, with a face check of all crew and guests being necessary. This was over relatively quickly, and we were then able to start boarding the Zodiacs for our excursion ashore to the Fortress of Louisbourg.

This reconstructed Fortress is now a National Historic Park and is described as the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of the Canadian Park Service. It is also the largest historical reconstruction in Canada. Originally a Fortress built to protect France’s interests in the New World, construction began in 1719, and was not actually finished until 1745 when the first British siege began. As with much of the settlement in this area, the fortified town was of course based around the hugely profitable Grand Banks fishery. As the settlement and its economy grew during the early 18th century, Louisbourg soon became an important hub for commerce between France, New France and French colonies in the West Indies. Due to the fog often found in these waters (of which we have seen our fair share), the first lighthouse in Canada was constructed in 1734 on a nearby headland. We cruised past this lighthouse on our way out of the bay encompassing both Fortress Louisbourg and the town itself.

Our guides met us at the small cobble beach where we landed our Zodiacs and began our tour with an introduction to the 10-hectare site that took place in several stops along the waterfront road. The Parks Canada guides were humorous and well informed as always. Passing the smithy and bakery, where several loaves of “heavy” or “soldier’s bread” and “middle class” rye bread were purchased for sampling later aboard ship, we reached and toured the home of the engineer of the fortress where demonstrations of kitchen methods like hot chocolate making, grilling, and baking were provided. As we meandered through buildings and gardens enlivened with ducks and turkey, costumed interpreters, including children playing period games were quick to offer a greeting or advice. Heading up the main street, we reached the Governor’s residence adjacent to some of the ramparts. In front of this imposing edifice was a wooden horse with a sharply peaked ridge for a back and we learned it was a form of punishment for soldiers who had their hands tied behind their backs and were forced to sit astride it with cannonballs or other weights attached to their legs. Inside we could see the jail, the large and ornate chapel, the officers’ quarters and Governor’s suite of rooms. We then returned to the waterfront for a choice of hot chocolate or hot rum grog. After this treat we scattered each to his or her own devices to watch fife and drum displays, small arms firing, lace making, the archaeological excavations underway, or just to visit some of the 50 reconstructed shops and residences and listen to the interpreters explain them. All too soon our time had flown and we climbed into our Zodiacs to the accompaniment of martial music, the prelude to a cannon firing that served as a farewell salute as we left this 18th century fortress.

We were then given the opportunity to head across to Louisbourg town itself. This small settlement of around 1,200 people survives today largely on tourism, with the demise of the nearby fisheries having had considerable affect. Luckily the Fortress attracts thousands of tourists each year.

At 1400, the Prince Albert II headed out of the bay and southwards along the Nova Scotia coastline. Not a lot of wildlife was evident, but the sharp-eyed did spot a humpback whale briefly and several species of birds, including Northern gannet, Wilson’s storm-petrel and greater shearwater were seen.

Camille Seaman, our resident photographer, gave a very useful workshop on how to select and edit your photographs using a range of computer software. She used photos taken on this and other recent cruises to show some of the many techniques, such as the use of curves and levels to adjust contrast, brightness, etc.

With a little time for a rest before the Venetian Society Cocktail party, we were able to don our best dress, and then enjoy a spectacular Venetian Society dinner in The Restaurant. The Venetian Society honors guests onboard the ship who have sailed at least once before on a Silversea vessel, and is so named in recognition of the intrepid explorers of Venice, of whom Marco Polo is surely the most famous.

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