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Day 13 - September 9, 2009 - L’Anse Aux Meadows, Canada

By Susan Langley, Historian

Co-ordinates: 51° 36' 16" N, 55° 28' 29" W
Weather: windy, sunny with periodic clouds
Air Temperature: 42°F / 5°C

L’anse aux Meadows is almost a pilgrimage site for archaeologists, so to awaken to high winds and white caps was extremely worrisome, as were the sounds of the anchor dragging and the bow thrusters. However, our Captain persisted and after changing locations and coming as far into a cove as he could, he was able to keep our position long enough to permit the launching of the Zodiacs in the ship’s lee.

We were met at the landing by some fearsome Vikings, who in fact were our guides for the day. To prevent congestion, our groups were sent in different directions so I first toured Norstead. The latter is a recreated Viking settlement interpreting the same period as L’anse aux Meadows, to which it is immediately adjacent. Peopled with gregarious Vikings and replete with pigs, ducks and chickens, as well as late season gardens, it does an excellent job at bringing history to life. The interpreters included men, women and children who went about their tasks while answering questions and providing insights into daily life. Some of us took a turn at the bellows in the blacksmith’s hut, while others chatted with women spinning and weaving. After a look into the church, since most Vikings would have been Christian at this time, we sheltered from the wind whipping in from the sea, much as the Vikings would have done by joining some of the women and girls near a warm fire and tasting some flat bread they were making. We had to decline a soup/stew and a promise to roast some chickens if we stayed, we headed off to the National Historic Site, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

As we walked toward the Visitor Centre at L’Anse aux Meadows we saw the first of what I believe will be many moose. It was at a distance but unmistakable. The Centre provides an excellent background to the discovery and determination that this site provided solid evidence for a European presence predating Columbus. I especially enjoyed the small museum housing reconstructed vessels, dioramas and of course, the key artifacts.

Heading outdoors once more, we followed a boardwalk through stunted trees that might well be 100s of years old to the earthmounds that cover the visible ruins of workshops and dwellings. Along the way, Parks Canada interpreters explained the site and activities represented and we ended in a rconstructed sod long house being entertained with song, verse and music by more Vikings, as well as provided with additional information. Some of our group were even so emboldened as to don some armor themselves.

The predicted rainy day was reduced to only a few spatters as we boarded the zodiacs to rejoin the Prince Albert II. The afternoon offered two lectures, as well as whale and dolphin watching from the bow as we headed through the Straits of Belle Isle and watched the sun setting on small villages and the coastal lighthouses coming to life for the night.

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