Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Theory of rear view mirrors

An oil industry supply boat arrives in port

This past Sunday Stan and I put-in in a small fishing village on the outskirts of St. John's and paddled into the harbour of St. John's. It was a short 20 minute paddle. I was more concerned with the wind and swell than with shipping traffic. Once we got into the Narrows (the narrow entrance to the harbour) we took our time and took photos.

We were in the harbour about 10 minutes or so when I noticed an oil production supply boat coming in as well. I wondered if it would have noticed us had we still been in the Narrows or how I would have reacted with it suddenly on my backdeck?

I could say I was looking for traffic but that wouldn't be true. I was stupid and forgot where I was. I should have been scanning the horizon to my left looking for traffic; if I had I would have been aware of it.

Kayaks don't come with rear view mirrors like cars so the next time I paddle there, or anyplace where boat traffic is possible, I'll be sure to keep my head on a pivot and use my eyes.

Tony :-)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Theory of cornerstones

This is the spot, the corner- stone of the British Empire

A cornerstone is the first stone set in a masonry foundation. The cornerstone is important as all other stones will be set in reference to it and therefore determining the position of the entire structure.

Fishermen from Europe had been coming to Newfoundland since it was rediscovered by John Cabot in 1497. Therefore, the name - newly found land. In 1583 Sir Humphrey Gilbert stepped ashore at this spot and claimed Newfoundland for England. Why it wasn't claimed before Sir Humphrey Gilbert made that bold step is anyone's guess. Maybe empire building wasn't the top of everyone's agenda until then. With that claim Newfoundland became the first British overseas possession and therefore the cornerstone of the British Empire.

When England had her finest hour in the words of Sir Winston Churchill we know it started here.

Newfoundland maintained Dominion status in the British Empire until it joined Canada in 1949. At that time Newfoundland gained a lot but also lost a lot. Instead of being master in her own house, she became one of 10 provinces and in the eyes of most Canadians, the province on the lowest end of the totem pole.

Today, Stan and myself put-in in Quidi Vidi, a small fishing village on the edge of St. John's and made for the harbour. A 20 minute paddle in lumpy seas and gusting winds and we were in with the big boys. Its an interesting perspective seeing the city from the water.

Oh, and there was no wharf in the harbour when Sir Humphrey Gilbert landed, nor did we need one today.

Tony :-)

The entrance to St. John's harbour known locally as "the Narrows". St. John's harbour is one of the most protected harbours on the east coast of North America. The entrance is very narrow which is what gives it its protection from the North Atlantic.

Stan and I were in the harbour with the big boys.

Stan with the monstrosity of Atlantic Place in the background. Buildings along the harbour used to be 3 or 4 stories high at the most. It was quaint. Its gone and you can't ever get it back. Out of the blue and into the black!

This is how St. John's looked before the massive buildings in the next picture were built. Everyone had a view of the harbour and it looks a bit more "old world". I prefer this view. People pushing development may say that development is progress. Well, so is the furniture you can buy today but why are antiques more expensive than new. Because they're not made anymore and there's limited availabilty. Once this view is gone, it'll be gone forever.

This side of the harbour is what you might call the cosmopolitan side of St. John's harbour. It looks like so many other cities of North America, all developed. Some people may say this is progress. I don't think so. It think it looks monsterous and it will be difficult to undo. This type of development is more suitable outside of the city core (downtown) because downtown can't cope with parking.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Theory of livin' in a fog

The village of Torbay in Nfld, hidden in a veil of fog, with a bit of ice to boot!

It was going to be a foggy day and I had a plan to paddle in Middle Cove to try for some pictures in what I thought might have been interesting light. I got to Middle Cove, Newfoundland but couldn't put-in as the cove was choked with ice. I tried at the nearby Torbay and the ice there wasn't pushed right up to the beach so after having a chat with a lady called Cathy, I put-in there.

The Avalon Peninsula gets the most fog of any region in Canada. The reason we're blessed with this "gift" *lol* is our proximity to both the warm Gulf Stream that flows up the eastern seaboard of North America and the cold Labrador Current that flows down from the Arctic past Labrador. When the warm and cold waters meet - fog.

We are used to it. One benefit of fog is that the winds are then usually calm. And so it was today. I was going to paddle close to the cliffs but for safety I had my compass just in case. I didn't need it because the ice was too thick to get thru further out the cove. So I contented myself with manoeuvering around the ice floes and through open leads. While I didn't paddle any great distance, it was great fun using hanging draws and bow rudders etc to get around. Good practice for rock hopping later this year.

Tony :-)

The ice was pretty thick towards where the wharf is in Torbay and also out in the bay

Pretty primordial, rock and ice

There was a lot of small ice but a few larger pans. This is ice that has drifted down the coast from northern Newfoundland where it had frozen over the past winter. A lot of the ice was not more than a metre thick.

Along one side of the shore the ice wasn't as bad. The water was glassy calm.

I ran the boat onto an ice pan to grab a bite to eat

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Theory of stress junkies

Ice breaking

The wind had come up slightly after I left the put-in and it had blown what ice there was in the harbour into the entrance. My first thought was to try and get thru it and into open water just beyond. I poked into it and thought the better of it.

Usually I'd have to prove to myself that I could get thru it if I wanted to but there was a boat offloading at the wharf and I considered how stupid I'd look to people working there if I got ice bound. And, why take a chance on spoiling what was a beautiful day on the water. I backed out and found less congested water until there was fully open water.

I have what is called a Type A personality. I don't have all the traits but I am impatient, time conscious, somewhat competitive and often incapable of relaxation. Type B personailites on the other hand are patient, relaxed and easygoing. Type A individuals are described as stress junkies.

I'm trying to hybridize myself to be a Type AB personality because stress is not good. Its hard though to break old habits. Kayaking should be a stress reliever, why get into situations where it causes stress? OK, so I'm learning, ever so slowly.

Tony :-)

The "industrial complex" at Long Pond in Conception Bay, Newfoundland. Whereas the harbour entrance was full of ice, the wind had freed the waters inside of ice. I'm not fond of scenes like this but the sun behind me made for pleasing light and tones of white and blue.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Theory of erratics

Erratics along the shoreline in Conception Bay, Newfound- land

Erratics are rocks that are foreign to the area where they rest. They are foreign because they have been transported by glaciers and dropped when the glaciers melted some 12,000 years ago. The Avalon Peninsula was heavily glaciated during the last ice age in the Pleistocene epoch. In the area of the Northeast Avalon the glaciers moved from the land radially out to the sea.

I don't know how far this erratic was moved but it wouldn't have been more than a few 10s of kilometers.

Its not only the rocks that are erratic. The weather is also somewhat erratic because this was my first spring paddle but felt more like winter. Two days ago, on the first full day of spring, we had somewhere about 25 cms of snow. Not that I was surprised as we can get snow here into May. It was a beautiful day but cool. On the way back to the put-in at Long Pond the wind came up a little out of the north-northeast. Not bad but enough to make my eyes water.

The calendar says its spring and I'll be damned, its going to be spring and I'm going to paddle, erratic or not.

Tony :-)

New icebreaker design by Necky Kayaks. Leaving Long Pond where fresh water running into the harbour has frozen over.

Still too cold for these guys to hit the water. They're still sitting home with their slippers on in front of the fireplace.

Seagulls, I'll let Newfoundland poet E.J. Pratt do the description:

"For one carved instant as they flew
The language had no simile -
Silver, crystal, ivory
Were tarnished. Etched upon the horizon blue"

Interesting paddling amoung erratics with Kelly's Island in the background.

Erratic strewn shoreline in Conception Bay, Newfoundland. This is typical shoreline in the places where houses haven't been built out to the shoreline.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Theory of consolation

Picking up trash at Trinny Cove, 7 June 2008 (Graham Openshaw photo)

I read Alison's blog post earlier, on the abstraction of nature. That is, as a society, we disconnect ourselves from and sacrifice nature for the almighty buck.

Yesterday, the first full day of spring, dropped a present of ~25 cms snow, freezing rain and wind on us.

I thought, hey, I can console myself on two fronts with a picture Graham took of the pile of trash we collected in Trinny Cove in June of last year.

Trinny Cove is a small cove open to the south in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, and because of its exposure, the prevailing southwesterly winds blow a lot of flotsam and jetsam onto the beach. Some of the garbage is innocent enough but a lot of it was just discarded without concern for where it would wash up. Four of us (and another group at another location) spent a day putting the garbage in bags for later pick up by the Department of Fisheries. I can't control what everyone else does but I can be responsible for myself and make a small contribution as I did that day. That's one down.

As far as the snow goes, the weather is oblivious to the calendar. We've decided spring begins when the sun crosses the vernal equinox but that's only an indication of the trend the weather will take. For me its more a day when I can start thinking about doing other non-winter things. The day we were at Trinny Cove was a beautiful day and I know more days like it are on the way this year. That's two!

I don't know if that's rationalization or consolation - take your pick. Either way I feel better.

Tony :-)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Theory of perversion

Stan enjoying a winter paddle in Holyrood, Newfound- land

Well, tomorrow spring starts and with it warmer weather and the start of paddling season proper. I look forward to it and the chance to build on paddling skills learned last year.

But, in a perverse kind of way, I'll miss paddling in the cold of winter. Its the only time of year when you can dress the same for both air and water temperature. This winter was my first time paddling in winter and I managed 7 outings over the season. I'll miss paddling in the cold but I'm content with moving on.

Like anything new, there's a learning curve until you get the hang of it. Here's what I learned about winter paddling that made it quite enjoyable:

  1. The hardest part is getting over the feeling of looking outside and thinking burrrrr.... Its not as bad as it looks once ya get out.
  2. Wear gloves and keep them on when getting ready for put-in or take-out. Ya don't want to start your paddle with cold hands.
  3. Wear neoprene mitts. The water that gets in them warms and keeps you hands warm.
  4. Stuff your neoprene mitts under your PFD when stopping for lunch to keep them warm for after the break
  5. Paddle where its possible to wash the salt off your gear "in the field" so you don't need to get out the hose at home.
Now, while spring starts tomorrow, there'll still be cool conditions for us into June. Oh yes, and the promise of icebergs.

Thanks Stan for the excellent company and winter paddles we did.

Tony :-)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Theory of balance

The Balance
Graeme Edge / Ray Thomas
A Question of Balance LP
The Moody Blues

After he had journeyed
And his feet were sore, he was tired
He came upon an orange grove and he rested
And he lay in the cool and while he rested,
he took to himself an orange and tasted it and it was good
And he felt the earth to his spine
and he asked
and he saw the tree above him and the stars and the veins in the leaf
and the light and the balance
and he saw magnificent perfection
Whereon, he thought of himself in balance and he knew he was

He thought of those he angered for he was not a violent man
And, he thought of those he hurt for he was not a cruel man
He thought of those he frightenedfor he was not an evil man
And he understood
He understood himself on this
He saw that when he was of anger or knew hurt or felt fear
it was because he was not understanding
And he learned compassion
and with his eye of compassion he saw his enemies like onto himself
He learned love
Then he was answered

Tony :-)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Theory of rose coloured glasses

Calvert's parlour? There was no one on site to ask but based on maps on the Colony of Avalon website, I think it is.

One thing the settlers who started the Colony of Avalon didn't have to bring with them from England was stone for building purposes. There's an abundance of it anywhere on the island of Newfoundland. A recreative painting of the waterfront shows a massive stone warehouse made of locally procured rocks.

Captain Wynne wrote very favourably of local conditions to Calvert in 1622. He described woods and plains in the thousands of acres well furnished with ponds, rivers, fish and caribou. Oats, wheat, barley and beans were planted and doing well as were vegetables growing in the kitchen garden. They had a meadow of 3 acres from which they harvested hay to feed the cattle.

The climate in the summertime was warm and winter lasted from mid-January to the end of March.

Today the winter starts usually well before the middle of January and summers are short. While the land does support agriculture, most people I think would agree with me in saying that the Ferryland and surroundings is not a choice area for farming.

Maybe 1622 was an unusual year or maybe he was seeing the world through rose coloured glasses. Or, maybe things weren't all that great in England at the time. I would have trouble comparing our weather as favourable to the climate of England. Certainly, in England they are able to football all year round but not here. The weather is a constant source of conversation and most involves complaining about it. I think its what you make of it and it doesn't hurt to see the world through rose coloured glasses, just like the colonists of Avalon almost 400 years ago.

Tony :-)

Newfoundland is affectionately known as "The Rock". It comes by this name honestly.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Theory of settlement

Looking into Ferryland from beyond the rocks at the entrance to the harbour

Today I had an enjoyable paddle from Calvert to Ferryland with the plan to visit the archaeoligic dig there. Always intended to visit the site and today I took the chance to visit it by boat.

Ferryland is the site of a colony founded by George Calvert in 1621. He picked a site on the eastern most edge of Newfoundland that is for all intents, open to the North Atlantic. Next stop, Ireland.

The colonists set about constructing buildings to settle in. It was thought there was a potential for a fishery plus production of other goods such as timber, salt, hemp, tar and iron. Reports from the colony spoke favourably of the climate as "being better and not so cold as England". By the middle of the decade there were about 100 people in the colony. But life was not easy for the colonists and in 1626 Arthur Aston, Gouvernor of Avalon at the time, returned to England with all the colonists.

In 1828 Calvert, then Lord Baltimore, sailed to Newfoundland with his wife and family and 40 more colonists. But he became disenchanted with the woeful conditions in the colony and in 1632 obtained a new charter form the king for a colony in Chesapeake Bay, the site of the modern City of Balitmore, which was named for him.

So, Lord Baltimore's association with the Colony of Avalon was over. But, there are maps of Ferryland dating from 1693 indicating settlement continued and there was in fact a French raid on the colony in 1696 when the archaeological history ends. The original colony was forgotten and lay undisturbed for centuries until Dr. James Tuck started digging there in the 1970's.

I got out to take some pictures and thought that visiting the site by kayak was fitting. The Colony of Avalon was settled by people who came in boats so today I have that in common with those 17th century adventurers.

Tony :-)

Excavations at the Colony of Avalon. I found it interesting that the original colonists set up shop here in this location when you can see that modern day inhabitants of Ferryland have decided to build further back. There was no one on duty today to charge me admission. Understandable as who would expect visitors in March?

The excavation goes right down to the water. This must be where the colonists constructed a sea-flushed privey.

Stop for lunch. The wind was forecast to be light from the west but on the way back from Ferryland it seemed to come from an easterly direction, which made for a bit of surf.

What's a winter paddle without a picture of icicles? There's been lots of rain this year that seems to have fed a lot of icicles.

End of the paddle, wash up in fresh water. At this time of year I look for take-outs where there's fresh water nearby so that I can wash up "in the field". I find it a lot easier than having to get the hose out home.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Theory of deception

Well, where are we today? At the beach?

Yes, we would be if we were here sometime around 1.0 billion years ago. This is a close-up of a bed of conglomerate of the Signal Hill formation which outcrops along the eastern edge of the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland.

There are a couple of things these rocks tell us. First the red staining is from the mineral hematite, an oxide of iron. This means the rocks were deposited in a shallow water environment because when sediments are deposited in deep water they cannot oxidize as there's no oxygen. Second, the larger cobbles and pebbles indicate that there must have been fast moving water because slow meandering water doesn't have the energy to transport rocks of this size. Third the cobbles and pebbles appear to be well rounded, therefore they have been worked a bit in transportation as the sharp edges have been worn off.

As it turns out, in sandstone (finer grained rocks) above and below this conglomerate show signs of crossbedding so we can determine that they were laid down in flowing water and we can tell the direction the water was moving in. It is likely that these rocks were deposited in a delta type area with rivers flowing into it. Something like the Mississippi River delta today.

You can't see this type of detail of course from a kayak but I still like to do a little research and know something about the geology of where I paddle. I find the geology just as interesting as the wildlife. And, you don't need to be a geologist to appreciate the geology. Just the few things I've noted in this blog entry may help you identify interesting things in the rocks where you stop for lunch etc.

Tony :-)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Theory of car making

On the ferry to Bell Island for a paddle with my current mode of automobile

I remember the woes of the oil embargo in the early 1970's (I think 1973) that forced Detroit to make smaller cars. After those difficulties passed they started making big vehicles again. They made large vehicles because that's what people wanted. Fast forward to 2008 when gasoline prices spiked in Newfoundland at around $1.50 / litre. Sales of big gas guzzlers tanked again and now the Big 3 of Detroit find themselves in trouble again.

I think the car manufacturing sector and government should have said to the populace, small cars are better for you and therefore big vehicles won't be available for purchase anymore. No fair? Well, government legislates all sorts of things for our own good don't they?

The drop in demand for big vehicles coupled with a downturn in the economy has put me in a position where, as a taxpayer, I'm going to become hopefully a shareholder in GM. Shareholder hopefully in the sense I hope they don't just give away the money.

But I have to assume some responsibility for the Big 3's problems. I did a quick calculation of what I've contributed to their demise. Since 1973, when I bought my first (used) vehicle, I've spent approximately $19,000 on automotive transportation. That doesn't include purchase of vehicles for my wife but strictly what I drove myself. That works out to a whopping $525 per year.

If you don't make it at a reasonable price, I won't buy it.

Tony :-)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Theory of continental drift

Plate tectonic map by C. R. Scotese, PALEOMAP project www.sco-

This is how the earth is thought to have looked like 514 million years ago. The Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland is positioned on the globe between "New England and Nova Scotia" and "England and Wales" where indicated on the map. Its more legible if you click to enlarge.

The Avalon Peninsula was part of what is known as "Avalonia". Its clear we've have drifted a considerable distance. In relation to todays world we were somewhere in the vicinity of South Africa. So, the rocks in the unconformity I posted in a blog entry last week were laid down in the southern ocean and through continental drift ended up in the North Atlantic.

The Avalon was part of Avalonia along with England, parts of Holland, Belgium and the Spanish peninsula and Morocco.

What is interesting to note is that Avalonia was part of a volcanic island arc something like Japan is today. The evidence for that is in the rocks of the Avalon Peninsula as the oldest rocks are of volcanic origin. The magma that fed those volcanoes is exposed on the surface now and is known as the Holyrood granite. Anyone driving along the Trans-Canada Highway between Butterpot Park and Holyrood can see the granite as pinkish outcrops.

Its hard to believe what interesting stories the rocks we paddle by can tell. I find it as interesting as the wildlife, scenery etc. Its all part of the same picture.

Tony :-)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Theory of light at the end of the tunnel

Pedestrian underpass under the 4 lane Outer Ring Road in St. John's, Newfound- land

Well, yesterday was March 1. For people who loath the winter, its the light at the end of the tunnel. A glimpse of spring on the horizon.

For me, I don't care if winter comes or goes. I'll take advantage of what it gives me. If it snows lots, I'll cross-country ski or snowshoe. If it gives no snow I'll skate on the frozen lakes or kayak.

How many people wish time away and live for the arrival of spring? Life is too short for that; I take it as it comes.

Tony :-)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Theory of unconformaties

Angular unconformity at Bacon Cove, Newfoundland between Precambrian and Cambrian sedimentary rocks representing a time gap of 10's of millions of year

An unconformity represents a time gap between two sets of geological formations. An angular unconformity occurs when the underlying beds are tilted from the horizontal, eroded for a period of time and new rocks are deposited on the eroded surface.

The beds underlying the conglomerate (coarse cobbles, pebbles and sand) layer are Conception group rocks that were laid down in the Precambrian. An exact age hasn't been determined because they do not contain fossils necessary to date them. They were laid down in a deep marine environment over a considerable period to reach a thickness of 7,000 feet. Uplifted, tilted, laid bare and eroded for 10's of millions of years, the sea eventually overtook the land and the Cambrian conglomerate was deposited. The Cambrian period began about 542 million years ago so that all happenned a considerable time ago.

What I find interesting is that over 542 million years ago there was sun shining on these rocks and what the would the world have looked like if I was able to stand here. There wouldn't have been any land vegetation or animals, just land and sea, waiting 542 million years for my visit.

Come to think of it, I have an unconformity in my life too. I completed a degree in geology in 1973, went on to make my living at something completely different and now have returned to something that was an interest many years ago.

Tony :-)

Close up of the Cambrian conglomerate. It looks like poorly poured cement. The large cobbles and pebbles indicates they were deposited rapidly in a shallow water or river estuary environment. I can surmise that because big rocks don't transport that far to deep water and because some are angular non-rounded. Rounding happens when the pebbles are worked by rolling so that the edges are worn off, and that takes time.