|September 21th, 2002 - L'Anse
Aux Meadows, St. Anthony
This was one of my favorite stops of the
trip. The "living museum" nature of the Viking
sodhouses was fascinating and romantic. Of course, I also
got a sense of the hardships of life for the Vikings who
were there 1000 years ago, but still, walking into those
sodhouses today felt like walking into the pages of a
Our original plan was to moor near L'Anse Aux Meadows, on the north tip of Newfoundland, but unexpected bad weather sprung up, making it too dangerous for the Zodiac rafts to land safely, so our expedition leaders decided on an alternate plan: The Polar Star would reverse course and head for a sheltered cove on the southern edge of a local peninsula, and we'd disembark at St. Anthony (pronounced "Snat Nee"), and then take a bus to L'Anse Aux Meadows. Here's a picture of the rough seas, with the rusting hulk of a wreck in the distance. It was a good reminder that we didn't want to end up like they did!
The main purpose of the L'Anse Aux Meadows site is to preserve and study the ruins of a Viking village that stood there a thousand years ago. These days, all that can really be seen of it are some grassy mounds showing the outlines of various buildings. Our guides though were happy to take us around each spot at the site, and describe its significance.
Of much more romantic interest, was the
rebuilt Viking settlement here, where some buildings were
painstakingly crafted to original Viking specifications,
up to and including having people inside dressed in
Viking attire, cooking and weaving and offering us a
place by the hearth, while they would chat with us about
There were *some* differences between
original and modern Viking living though. In the original
buildings, heating and ventilation were always a problem,
so the buildings would usually be filled with smoke,
resulting in most of the Vikings there dying young
(average life expectancy was about 35!). These days,
there was a carefully camouflaged gas burner keeping the
fire live, and when I looked closely, I could see a fire
extinguisher or two being hidden among the furs!
I really liked the feel of the settlement
though. Stepping into one of the buildings, felt like
stepping into the pages of a romance novel. Good-looking
long-haired Vikings, tempting furs, a warm fire... I wish
I could have stayed there longer! <grin>
The Meeting of Two Worlds
As I show my pictures around to my friends, images of this particular sculpture tend to evoke the most, "Wow, what's *that*???" reactions. Everyone seems to see something different. Some just find it aesthetically pleasing, without seeing anything in particular. Others see the wings of an angel, or a magnificent piece of driftwood, or (like me) towering white-capped waves, and so on. What this is, is a sculpture called "The Meeting of Two Worlds," which was specially commissioned for this UNESCO site near the Viking villages. Just recently unveiled in July 2002, it was created in two parts, by two different sculptors: One a Newfoundland immigrant named Luben Boykov, and one a Swedish sculptor named Richard Brixel. It's meant to symbolize the course of human migration, going all the way back to the origin of our species in the Old World of what is now Africa, Europe and Asia. Many thousands of years ago, our ancestors migrated eastward across Asia, some even across what is now called the Bering Strait, to the Americas. Then they gradually moved and settled southward across North and South America. They populated those continents with pretty much separate cultures from what was left behind in the "Old World," until one thousand years ago, when Vikings such as Eric the Red sailed west over the Atlantic, to meet their long-lost millenial cousins in North America. So this sculpture represents that meeting of those two separated and then reunited worlds. For more information about it, you may wish to read the information at the Parks Canada site.
And as if all the above wasn't enough for one day, we then went out to Norstead, which was a re-creation of what a Viking port might have looked like. There were several buildings, and many more locals in traditional outfits who were demonstrating various old crafts.
I was particularly interested in the demonstration of yarn-spinning. I'd read about it, but had never yet had the opportunity to see the process with my own eyes. I *am* in possession of a traditional wooden spinning wheel from my mother though, and I guess I have delusions of actually using it someday!
The day capped off with a definite Viking theme! Here's Laurie Dexter, our expedition leader, picking us up in a Zodiac raft while wearing his "faux-Viking" headgear. And then later that night, *many* of the passengers and crew got into the spirit, so it was "Vikings, Vikings, everywhere!"