Friday, October 28, 2016

St John’s, eh

Entering St John's harbor
We didn’t arrive in this pretty city until noon, but we stayed until 8:00PM. Getting into the harbor is fun in that we came through the narrows where you could see the eyes of the birds nesting on the banks. St. John's is an interesting town with most everything built up the hills from the harbor, which is quite small; it is the capital and largest city in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. St. John's is also one of North America's oldest settlements. However, people didn’t begin living here year-round until sometime after 1630 but seasonal habitation can be traced back to between 1494 and 1545 (depending on whose records you read). The English fishermen who had seasonal camps in Newfoundland in the 16th Century were forbidden by the British government from creating permanent homes along the English controlled coast, which is the reason that St. John's was late in becoming a town.

Friday, October 21, 2016

At gå ind I Greenland

Sunrise on the North Atlantic Ocean, looking astern
Without a doubt my favorite day on board was when we cruised through Prins Christian Sund. The Sund is a 60 mile (100 km) long, sometimes only 1,600 foot (500 m) wide passage that connects the Irminger Sea with the Labrador Sea. This shortcut through the tip of Greenland is one of the most scenic places I’ve been. We awoke to a beautiful sunrise at about 5:30AM; at 6:30 the first foghorn sounded. I hoped that the fog would be gone by the time we got into the fjord at about 7:30 – 8:00. Sigh…supposedly there were whales we should be able to see at the mouth of the fjord. The fog in this area is fairly common because we have moved from over the relatively warm Gulf Stream to over the cold arctic current. At just about 7:30 the fog lifted and we had a gorgeous day of cruising. What greeted us were sheer cliffs of rocks that had been deformed by volcanic activity, erosion and intense metamorphism, during and after which they had been unceremoniously pushed down by the weight of a huge ice sheet that covers most of Greenland. The land is slowly rising because the ice sheet is shrinking due to global climate change. This long fjord system is mostly surrounded by steep

Friday, October 14, 2016

Finna leið okkar í Iceland

Coming into Iceland
The Republic of Iceland is a sparsely settled (about 9 people per square mile) island that just touches the Arctic Circle and it was one of the places I always wanted to visit. If you put Hawaii and Yellowstone in a sack, shook them up and dumped them out, you’d have the countryside of Iceland (without the palm trees). There are volcanoes, black beaches, geysers and other geothermal features. Differing from these two places are the glaciers that formed valleys and that persist over 5,000 square miles of the island’s interior.  Because of all of the geothermal energy almost all of the energy used is from this renewable resource; it also allows production gardening in greenhouses. Within these greenhouses are enough banana trees to make Iceland the largest supplier of bananas to Europe. However, since its founding in 874 by Ingólfr Arnarson, most of the economy was based on fishing and agriculture; now one of the biggest money-makers is tourism, even though this is an expensive place to visit. Islandic culture has its roots in Scandinavian and Germanic heritage, which isn’t surprising since most Icelanders are descendants from these groups. What’s interesting is how people are named: usually a person’s last name signifies the first name of the father or in some cases the mother. This is a hereditary tradition that is distinctly different from that of Europe. If a man is named John Smith and has a son named George and a daughter named Mary, their last names will not be Smith. They will be George Johnson for the boy and Mary Johndaughter for the girl. It works in the same manner if the children are given the mother’s name. So Sally Jones’s children would be George Sallyson and Mary Sallydaughter. Iceland became a sovereign country under the Crown of Denmark, the Kingdom of Iceland on December 1, 1918; in 1944 Iceland became a republic with a president as the head of government. Chilly and windy, all three towns we visited in Iceland reminded us a great deal of Tasmania and of Scotland.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Se seg omkring Bergen

Town on a fjord
When you last saw the Near-Normal travelers, we’d been lost in Denmark. We left Copenhagen on the cruise ship MS Zuiderdam – another adventure in transportation that I’ll have more to say about as this saga continues. Our cruise took us to Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, and back to the US. Our first stop was in Norway.