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In Search Of The Royal Wreck

In 1860 the Prince of Wales, future King of England, travelled along the Ottawa River aboard the steamship “Ann Sisson”. It was lost beneath the waves in 1871.

This is the search to find it…

THE LOST STEAMSHIP

The year was 1860 and Ottawa had recently been selected by Queen Victoria as the permanent capital of the Province of Canada, yet the Queen would never visit Canada as it was said she despised traveling on water due to seasickness. Instead, she sent her son, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) in her place to make the first official royal visit to Canada in 1860.

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King Edward VII who travelled to Ottawa to lay the cornerstone for Ottawa’s Parliament Buildings. (image: Wikipedia)

The eighteen year old Prince would visit Newfoundland, the Maritimes and the Province of Canada (later Ontario and Québec) and open the Victoria Bridge between the Island of Montréal and the south shore of the St Lawrence River. Under full Masonic ceremony, the future Grand Master of the Freemasons United Grand Lodge of England, would also laid the cornerstone for our grand Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. (More on that event in a previous column here)

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The original cornerstone of Ottawa’s Parliament Buildings as laid by the future King in 1860.

After a whirlwind tour of Ottawa with residents and businesses giving Edward the “Royal Treatment”, the future King boarded the 139 foot side-wheeler steamship Anne Sisson in Aylmer to tour the young prince up the Ottawa River. This steamship was outfitted for the royal journey, its usual lumber ship duties altered when passenger accommodations were added. Owned by Brewster & Mulholland, from Montreal, they outfitted the ship for the Prince and his entourage to venture north on the river.

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The 139 foot side-wheeler steamship Ann Sisson that carried the Prince OF Wales on his journey up the Ottawa River. (Sketch By Author) 

The Prince left Aylmer and steamed away in the royally appointed ship and as  evening approached, the royal party decided to stay overnight in Quyon, Quebec. The next day she docked in Pontiac and boarded a horse railway there to take Edward on the remainder of his Ottawa Valley Tour. (The remains of that railway were discovered in a previous column here) The royal steam ship then returned to its duties as a lumber steamer, later strengthened, then became a passenger steamer in 1863 transporting passengers between Aylmer/Ottawa and Pontiac under the Union Forwarding and Railway Company. Records show in 1871 the once regal ship was stripped and abandoned in the Ottawa River, its location unknown.

 

Anne Sison-docked at Pontiac, Qc-Credit: Library and Archives Canada

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The Ann Sisson as it appeared at the transfer dock in Pontiac, Qc. (top) and the exact same location as it looks today. Note the horse railway at top right in original photo.

So where is the Royal Wreck? Having been lost for 147 years would there even be anything left of this river steamship? I became intrigued with finding this important piece of Ottawa history and began a quest to find this lost ship.

A quick Google search revealed I was not the only one who was interested in finding the old ship, a Britannia resident by the name of Mike Kaulbars wrote extensively about her on his blog “Britannia: A History”. His research deduced that the ship was abandoned somewhere in the vicinity of Britannia Beach. I contacted Mike and began to collect research materials that would hopefully lead us to our shipwreck.

PROLOGUE 

Ottawa in 1857 was quite different than what we enjoy today, a backwoods encampment of lumber men, canal labourers and military personnel. The streets were dusty dirt paths, the majority of the land still being swamp and forest. The main mode of transportation was by boat, using steamships to carry both goods and passengers along the Ottawa River from Montreal, and then either south through the Rideau Canal system to Kingston, or northbound on the Ottawa River to Chats Falls where a portage railway would meet up with another steamship to carry goods and people further north on the river to Arnprior, Renfrew, and eventually on to Pembroke.

The steamship of choice for the Ottawa River journey were side-wheelers that had a somewhat flat bottom and shallower draught than other steamships of the era. Powered by low pressure, single cylinder steam engines fueled by the plentiful wood supply that grew along the banks of the Ottawa River.

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A steamship similar in size and design to the Ann Sisson, a common design of the mid 19th century…wooden hull, side wheels, central steam engine.

Passengers in the mid 1800ʼs wanting to travel up the Ottawa River would board these steamships in Aylmer, usually departing the busy wharf in the morning and arriving at Chats Falls/Pontiac four hours later around 11am. the Aylmer wharf was also the site of a busy ship building industry that constructed many of the Ottawa River steamships. All that is left of this once busy port are some stone ruins around the Aylmer beach and its marina.

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This is the old Union Forwarding office in Aylmer near the current marina that would have managed all the steamship traffic on the Ottawa River from Aylmer to Pontiac, including our ship, the Ann Sisson. (Photo: author)

It was one of the steamships, our Ann Sisson, that was built in Aylmer and that plied the waters of the Ottawa River taking passengers and lumber back and forth between Pontiac and Aylmer. According to the book “A Foregone Fleet: A Pictorial History Of Steam-Driven Paddleboats on the Ottawa River” by Andrew E. Lamarinde and Gilles L. Seguin, the Anne Sisson was built in 1857.  This ship had a wooden hull braced internally with a series of built-up longitudinal timbers, and the massive iron steam engine weighed 108 metric tons. The keel of the ship had to be strengthened to prevent the engine from breaking through the bottom of the hull.  Iron fasteners would hold wooden planks running longitudinally. 

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Info card on Ann Sisson as displayed at the Symmes Inn Museum in Aylmer.

When the Prince Of Wales arrived in Ottawa for his grand tour of North America, Ann Sisson was only three years old, so it would have been a fairly robust new ship to travel on. Preparations were made for the royal entourage, including cabin appointments for the four hour journey to Quyon, where the royal party made a surprise stay at the only inn in the village, with plates and cutlery being borrowed from residents to accommodate the unscheduled royal visit.

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Steamship travel up the Ottawa River aboard one of the 19th century steamships. Note the Gatineau Hills in the background. (photo: Symmes Inn Museum)

After the departure of Prince Edward Albert and the royal hoopla surrounding his visit, Ann Sisson was further strengthened and continued its work as a lumber vessel hauling timber back and forth until 1863 when it became a full time passenger steamer captained by Denis Murphy. Murphy would later form a partnership in the D. Murphy and Company, which mainly transported lumber and coal on the Ottawa River and Rideau Canal. In 1902 Murphy would represent the riding of Ottawa in the Legislative Assembly Of Ontario as a Conservative member until 1904.

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A newspaper ad that shows the Ann Sisson as a first class steamer piloted by Captain Murphy in 1868.

Having fulfilled its duties on the Ottawa River, records show that Ann Sisson was then unceremoniously stripped of all its valuable hardware and components, abandoned, and burned, left to sink somewhere in the very waters that once carried the future King Of England. If anything remains at all of this 139 foot steamship, it likely would not be much, with both the ravages of a fire and time reducing its chances of survival in any recognizable form.

THE SEARCH 

Mike Kaulbars and his research on the whereabouts of the Ann Sisson lead to a mention in “The Carleton Saga”, a book by Harry and Olive Walker, where it was said a lighthouse keeper at Britannia by the name of Robert Winthrop, navigated in a boat around what he said was the wreck of a “famous boat of the Ottawa Valley fleet, the Ann Sissons”.

The ship was apparently beached and burned near the lighthouse. Kaulbars also uncovered information that a wreck was found in Britannia waters during the summer of 1962, but it was misidentified as the steamship Albert, which was almost identical to the Ann Sisson in both construction and size. Yet that ship, Albert, was recorded to be dissembled in Quyon in 1917, so it could not be in Britannia Bay. Kaulbars later found out it was indeed identified as the Anne Sisson, but no further information on its location could be determined.

So it seems our search leads us to Britannia Bay, just west of downtown Ottawa. Could any evidence of a nearly two hundred year old wooden steamship that burned and sank into the waters off Britannia even remain? It was time to find out.

RESEARCH 

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A closeup of what appears to be the hull of a ship as spotted on GeoOttawa.

One of the greatest resources I use for my research in historical studies is the amazing “Geo Ottawa” map program provided online by the City Of Ottawa. Using aerial photographs from 1928 onwards, it can give an accurate representation of what the city looked like from the air over the years. Using this, I was able to find the earliest aerial photo for the Britannia region, which happened to be 1958. Scanning this old aerial photograph, I noticed a curious  looking shape under the waves. Zooming in on the shadowy shape offshore, it looked remarkably like the outline of a ship.

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Using the scale of the map and comparing the its size to the approximate 140 foot length of the Ann Sisson, it seemed to be a perfect match. Overlaying that 1958 position with a current 2018 aerial map did not show any evidence that the shipwreck was still there, so I decided that an exploration in person was necessary to see if anything remains today.

Locking in the GPS coordinates of where the wreck was supposed to be, I also  downloaded an app on my cell phone that tracks the users GPS position and displays the coordinates so you can walk around to your desired position. Except this location was in the water, and could not be easily walked to.

THE DISCOVERY

In order to successfully locate and identify a shipwreck of this type it would require the assistance of experts in this field, people that could properly analyze and confirm what, if anything, was found lying in the river. Two such experts are Ben Mortimer and Nadine Kopp, both archeologists with the Paterson Group, an archaeological consulting service in the Ottawa area. Kopp’s specialty is “underwater archeology” so her knowledge about 19th century ships and marine construction would provide a welcome set of skills to hopefully identify any remains of the Ann Sisson. 

With our search team assembled, we headed out to the old cottage village of Belltown that straddles Britannia Bay and headed to the shoreline. Knowing we’d be searching underwater we brought the appropriate equipment to try and locate the wreck and possibly record its remains. 

What would be left, if anything? This ship was from the era of the American Civil War, and wrecks from that era are still being found intact, so I kept positive that something would be visible. Wading deeper and deeper into the river and farther from shore with cell phone GPS coordinates flashing before me, something caught our eye in the dark and murky waters: a sand covered square timber. 

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The submerged remains of the 1800s steamship Ann Sisson as found in Britannia Bay. 

With much of the bottom of the Ottawa River being strewn with old lumber from its days as a conduit for timber rafts, I thought it was probably an old log. Yet following the squared timber it lead to other squared timbers, iron fasteners, hull planking, and the tell tale pieces of a ship. 

Kopp quickly examined the wooden planks and hull pieces strewn about and assessed that these were indeed the remains of a ship. Further study showed the remains were that of a mid 1800’s ship, evidence being in the construction techniques visible in the wreck. 

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The iron fasteners and wooden components of the 1800s steamship hull, quietly beneath the waves of the Ottawa River for almost 150 years.

Lying underwater, out of view hidden for decades, the ship’s charred wood revealed its fate of being burned and left to sink into the sand. The old paddle wheeler lies concealed by the shifting sands of time and waves of the Great River. A sad end, for a once important steamship.

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Wooden planking of the steamship lying on the sandy bottom of the river. 

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An iron truss support piece, possibly for added support in the Ann Sisson for its extra-heavy steam engine. 

We documented the ship as best as we could, making sure not to disturb it in hopes that a proper archeological study will later be done. Kopp explained that without definitive proof, it is not possible to confirm that what we found was the Ann Sisson. Cross referencing the construction of the wreck with blueprints would verify it, but those blueprints may be impossible to find. In the meantime, it is a shipwreck of mid-1800s design and construction, lying at the bottom of Britannia Bay where it was reported the Ann Sisson was laid to rest. This sunken vessel remains hidden under the waves until a proper archeological assessment can be completed and its identity can finally be confirmed. In the meantime, what could be a very important piece of Ottawa history has remained underwater for so very long, and I would love to see the remnants of this 19th century steamship be recovered and put in a museum. Perhaps the City Of Ottawa, the Bytown Museum or even the federal government will now step in and preserve what’s left of this Royal Wreck, a reminder of time when the river was our original highway.

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Ann Sisson. An Ottawa River steamship circa 1860. 

The Ann Sisson’s story and its remains should be displayed for all to enjoy,  allowing others to experience a connection to such an important piece of our city’s, and our country’s history. 

Andrew King

August 2018

SOURCES

GeoOttawa

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_VII

Symmes Inn Museum

Library and Archives Ottawa

    

 

The McIntosh Tree: From Apples to Computers, The Legacy Of A Lone Tree South Of Ottawa

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The Macintosh Apple from Dundela, On, one hour south of Ottawa, was the favourite apple of Apple employee Jef Raskin, who named his 1984 computer after the crisp apple. (wikipedia)

In 1984, Apple launched the Macintosh, the first personal computer to be sold that featured an integral graphical user interface and mouse. It was a turning point for Apple Inc. that would later develop the popular iPhone that so many of us use today. The Macintosh helped launch Apple’s success, and that name has its roots, literally in a small town south of Ottawa. Within the woods of Dundela is where the McInstosh apple was first discovered in the early 1800s that would later become Apple computer designer Jef Raskin’s favourite apple. The Macintosh would grow to be one of the world’s most recognized computers, and a legal dispute resulted in the apple name being spelled “Macintosh” instead of “McIntosh”.

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Steve Jobs and the 1984 Macintosh Computer.

Back in 1811, John McIntosh, a transplanted American from New York discovered an apple sapling on his farmland about an hour south of Ottawa. While clearing the overgrown plot of land, McIntosh discovered some wild apple seedlings on his farm. He transplanted the seedlings next to his house. One of the seedlings bore particularly good fruit and his son, Allan, learned about grafting tress and began cloning apples so the McIntoshes could maintain the distinctive properties of the fruit from the original tree.

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Farmer Macintosh, standing next to the original Mac tree, circa 1900.

The “McIntosh Red” entered commercial production in 1870 and the apple became widely popular after 1900. Sadly, a fire damaged the original McIntosh tree in 1894 and it last produced fruit in 1908, then died and collapsed in 1910. The original tree discovered by John McIntosh bore fruit for more than ninety years, and horticulturalists from Upper Canada Village Heritage park saved cuttings from the last known first-generation McIntosh graft before it died, and have produced clones that now grow in a fenced garden in their heritage park.

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This small marker indicates where the first Macintosh apple tree grew, spawning a history of crisp tasty apples, and computers. (Google Streetview)

Now 207 years old, the McIntosh apple still has highly desirable taste, texture, aroma, and appearance, and is also suited for growing in this country’s cold climate. Hybrids, such as the Cortland, Empire, Lobo and Spartan, were all derived from this original tree.

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This map indicates the general location of the first Macintosh Apple tree. (Google Maps)

It’s popularity as an apple certainly resonated with Apple Inc. employee Jef Raskin, who in the late 1970s envisioned an easy-to-use, low-cost computer for the average consumer. It would be a few years later that the “Macintosh” or “Mac” computer was introduced in January 1984 named after his favourite fruit…the Macintosh apple. It came bundled with two applications, MacWrite and MacPaint, and later MacOffice. So that old apple tree south of Ottawa is responsible for not only years of being the product of pies and school lunchboxes, but also the current iMac desktop computers and laptops, the MacBooks.

Next time you take a bite of one of those fresh McInstosh apples this fall season, remember its literal roots south of town, and the computers it spawned.

Andrew King, September 2018

SOURCES:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McIntosh_(apple)

http://history-computer.com/ModernComputer/Personal/Macintosh.html

Google Maps

 

Library document reveals Canada’s first Prime Minister was a member of the Knights Templar

The title of “Sir” was bestowed upon Prime Minister John A. Macdonald on the morning of July 1, 1867, Dominion Day, in Ottawa. It is common for most Canadians to refer to our first Prime Minister as “Sir John A”, but the knighthood that made Macdonald Knight Commander in 1867 was not his first ascension to an order of knights. A document in the Ottawa archives shows he was appointed a member of the Knights Templar 13 years earlier.

THE TEMPLARS IN CANADA

Macdonald’s family immigrated to Kingston, Ontario in 1820 from Scotland, where John Alexander would later begin his practice as a lawyer. Twenty years earlier in the same town, according to the 1890 document “History Of Knights Templar In Canada” by J. Ross Robertson, the first encampment of Templars in Canada began.

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From the “History Of Knights Templar In Canada” detailing how the ancient order of Knights Templar began in Kingston, On.

This Encampment was known as “No.1 or St. John’s in the Town of Kingston”, and met in the house of Sir George Millward, known by the sign of the Old King’s Head. This Templar encampment was also known as St. John’s Encampment No.1.

Macdonald would enter politics at a municipal level, serving as alderman in Kingston from 1843–46. He took an increasingly active part in Conservative politics and by 1844 (at age 29) was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Province Of Canada to represent Kingston. A year later he was made a Royal Arch Mason.

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Sir John A. Macdonald’s Royal Arch Mason Certificate from 1845. ITNOTGAOTU is an acronym for “In The Name Of The Great Architect Of The Universe” (Library and Archives Canada)

Ten years later Macdonald became a member of the Knights Templar. How do we know this is true?

In Ottawa, within the Library and Archives Of Canada, there lies a document “e008303514-v6” that looks to be Sir John A. Macdonald’s registration certificate with the Masonic Knights Templar, dated June 15th 1854.

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Dated June 15th 1854, Canada’s First Prime Minister’s certificate as a member of the ancient order of the Knights Templar. (Library and Archives Canada)

Written in brush script are the words:

“This is to certify that Companion John Alexander Macdonald of the Royal Arch Chapter 491 meeting in Kingston in Canada West and called The Ancient Frontenac Chapter and who was installed on the 10th day of April AL 5858 a Knight Companion of the Order of Masonic Knights Templar in the Hugh de Payens Encampment meeting in Kingston…”

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Hugues de Payens was the co-founder and first Grand Master of the Knights Templar in 1118 AD.

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Hugh de Payan, left, co-founder and first Grand Master of the Knights Templar in Jerusalem. (Wikipedia)

It seems the Templars were alive and well operating their first encampment in Kingston, and Macdonald became a Knight of the Order 13 years before he would be given his official title of “Sir” as Prime Minister of Canada.

THE TEMPLAR PRIME MINISTER

So what did our first Prime Minister, being a member of the Knights Templar, mean for Canada? Well, one could speculate that a large network of Templars and members of the related Masonic order were working together to shape this country. The founding fathers did the same in the United States. Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and James Munroe were all part of the Masonic order shaping America to their doctrine.

In Canada it was no different, Sir John A Macdonald, and the Fathers Of Confederation were part of this secret society, including the second Prime Minister, Sir John Abbott. There were thirty-seven men called the “Fathers Of Confederation” that shaped this country as we know it. Eleven of these men were Freemasons.

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11 of the 37 Fathers Of Confederation were Freemasons or Templars.

Hewitt Bernard, Sir Alexander Campbell, Sir Frederick Bowker Terrington Carter, Edward Barron Chandler, Alexander Tilloch Galt, John Hamilton Gray, Thomas Haviland, William Alexander Henry, William Henry Pope, Sir Leonard Tilley, and Sir John A. Macdonald. Whether by coincidence or planning, almost a third of Canada’s Confederation Fathers were part of this ancient order.

 

 

The capital of Canada, OTTAWA, was not only being governed by the Knights Templar and Freemasons, but it was also being built according to their ideals and symbology, hidden in the architecture that we see today. (More on that in a previous post HERE)

Many of Ottawa’s parliamentary buildings built during the time of Confederation were designed with a Templar and Masonic theme, with Dominion Architect Thomas Fuller, also being a member of the Masonic Templars. There was no escaping it.

Proof of our first Prime Minister being a Templar Knight is not only in the the document within the archive building, but it can also be seen in Kingston, where it all began.

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Behind the windowless lodge of the Kingston Masonic Temple, in a glass case there lies Macdonald’s gilded apron and gauntlets, along with his regalia as Past Grand Senior Warden of the ancient order.

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Further proof of Macdonald’s Templar past lies behind a glass case.

It is not known how many current members of parliament are members of this ancient order, but I’m sure they are some still operating as they have been for centuries, Knights Of The Political Round Tables of this country…

Andrew King September 2018

SOURCES

http://www.hamiltonvalleyscottishrite.com/Miscellaneous/Blogs/April-2018/Sir-John-A-MacDonald-a-k-a-R-W-Bro-John-A-Mac-(1)

https://books.google.ca/books?id=NAQBAAAAYAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Library and Archives Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE CODEX: An amazing 17th century illustrated manuscript documenting early Canada lies in an Oklahoma museum

In Tulsa, Oklahoma there is a museum that lies on the outskirts of town, and unbeknownst to many, it houses the world’s largest, most comprehensive collection of art of the American West.  Also within its collection is a book that one Thomas Gilcrease purchased from a bookseller in London, England back in 1949. The book turned out to be a rare, illustrated manuscript depicting life in New France in the 1600s as sketched by a French Jesuit by the name of Louis Nicolas on this travels throughout New France in the late 1600s. This fascinating manuscript over three centuries old remains in the Gilcrease Museum, and is one of its oldest documents. It is called the CODEX CANADENSIS.

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The inside of the book cover depicts a map of early Canada circa late 1600s. 

The book contains 180 drawings that depict indigenous people of North America as well as the animals, birds and plants of New France in the late 17th century. These original drawings were sketched on parchment with brown ink and watercolour.

Such documentation of what Canada was like in the 1600s with pictorial representations are extremely rare, which makes the Codex canadensis an invaluable record of that time period in Canadian history. It is interesting that this significant artifact is not in a Canadian museum.

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An interesting depiction of native sailing vessels, which you normally never hear about. 

The Codex is an incredible compendium of indigenous life, with its sketches representing many different communities, from Algonquin to Iroquois, their dress, watercraft, cabins, and body decorations all wonderfully represented through Nicolas’ sketches. It is completely mind-blowing to know that such a record of this period exists.

I visited the Gilcrease Museum’s online resources, and the Library and Archives Canada, which has a digitized version of the Codex here. Oddly, all the images online are out of focus, low resolution images. However, if you manipulate the website address of each image by replacing the image number in the address bar with an X, you will get a high resolution version that allows a closer examination. I have done this to a select group of its pages, and I present these here for you to examine. Enjoy this amazing glimpse back in time!

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A sun diagram, with a native sowing seeds.

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Native fishing practices.

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Sailing canoe!

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ummmmm. I guess we had unicorns in the 17th century here in Canada?

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It is interesting to note that on all the images of the native people, there is a “cross” symbol marked on their heads…what would this be a representation of? The Jesuit cross? An indigenous symbol?

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There’s even a drawing of Jacques Cartier’s ship that arrived in 1534!

 

Andrew King

August 2018

 

SOURCES:

The Gilcrease Museum

Library and Archives Canada

QUEST FOR THE CAIRN

Cairns are an interesting form of marking a special place. The word cairn comes from the Scottish Gaelic word, “càrn”, and have been used for a variety of purposes from prehistoric times.

In Prince Edward County, known for its blossoming vineyards, there is a winery called “Chadsey’s Cairns” named after Ira Chadsey, a late 19th century farmer who built stone cairns at the back of the property claiming they would guide him home in the afterlife when he returned as a white horse. The stone cairns were more likely fence posts of field rubble, piled there by Ira clearing his fields, but the story is a legend in the County.

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Chadsey’s stone cairn. (image: ByChadseysCairns.com)

There is another cairn in the County with an equally interesting legend, that of a cairn being erected on the highest point in all the land. On a beautiful, sunny June day I thought it would be fun to try and find this cairn that marks the “Peak Of The County”.

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A modern topographic map shows the “high” area in white.

Apparently located in Ameliasburgh Township on the west side of the island, our first stop was the Ameliasburgh Heritage Museum to look for clues. An amazing museum that recreates 19th century County life, many historic buildings from around the County were moved here, which you can enter and visualize what early life must have been like in the County.

Not finding much, I checked Google to see what kind of topographic map I could find that may show the highest point in PEC. A map from what looks to be from the 1950s shows the topography of the county and there on the map was the typical “pyramid” symbol that denotes some kind of survey marker.

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A “pyramid” symbol denotes a high elevation marker on this old topographic map of the County.

That pyramid likely marks the spot where a geodetic survey marker was placed, called a “horizontal control point” indicating the highest elevation in an area, this case being Prince Edward County.

Noting the location, just south of Ameliasburgh, we headed in that direction visually scouting the land looking for what could be the highest point. Guessing one side of the hill near Salem and Whitney roads, we scoured the scrub brush and scanning the overgrown field, an obelisk was soon visible. We had found the cairn.

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Standing about 4 feet high, the concrete obelisk has now been consumed by nature, overgrown, and hidden from view. Unless you knew of it, it would be lost in time forever, sitting like a quiet sentinel on a windswept peak of Prince Edward County. Likely erected when the survey maps data was compiled in 1927, this almost one hundred year old cairn remains intact, yet concealed by the bushes that surround it.

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Likely built in the 1920s to mark the high elevation point, the concrete obelisk is quietly hidden in the overgrown hilltop south of Ameliasburgh.

However, a quick fact check as to whether this really was the highest point in the County showed that it was not, as it is noted to be at 122m elevation, but another pyramid on the map near Glenora showed an elevation of 156m!

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This area near Glenora looks to be the HIGHEST point in the County, but if there is a cairn there, it is inaccessible by road.

Checking the old topographic map there is indeed another pyramid symbol near Glenora, but that cairn, if there, is in a completely inaccessible area. Perhaps another adventure for another day.

Andrew King, June 2018

TRAPPED IN TIME: Chemical freighter ship runs aground on remains of a submerged town

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“Chem Norma” trapped on submerged 1800s ruins in the St. Lawrence River (Photo credit: @SeawayNNY: Suzy Austin)

The Saint Lawrence Seaway, that opened for marine traffic in 1959, is a system of canals and locks that allows oceangoing vessels to travel from the Atlantic Ocean, down the St. Lawrence River and into the Great Lakes.

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Listing to one side aground on the ruins of an old submerged village. (Image @SeawayNNY:Suzy Austin)

There is a currently a 145metre oil/chemical tanker that has run aground off the town of Morrisburg south of Ottawa, and it is still stuck there. What is trapping the vessel turns out to be the submerged ruins of an 1800s lock system, part of the now submerged ruins of a flooded village.

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Trapped on the ruins of the old lock submerged below. (photo credit: @SeawayNNY: Suzy Austin)

In the 1950s in order to necessitate the building of the St. Lawrence Seaway, over 80 homes were moved and the entire downtown business district of Morrisburg was demolished and relocated to a shopping plaza. The CN railway line was moved 1.1 kilometers north of its original location. Countless historic buildings and other heritage artifacts were moved and assembled to create Upper Canada Village, a theme park tribute to the area’s first pioneers.

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Current Google Map of Morrisburg, submerged portion of the village is shown in darker blue.

So how do we know if it has hit part of the old submerged village? We go to the maps.

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I took a screen grab of the aground freighter’s position on Marine Traffic App, “The Chem Norma” is registered from the Marshall Is.

Then using that app map, we can overlay it on a current google map…to match it up where it is exactly.

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Then taking a pre-flooded aerial view of the town of Morrisburg, (it was partially flooded out for the St.Lawrence Seaway Project Of The 1950s) we can see what used to be there…

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…and what used to be there was a massive OLD 1800s lock system and docks that serviced the old town of Morrisburg. It now lies submerged off the current shoreline, LOCK 23….and this is what the freighter has hit and is stuck on.

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So there you have it, a modern day freighter ship trapped on the submerged remains of an old town and its locks, lying in the watery depths below.

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Here is a photo of what the freighter has run aground on, before it got flooded. (image: Morrisburgdivesites.wordpress.com)

It seems history has come back from the depths to take hold of a modern ship.

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With thanks to @SeawayNNY and https://morrisburgdivesites.files.wordpress.com/

Andrew King June 2018

 

 

 

 

OAK ISLAND IN AN ACORN SHELL

Much has been written, explored and theorized about Oak Island, a modest sized island in Mahone Bay, about an hour;s drive from Halifax, Nova Scotia. The word “mahone” can be traced back to early 18th century settlers in the region, but the world can also be seen as a derivative of the French word “mahonne”, which is a type of ship. In Spanish, “Mahon” is a harbour port, oddly what this bay area is, but this is likely a coincidence.

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Oak Island, Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. (Google Maps)

One of the over 350 islands in Mahone Bay, Oak Island covers 140-acres and is privately owned. The Mik’Maq natives of the area soon saw an influx of  Europeans, which were French fishermen who, by the 1750s, had built a few houses on the future site of what is now Chester. In the late 1750s the British who had taken over Acadia from the French, enacted a series of measures to encourage settlement of the area by the European-descended New Englanders.

In 1762 Oak Island was officially surveyed and divided into 32 four-acre lots, but was known as “Smith’s Island” after a settler of the area. In 1778 it was re-named “Gloucester Isle”. Later it became “Oak Island” and in 1784, the government made additional land grants, this time to former British soldiers, which included parts of Oak Island.

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The cast of the popular TV show on the History Network “Curse of Oak Island” (OakIslandTours website photo)

Oak Island Tours now operates on the island, a partnership between Dan Blankenship, brothers Rick and Marty Lagina, Craig Tester and Alan J. Kostrzewa that started in 2007. In 2013 Prometheus Entertainment and The History Channel started producing “The Curse of Oak Island”, which follows these partners in their continued exploration efforts.

The first time there was ever any concept of something being buried on the island comes from Daniel McInnis, who at age 13 in June of 1795, discovered on Oak Island a clearing in the forest, with many old oak stumps surrounding a huge single oak tree with a sawed-off limb and a block and tackle hung from it, about 16 feet off the ground. Underneath the limb was a noticeable bowl-shaped depression about 13 feet in diameter suggesting something was buried below, the ground having settled. Information on this first account can be found in newspaper articles of the years 1861-64.

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A 1970s postcard aerial view of Oak Island.

The next day Daniel McInnis returns to the site with friends John Smith (age 19) and Anthony Vaughan (age 16). This time they find the remains of a road from the oak tree to the western tip of the island. Digging into the depression that was found they find at a two foot depth below the surface there is a layer of flat stones. Now at ten feet down, a platform of rotting oak logs is encountered, with ends embedded in the clay walls which show signs of previous pick axe digging.

Underneath that oak platform is a gap of two feet from soil settling and then another platform at twenty feet. Once the boys get to 25 feet after several weeks digging, they stopped and refiled the hole, looking for help.

Later that same month, one of the boys, John Smith buys Lot 18, the site of the pit, and builds a house.

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Schematic of the dug pit on Oak Island.

It would not be until 1804 when a group of interested gentlemen who called themselves “The Onslow Syndicate” begins excavations on the Pit. Work begins again and they find notches in the sides every ten feet down, where oak platforms were originally embedded. At 30 feet, charcoal is encountered, likely used in a ventilation furnace. At 40 feet, a lot of putty is encountered, likely used for sealing an air vent or to plug water leaks. At 50 feet, beach stones are encountered, likely used for backfilling a flood tunnel. At 60 feet, much coconut fibre is found, perhaps used for rope, or caulking with putty. At the 90 foot level, a large stone slab weighing 175-500 pounds measuring 24-36 inches by 12-16 inches is found, with an inscription. Now at 90 feet, water is slowly seeping through the clay. Hitting the 93 foot level, the ground is probed with an iron bar where at 98 feet, they hit a another wood platform. The extent of the wood goes to the the sides of the pit. Work is halted, but when they return a couple of days later, they find the fit has now filled with water, up to a 33ft. depth.

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Early 20th century photo of Oak ISland. (Nova Scotia Archives)

This would be the start of an unbelievable amount of future endevours, loss of life, and millions of dollars spent on trying to solve the mystery of what is actually on Oak Island. These tales are best left to the myriad of books out there, which I encourage you to read.

I only wanted to give a brief background as we will focus on something completely different than the infamous Money Pit.

THE STONE

When at the 90 ft. depth, a stone with odd symbols inscribed on its surface was found face down in the dug out shaft. Not much is known about the stone because it has since disappeared, but it is reported to have been 2-3′ long by 12-16″ wide.

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The inscribed stone, a replica of it as the original has gone missing.

The stone was was first reported in a July 2, 1862 Halifax Sun and Advisor article, which mentioned a June 2, 1862 letter that talked about the inscribed stone. A description of its discovery during the 1804 excavation recalls:

“Some [layers] were charcoal, some putty, and one at 80 feet was a stone cut square, two feet long and about a foot thick, with several characters cut on it.”

The odd symbols defied explanation for years and it was not until 1949 when Edward Rowe Snow’s book, “True Tales of Buried Treasure” translated it into something special.

The stone evaded location but in an 1863 newspaper article, the stone was said to have been built into the “chimney of an old house near the pit”. That chimney of the house was the house of Smith, the original discoverer who had purchased the area of the pit and built a house nearby, as mentioned previously. It was described then to have some unusual features:

“There were some rudely cut letters, figures or characters upon it. I cannot recollect which, but they appear as if they had been scraped out by a blunt instrument, rather than cut with a sharp one.”

Later, inquiries in 1864 discovered that the said chimney had been enclosed in wood and surrounded by a staircase

It was later reported that the stone was removed and taken to Halifax. Among those who worked to remove the stone was Jefferson W. MacDonald. According to another source, the stone was taken out of the chimney and moved to Halifax where it was said to have been deciphered, saying:

“Ten feet below are two million pounds buried”

Fast forward to 1911 when the stone was now being used at Creighton’s bookbindery in Halifax. Apparently a generation later, with the inscription nearly worn away, the stone went to a bookstore in Halifax, and then disappeared altogether from history.

No tracings or rubbings of the original have survived although it was said to have been viewed by hundreds of people. The only symbols that can be seen today are those recorded from a secondhand source, and a replica stone exists in the Oak Island museum.

Because of its lack of of authenticity, I will forgo trying to theorize what the inscription says, although it does look similar to the “Pigpen” ciphers used by the Knights Templar and later the Freemasons (more on them later) and also the the Rosicrucian brotherhood.

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The Templar cipher was used by the Knights Templar during their era of activity to keep messages secret between brothers of the Templar. It uses the Templar cross as its cipher basis. Freemasons began using the cipher in the early 18th century to keep their records of history and rites private, and was used for correspondence between lodge leaders.

Tombstones of Freemasons can also be found which use the system as part of the engravings. One of the earliest stones in Trinity Church Cemetery in New York City, which opened in 1697, contains a cipher of this type which deciphers to “Remember death” and George Washington’s army had documentation about the system, and during the American Civil War, the cipher system was used by Union prisoners in Confederate prisons.

It is remarkable the similarities between the Templar/Freemason cipher and the Oak Island stone which lends itself to the theory that the Templars/Freemasons were involved with Oak Island…but more on that later.

Andrew King, May 27th, 2018

OAK ISLAND: Clues and suspects

CLUE

The game of Clue is a board game developed in 1949, currently distributed by the American game and toy company, Hasbro. The object of the game is to determine who murdered the game’s victim, where the crime took place, and which weapon was used. Then each player deduces the answer by strategically moving around a game board representing the rooms of a mansion, collecting clues and finally solving the mystery of who the murderer was and where they did the crime and with what weapon. Its an amazing game and I still enjoy playing it today.

This is not far off off how we should be looking at the various clues left behind in Canada, and elsewhere, as to who was visiting these shores in the Great Gap. The Great Gap would be between the years 1000 and 1497, when it is said the Norse came here and then 500 years later, John Cabot.. Who would be capable of making a trans-oceanic journey during that time? Why would they come, what is their motivation? Are there clues left behind that can help us determine the answer to these questions?

So, using a detective game as our inspiration, let’s examine the Who, What, When, and Where of this very vague historical gap.

THE PREMISE

In between 1000 and 1497 you would need to get to Canada via a boat of some sort. So who had boats that could successfully cross the Atlantic during that time?

THE SUSPECTS

THE NORSE

Being hardy seafarers for centuries, and with their success at crossing the Atlantic being already proven with their ruins and objects left behind at L’Anse Aux Meadows, we can consider the Norse as a suspect on Oak Island. Their recorded sagas of the journey tell us that they left Canada to return home again due to strife within their group and with the indigenous population. The hardships of settlement in what was likely the Miramichi area just wasn’t worth their time here. That’s not to say other Norse settlers came over, it’s just that those trips were not recorded, and I believe there is proof of that in the Arctic regions where they found European objects which have been carbon dated to around the 1300s.

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A white pine figure carved of cloaked person with a cross on the chest, dated to 1250-1300. (Image:Museum Of History)

Those objects, some of which are on display at the Museum Of Canadian History, include chain mail armour, sword blades, oak wood barrels, a carved figure in a tunic with a cross (that story previously told here) and woven cloth. Was it the Norse? Could it have been someone else from Europe? Perhaps Northern Irish or Scottish adventurers made their way over to Canada, venturing into Nova Scotia, Mahone Bay and Oak Island.

THE PORTUGUESE

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Statue of Corte-Real in St. John’s, NFLD (image: Wikipedia)

The Portugese only became leaders of exploration during their intensive maritime exploits of the 15th and 16th centuries, focusing mostly on Africa and the southern Atlantic. There is speculation that a Portuguese sailor by the name of João Vaz Corte-Real visited Canada in 1473, which is based on a recording of his adventures from Gaspar Frutuoso’s book “Saudades de terra” from around 1570-80. In it there is a description of a claim Corte-Real discovered a place called Terra Nova do Bacalhau ( New Land of the Codfish), which is considered to be modern day Newfoundland. A statue of him is in St. John’s, NFLD.

Evidence of their travels to Atlantic Canada can be seen in various place names, such as Labrador, which is thought to be named after João Fernandes, a “lavrador,” (a farmer).

It is said that Alvares Fagundes in 1520 tried to set up a colony in Canada, yet its location  has never been found, possibly it is in Cape Breton. There are no permanent Portuguese settlements currently known to have lasted, with many of these 15th-16th century Portuguese fisherman staying in their boats up near Newfoundland, a presence that is still seen today while they fish for cod on the Grand Banks. It seems unlikely these boat based fishermen would have come south to Oak Island, but they are a suspect nonetheless.

THE SCOTTISH

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Nicolo Zeno (Wikipedia)

During the 14th century, two brothers from Venice, Italy by the names of Nicolò and Antonio Zeno became famous during the Renaissance for an alleged adventure exploring the waters of the North Atlantic and Arctic regions. They had another brother, a Venetian naval hero named Carlo Zeno. This whole Zeno family was part of the Venice aristocracy and held the franchise for transport between Venice and the Holy Land during the Crusades. The Zenos built up a sizable amount of wealth and were well established in Venice.

Now it should be mentioned before we dig deeper into the Zenos and their important part in this mystery that the academic community considers their stories a fraud. For reasons about to be mentioned, the Zenos have never really been considered a plausible source of historic fact, but you, as the reader, can decide if what we are about to hear is real or a fabrication.

In the year 1558, 150 years after the deaths Nicolo and Antonio Zeno, a family descendant discovered a series of letters, maps and correspondence between the two brothers written around 1400. In these old letters it is recorded that the Zeno members embarked on a fantastic voyage of exploration throughout the North Atlantic to distant lands under the command of a prince named Zichmni. (More on Zichmni later)

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The Zeno map of their adventures showing the places they explored, including “Estotiland” shown on the far left, possibly Nova Scotia.

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In the letters Nicolo wrote to his brother Antonio, Nicolo says he headed from Venice to England in 1380 and then returned to Venice five years later around 1385. In that time Nicolo says he was blown off course in his ship, running aground and stranded on an island. Here on this island Nicolo was rescued by someone called  “Zichmni”, who is described as a prince who owned some islands off the coast of another island called Frislanda. He ruled the area of Sorand, south-east of Frislanda.

Nicolo in the letters says he and his brother should go back to Frislanda, which they do and hang out with this said Prince Zichmni. While there, the Zeno brothers and Zichmni decide to embark on some adventures to Iceland and around the northern Scottish islands of the Shetlands and Faroe Islands. While on this adventure the gang meets a fisherman who was apparently blown off course and was stranded in a far off land for 25 years. Here the fisherman encountered strange animals, natives and a man with books who spoke Latin. The fisherman had eventually made it back to Frislanda and recounted the tale to his prince, Zichmni. Inspired by this fantastic voyage Zichmni decides he too wants to visit this land described by the fisherman and puts Antonio Zeno in charge of a fleet of ships to make the voyage to the distant land mentioned by the fisherman.

The year is now 1398 and Zichmni and Antonio Zeno sail west of Frislanda where they land in a place they call “Trin”, on the southern end of place they call “Engrouelanda”. Zichmni likes the climate and the soil, but his sailors find it inhospitable so they return home with Antonio while Zichmni remains behind with some of his men to explore the area and build a town. Maps were drawn of the exploration and were included with the letters that were written.

What?

First of all, let’s see if any of this makes sense. Frislanda is thought to be the area of northern Scotland and the Faroe Islands. If we look at the names mentioned, the land ruled by Prince Zichmni is called Sorand, or “Sorant”, possibly a translation of “Scotland”. If we look at who was ruling northern Scotland and the Faroe Islands during the 1380-98 time period, we come across the name Johann Reinhold Forster. Forster was an 18th century naturalist, best known as the resident naturalist on James Cook’s second Pacific voyage in 1772. Forster proposed that Zichmni was in fact the Earl of Orkney, Henry Sinclair. Henry Sinclair was the son and heir of William Sinclair, Lord of Roslin, and his wife Isabella, daughter of Maol Ísa, Jarl of Orkney, or “Earl Of Orkney”.

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Orkney is a set of islands north of Scotland, invaded and forcibly annexed by Norway in 875 and settled by the Norse. Henry Sinclair took over the lands from Norway in 1379 as the earldom passed to the Sinclair family, who were also barons of Roslin near Edinburgh in Scotland. Sinclair Of Orkney, which makes Orkney being the possible location of Frislanda. When we compare a map of the Zenos of Frislanda, and the Orkney islands, they are a match. The only confirmed map of Scotland is from 1560, the exact same time the Zeno map was found. The “confirmed” map of Scotland clearly shows Orkney as an island as does the Zeno map, which called is Frislanda.

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A confirmed authentic map of Scotland showing Orkney from 1560. (image: BBC)

These elements lead Forster to claim that Sinclair and Zichmni were one and the same, as his timeline of rule, places of rule and his actions match the Zeno narrative. It must be noted that despite the fact that most historians call the Zeno maps and letters a hoax, there is a remarkable number of coincidences that so make it seem plausible.

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Sinclair of Scotland or Zichmni of Sorand?

The Zeno story does seem fantastical, and it outlines details that seem hard to imagine and the reasoning for including them puzzling. For example Antonio Zeno describes a spring of pitch running down to the sea int the newly discovered land. Detractors of the Zeno stories say that if it was Henry Sinclair that was Zichmni, then why isn’t there a record of the trip in Sinclair’s official history? Perhaps history sometimes doesn’t need to be written down to be accepted, and in fact, maybe it was Zeno who was put in charge of recording the event for Sinclair/Zichmni?

These are the major suspects as to who could have been lurking in the Nova Scotia area in the distant past. More recent suspects that may have been at Oak Island also come into play…

PIRATES AND THOSE OF DESPERATION

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Captain Kidd after his execution in 1701.

One of the earliest theories about Oak Island is that it held treasure buried there by Captain Kidd. Born in Scotland himself, Kidd was a known pirate on the New England coast, and before his execution in 1701, was known to have buried his treasures before his arrest while sailing an obscure sloop, so it is possible Kidd came to the island.

Perhaps Spanish sailors went to Oak Island to hold treasure from a wrecked ship. Another theory is that there were British troops stationed there during the American Revolution, or that they buried loot on the island from the British invasion of Cuba.

During the Seven Years War between 1756 and 1763, it could have also been French Army engineers hiding the treasures of the Fortress Of Louisburg after it fell to the British.

There are many clues on Oak Island that reveal who was most likely there, clues we will look at in a future post. These and more will become more clear in the following pages as we peel back the layers of a very complex puzzle on Oak Island.

TOMORROW: The Island.

Andrew King, May 26th, 2018

 

DAY 2: Cog In The Wheel

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Samuel deChamplain’s 1632 map of the East Coast.

Samuel de Champlain’s map of 1632 refers to a tributary in Miramichi Bay as “Crow Brook”. This is what is now known as “French Fort Cove” because at its mouth on the western bank, known as Kethro lookout, it was the site of a French battery in 1756. It is curious that Champlain on more than one occasion has appeared on the scene in the footsteps of previous explorers, in this case the Norse, who likely settled in the Miramichi area.

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French Fort Cove and Nordein marked on Google Maps.

It is also curious that the area known as French Fort cove fits the description of Hop from the Norse sagas. It has a hill where the settlement was built (other parts of Miramichi towards the coastal area is relatively flat), has a protected harbour area, and a stone cliff that is mentioned in the sagas where they battled the natives. A flowing brook would have been full of salmon, also mentioned. Wild grapes grow in the cove on its hills. A few hundred metres from this area the village of “Nordin” exists, a Nordic name. Coincidence perhaps.

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An arrangement of four cut stones at French Cove. Date unknown.

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Stone cleared off with scribed marks.

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Amazingly, I stumbled upon the abandoned 1800s quarry used to provide the stone for Langevin Block (Prime Minister’s Office) in Ottawa.

A brief exploration of the area turned up some interesting finds, but it is unclear the age of these historic artifacts. They could be quite possibly be remnants of the 1700s French Fort that was there.

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Another search occurred at Oak Point, as oak was revered by the Norse for its boat building use. This did not fit the description. Also checked out was Burnt Church, a place near the mouth of the river that housed a 1600s French missionary, later burnt down by the British. This also fit the description, but is an active reservation for the Burnt Church First Nation Mi’kmaq. The Norse likely traded with the Mi’kmaq, but relations turned ugly and the two battled often, a possible reason for their departure.

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Carved stone found at Burnt Church, ‘IHS” and the cross. “In Hoc Signo”  a Latin phrase meaning “In this sign you will conquer”

We have a very specific timeline of history regarding our first overseas visitors to Canada. History tells us the Norse Vikings from Iceland via Greenland came around 1000AD, then John Cabot in 1497AD. That is almost a 500year gap. So we are to believe that in those 500 years no one came over to Canada…no one at all? I find this very hard to believe.

The Norse were on the eastern coast of Canada in 1000AD, so the possibility exists someone else did it in the 500 year gap between them and Cabot. We know that the “Cog” ships were of a more advanced construction than the Nose Knarr boats, which we know made the journey. Northern Europe had such ships during the medieval era that would ply the Atlantic full of trade goods. A cog is a type of ship that first appeared in the 10th century, and was widely used from around the 12th century on. Cogs, and their sister ships, the birlinn, were clinker-built, generally of oak. They resembled and were constructed very similarly to the Norse knarr ships, probably due to the fact that the Norse and Scots were close in both proximity and relations at that time. Sharing stories of exploration and ship building technology would have been common.

Fitted with a single mast and a square-rigged single sail, these vessels were mostly associated with seagoing trade in medieval Europe and ranged in length from about 15 to 25 meters (49 to 82 ft) with a beam of 5 to 8 meters (16 to 26 ft), and could carry up to about 200 tons of cargo.

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Cogs had a flat bottom at midships but gradually shifted to overlapped planks near the bow and stern. Caulking of hull planks would have been tarred moss that was inserted into curved grooves, covered with wooden laths, and secured by metal staples called sintels. Using a a stern-mounted hanging central rudder (which was a unique northern development) to steer. These ships were the most common vessels of the medieval era and would have made long distance trips. It would not be stretch that these vessels would hopscotch between islands of northern Scotland/Ireland, over to Greenland and Iceland, with Canada being almost the same distance between those aforementioned areas.

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It is curious to see flying here in Miramichi that the provincial flag of New Brunswick illustrates a medieval trading vessel called a “lymphad”. Used primarily in Scotland, a wooden vessel propelled by sail and oars, traversed the Highlands and was used to sail west in the Hebrides during the 1100s-1500s. The flag of New Brunswick took the old ship symbol and made that lymphad the prominent feature. An interesting choice indeed!

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A painting depicting Columbus in Iceland in 1477 getting directions to America.

We also know that the Norse kept tales of the new lands they discovered alive because in 1477 Christopher Columbus visited them to get that information from them. Arriving in Iceland and living at a farm called Ingjaldshóll, Columbus learned about the former Norse settlement in Vinland, and how the Vikings sailed to a New World, and about the travels of Leif Eiríksson and the rest of the Norse who had already been to North America five centuries earlier.

Columbus is credited because his “discovery” was celebrated and recorded with great pomp and circumstance, yet the Norse voyage to America was only made known when there was proof in 1960 after L’anse Aux Meadows was dug up. So what evidence do we have of another possible trip to Canada by another group of seafarers in the Northern Atlantic? That group, who heard tales from their Norse neighbours and trading partners most likely arrived here during the 1300s and I think that evidence of their arrival lies on an island in Mahone Bay off Nova Scotia. Someone followed in the footsteps of those original Norse settlers that spun tales of their old adventures and prompted some very curious people to arrive at Oak Island for their own reasons which we will soon discover.

Andrew King, May 25th, 2018

Oak Island and Miramichi: Why here?

What does Miramichi have to do with Oak Island? A question you may ask, and it is a very valid question about this quest. I believe Miramichi, New Brunswick is an important clue in a great puzzle and forms the basis for what happened on Oak Island.

The discovery of North America by Europeans can not really be attributed to any one person at any one time, yet society feels a need to label that milestone for some reason. Perhaps because it gives us a sense of place and a benchmark from which to gauge our own history. Yet, that date the academic world likes to tell us is likely wrong.

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The Miramichi area that matches the Norse saga descriptions almost perfectly. (GoogleMaps)

We know it was wrong when they said it was Christopher Columbus who discovered America in 1492, which was proven incorrect with the 1960 discovery of the pre-Columbian Norse ruins at L’Anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland. So what else is wrong? Maybe we just haven’t yet found the ruins that will alter history once again.

How far back do we go to determine who first discovered the North American continent? You could say it was migration of humans from Asia across the Bering land bridge about 20,000 years ago. This is the theory we are told in grade school and has been imprinted on us from an early age, but another concept could be that seagoing coastal settlers may have crossed over to North America much earlier than the land trudging bridge crossers.

Yet, in order to prove this we would need to study the coastal sites of that time period for their evidence of habitation, which unfortunately now lie submerged in up to a hundred metres of water offshore. This study will likely never happen but remains could be waiting for a discovery when our technology and drive to prove this theory coincides. Until that time comes, lets look at the periods of history where actual stories tell us of people visiting our North American shores with some astonishing similarities.

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Do the residents of Miramichi know something?

According to the Icelandic sagas—Eirik the Red’s Saga, Saga of the Greenlanders, plus chapters of the Hauksbók and the Flatey Book, the Norse that left Scandinavia started to explore lands to the west of Greenland only a few years after their Greenland settlements were established.

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An excerpt from the translated Vinland Sagas describing the details of “Hop” in Vinland by the Norse settlers.

These stories, or “sagas” as they are called describe that in 985AD while sailing from Iceland to Greenland with a migration fleet consisting of 400–700 settlers and 25 ships (14 of which completed the journey) a merchant named Bjarni Herjólfsson was blown off course, and after three days’ sailing he spotted a land west of the fleet. Bjarni was only interested in finding his father’s farm In Greenland, but he described his discovery of a new land to Leif Erikson who later explored the area in more detail and planted a small settlement there fifteen years later, which puts Europeans in North America in 1000AD.

The sagas describe three separate areas discovered during this exploration: Helluland, which means “land of the flat stones”; Markland, “the land of forests” and Vinland, “the land of wine”, found somewhere south of Markland. It was in this Vinland that the Viking settlement described in the sagas was founded, and which is thought to be somewhere in the Atlantic provinces of Canada, although this major settlement has yet to be found.

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Bay Du Vin…is this Vinland as described in the sagas?

What was discovered in 1960 was a temporary Norse encampment at L’Anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland, since butternuts were found there that are not, and never were, native to Newfoundland where the Norse ruins were unearthed. This means that the inhabitants of this camp ventured further south, likely into New Brunswick, but no new evidence has yet been found, nor has any expedition been ignited to find the true Vinland of the Norse sagas.

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A view of the entrance to Miramichi Bay with the sandbar in the background.

That area known as Vinland or “Hop” in the sagas, a settlement of Norse in Canada is likely in Miramichi, NB as it matches the saga description almost perfectly. From the saga description of Hop we know the following:

-wild wheat in low lying areas
-wild grapes on the hills
-salmon
-wooden palisade built around farm
-on a hill
-inland lake fed by a river with sandbar to ocean
-across from large island (PEI)
-built houses above the lake on a hill, other huts near the shore

-noticed natives in boats coming from south, so settlers are on north side

-battled natives up river where they faced a cliff wall

Tomorrow we will explore this area and see what evidence we can find. A needle in a haystack, but hey, let’s try and thread this needle. We are sewing a massive quilt that threads into other visitors, visitors that later came to Oak Island.

 

 

Andrew King, May 24th, 2018