Rebuilding the dead: Old whaler shaped with new hands

A piece of Newfoundland and Labrador history is slowly coming to life by the Albaola Foundation, a sea factory in Pasaia, Spain, to celebrate the Basque’s achievements in exploration and marine history.

Halfway through the first year of its construction, the San Juan de Pasages, Canada’s oldest recorded shipwreck found submerged in over 30 feet of water in Red Bay, Labrador, is expected to take another two years to finish. Once seaworthy, the San Juan will take a tour of the ports around the world, with plans to stop in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“What I’m told is the first trips are actually going to be around Europe. So they’ll go to various ports in Europe and we’ll be the next summer after the launch, or probably the same year, that depends,” said Jerome Canning, Newfoundland and Labrador boat-builder for the Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador, who visited Spain to help build the San Juan, sponsored by the boat museum.

The Albaola Foundation has welcomed people with experience from far and wide to help build the ship. The moment Canning found support from the Department of Heritage and Tourism, he was on the first flight out to help build the whaling ship as a representative of the province’s museum.

“When I left, there was just the first level. All the frames of the first floor were done and they were just starting on the second flood when I left. Then it’s onto the third floor, and then they’ll start the planking,” said Canning.

Canning has been involved in several boat building projects. He constructed a Rodney, a small Newfoundland wooden boat usually used for one man to go hook and line fishing, at The Rooms, which he invited the public to watch his progress. He’s also constructed boats in the Wooden Boar Museum in Winterton and the Boat House in Placentia.

In Placentia, Canning built a chaloupe during the 2004 French celebrations for the 500th anniversary of the French presence in the province. The chaloupe is a French boat with Basque origins, used primarily for hunting whales.

“He seemed to be very confident in what he was doing (while building the boat) and he’s also very friendly in dealing with people’s questions about the project,” said Tom O’Keefe, President of the Placentia Area Historical Society. “He was very good about talking to people (who came to watch the building process) if they wanted to know anything about what he was doing.”

Canning got his start in boat building when his father retired and spent his time as a fisherman. Canning and his brother visited to go fishing with their father but their boat was too small for the three of them.

So Canning made his own boat. For years after, Canning would build a boat or two every winter. And now he’s building a massive whaler.

For now, Canning has returned home to Newfoundland and Labrador but plans on returning to Spain to help if he can gather the funds again.

The San Juan played the important role of a whaling cargo ship. It went down in December 1565 while riding at anchor in the bay with other whaling ships. During a storm, the ship’s mooring broke and it struck the island. The blow led to the ship’s sinking with a full load of 1000 casks of oil.

Parks Canada archaeologist divers discovered the ship after Dr. Michael Barkham translated a Basque sailor’s will, which was found by his mother, federal archivist Dr. Selma Barkham.

According to the Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Site, the Basque whalers of France and Spain hunted right whales and bowhead whales around Newfoundland and Labrador during the 16th Century.

For over 50 years, the Basque whalers lived in prosperity, capturing whales migrating the Strait of Belle Isle waters.

The whaling ships averaged at around 700 tons and were some of the largest yet slowest vessels sailing across the Atlantic Ocean at the time.

From 1978 to 1985, archeological teams from Parks Canada conducted underwater investigations of the historical giant and found she was in close to the same condition as the time before her sinking. This investigation revealed the expertise of the Basque shipbuilding industry at its peak and Parks Canada wasted no time in documented all the details of the ship’s structure and formation.

This ship will not be an interpretation. The Spanish organization responsible for the ship’s construction plan on building the San Juan as close to it’s original form as possible, all the way from collecting the wood used from the same trees in the same forest areas to using the same tar, pitch and tools like wooden nails and ropes used to keep the ship together.

“This ship in Spain is a ‘fine line’ boat. It’s exactly what was underneath the water,” said Canning. “We have a piece of history here in Newfoundland and Labrador. We have a whaling ship that has not only been uncovered in the physical evidence but the evidence was documented as well.”

 

Special to Telegram

Advertisements

Carpentry students showcase skills

Carpentry students had an opportunity to showcase their abilities in the Skills Canada Provincial Competitions.

Four carpentry students participated in the provincial competition. They were given about six hours to complete a miniature house. Volunteer judges would decide the winner.

The houses were required to be roughly four feet by seven feet. The houses included several design features that challenged the students, such as a roof with slopes on each side and an octagonal window.

“For me it’s a bit of fun. I’m primarily getting ready for my exams, so it’s also a bit of a refresher,” said fourth-year carpenter apprentice Kirstene Reyes, one of the four participants.

“I have a little bit of experience with residential and this is my second competition, so the experience really helps.”

The competition took place at the Carpenters Millwrights College in Paradise. Besides the carpentry competition, there was a millwright competition, as well as a competition in steamfitter/pipefitter and sprinkler systems installer in Mount Pearl, and the provincial competition in hairstyling in St. John’s.

The winner of the each event will be decided after the remaining competitions have concluded at the College of the North Atlantic – Prince Philip Drive campus.

At that time, the first-place holders for each competition will go to represent Newfoundland and Labrador in the 21st annual national competition in Saskatoon, Sask., in May.

“I think everything is going fabulously. The level of skill is amazing,” said national board president John Oates.

 

Special to Telegram

http://www.thetelegram.com/News/Local/2015-03-14/article-4076045/Carpentry-students-showcase-skills/1

Mother Nature slows cargo

Marine Atlantic hoped the ferry Blue Puttees would be back in operation Monday night to begin shipping the backlogged traffic in both the Newfoundland and Nova Scotia ports.

Produce – an important cargo that relies on Marine Atlantic ferries – has been part of the backlog. Newfoundland grocery stores saw the effects due to the delay almost immediately. Although it was only a minor shortage, the longer the delay, the more severe the shortage.

“The effect is almost immediate in produce. The biggest impact for us, though, surprisingly, wasn’t produce. It was frozen meat and fresh meats,” said Kyle Berg, manager of Save Easy in Lewisporte.

Fortunately, Newfoundland is able to rely more heavily on local providers for products such as meats, unlike produce.

Prices remain static throughout the delay and are not affected by shortages caused by delivery difficulties. There are only delays in availability.

Berg said the effects started showing at Save Easy last Monday, and by Tuesday there was a 10 to 15 per cent shortage of produce and a 20 to 25 per cent shortage by Friday.

“The ice conditions right now on the North Sydney (N.S.) side are still presenting us with challenges. However, we’re hoping some of the ice pressures will be relieved this evening (March 23),” said Darrell Mercer of Marine Atlantic. “But we are still experiencing winter conditions and, of course,the easterly winds off of North Sydney will certainly dictate whether or not the ice pressure will continue to increase on the Cape Breton side.”

The Nova Scotia-bound ferry arrived at its destination Friday evening after being stuck in ice for two days.

Much of Newfoundland’s produce comes from out of province in the winter months. As a result, Marine Atlantic shoulders a heavy burden, as it is responsible for carrying the cargo that fill grocery stores throughout Newfoundland.

According to Jan Woodford, communications director of the strategic services branch of Fisheries and Oceans Canada in the Newfoundland and Labrador region, there are currently eight icebreakers working out of the Atlantic region. The icebreakers are allocated on a priority basis; passenger ferries are the first priority after distress calls or emergencies.

“The following priorities are to be considered when responding to a request for icebreaking service: distress and emergency situations; including flood control and ice management; ferries; ships with vulnerable or dangerous cargoes or vessels transporting cargo that is vital to the survival of communities; marine traffic and commercial ports; and fishing harbour breakouts,” Woodford wrote in an email to The Telegram.

The Marine Atlantic ferries are large ships that can carry both cargo and people, so there will tend to be a fast reaction time. That said, the weather determines the work necessary to free a stuck ferry.

“We do have a lot of produce we’re trying to ship with our vessels, but, of course, we’re still at the mercy of Mother Nature,” said Mercer.

 

Special to Telegram

http://www.thetelegram.com/News/Local/2015-03-24/article-4086949/Mother-Nature-slows-cargo-flow/1

MUN checkout policy stressing students

Some Memorial University students are stressed about the residences’ new 24-hour checkout policy.

After students write their last exam of a semester, they have 24 hours to check out of their residence rooms.

The policy started in September 2014 as an experiment, and this year will be spent evening out any issues or problems the policy might create.

However, there are already students who have run into difficulties with the policy and refuse to abide by it. Students were given flexibility during fall semester 2014, but some have had problems with it this winter semester.

“Memorial University has defended the policy by saying other universities in the country do the same. But this ignores certain aspects, like location,” said Warren Moore, an international student at Memorial University.

“Ultimately, this is a policy that helps staff get rid of students ASAP, but has no benefit to a student whatsoever.”

Moore is concerned about the extra costs and stress the policy might create.

Exam schedules are released two months before the end of a semester — October in the fall and February in the winter — so in order to meet the 24-hour policy, students  have to wait until the exam schedule is released before booking flights home, Moore said.

Flight tickets purchased before the semester starts are often much cheaper than those bought once the exam schedule is posted.

“I asked my residence co-ordinator for an extension because of flight scheduling issues and they said I couldn’t get one because it’s not an academic reason,” said Brendon Dixon, another MUN student. “Well, no, it’s a financial reason. The timeline is very quick and not very accommodating.”

 

Residence turnover

According to Bruce Belbin, director of student residences at Memorial University, the 24-hour checkout rule is designed to help deal with the turnover in MUN residences.

The current semester ends April 18 and the university has until April 23 to prepare the residences for the first arrival of summer students and guests who will use the residence facilities.

“In between all that, as you can imagine with 2,000 beds, there’s a ton of things that have to occur, from cleanup to maintenance and so on and so forth,” said Belbin. “That’s the primary driver behind the policy, but I have to emphasize that it is experimental.”

Belbin said students can contact the university if they have issues or concerns, and there is a great deal of flexibility.

“If you booked a flight back home and you didn’t realize, or pay attention to the requirement in the occupancy agreement (for residence living), then we’d be flexible as long as you provided documentation on that or (documentation) for medical or academic reasons,” said Belbin.

“You could be an honours student and working on a paper. Clearly, we’re not going to tell you to leave residence. Or you could be on a work term, in the nursing program, or you could be an international student.”

 

Food payments

Students who have meal plans that run until the last day of school can lose out on $100 to $200 worth of food as a result of the policy, according to Moore.

“Students in Paton College and new (residences) are bound to purchase mandatory meal plans that last from Day 1 to the final day of operation on April 18,” Moore said. “Students who don’t have any exams whatsoever are required to be out of residence by April 6 this year, meaning they will lose 12 to 13 days of the meal plan, which is more than 10 per cent of the whole plan.”

Belbin acknowledged there is no reimbursement program for students with meal plans who might be affected by the policy, but said any issues with it can be raised with the university.

“It’s not structured (to work with the meal plan) right now. I’m not aware of any specific requests around meal plan and that issue, but it’s something we can put in our assessment for next year as we move the policy ahead,” said Belbin. “We haven’t received any (specific complaints) about the policy, but we’ll assess the 24-hour rule and if something obvious pops up, we’ll deal with it.”

 

Special to Telegram

http://www.thetelegram.com/News/Local/2015-04-05/article-4101252/Checkout-policy-has-some-residence-students-stressed/1

Plan to end moose and human violence

Two new moose reduction zones will be designated along the Trans-Canada Highway as a test project to try and reduce the number of moose-vehicle collisions.

Each year there are an average of 700 accidents involving moose.

The moose reduction zones are part of a five-year strategic plan for moose management in Newfoundland, measures added to those of the existing plan.

“The plan will be implemented and the results evaluated over the course of the next five years with the goal to continuously improve moose management in the province,” said Environment and Conservation Minister Dan Crummell.

Environment and Conservation  and the Department of Transportation has three goals for the plan:

• The long-term sustainability and health of moose populations and habitat across the province.

• Ensuring reasonable access and benefit to the moose resource.

• To lessen human-moose accidents.

One of the moose reduction zones is in the central region between Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor and the other is in the Avalon region between St. John’s and Clarenville.

There will be 200 either-sex moose licences added in the central moose reduction zone and 300 in the Avalon zone.

“The moose reduction zones will provide greater opportunity for removal of near-road moose through hunting,” said Crummell. “The number of moose removed through hunting, the density of moose in near-road zones, the density of moose in adjacent moose managing areas, moose movement patterns, as well as vehicle-moose collisions rates, traffic volumes and speeds will all be monitored over three years to determine the effectiveness of the program.”

Several hunting licence fees were changed on April 1. Moose, caribou, black bear, small game and coyote hunting licenses, and trapper’s licenses have been increased by $5 to $20. Out-of-province hunters will pay $150 to $200 more for a moose and caribou license.

The moose population is around 112,000 animals. Public consultations have shown there is a strong desire in the province to maintain at population size to maximize  hunting opportunities. But the government also wants to lessen the number of collisions between moose and vehicles.

“No doubt, the government is listening and putting a plan in place. …” said Lucy Stoyles, chair of the Mount Pearl city council’s regional services and environment committee.

“I’m disappointed with it, especially when you look at what was done out in Nova Scotia and Alberta (with fences). Our government hasn’t even asked the federal government to fence our two national parks. In Terra Nova park alone there was 14 or 16 accidents last year.”

The province will be looking more into the feasibility of fencing. But fencing aside, there have also been efforts around moose detection systems and brush cutting to remove vegetation that attracts the moose to roadsides.

“The moose management plan has a research component that is designed to specifically address if decrease in moose numbers and density can decrease rates of moose-vehicle collisions,” said Crummell.

The plan will be funded with roughly $1.8 million in Budget 2015.

“There’s no one quick solution to the mitigation of moose-vehicle actions,” said Transportation Minister David Brazil.

“It has to be a collaborative approach and a uniform approach over many aspects. We want to build on the data collected and we want to create innovative ways to do it.”

 

Special to Telegram

http://www.thetelegram.com/News/Local/2015-04-06/article-4102126/New-plan-unveiled-to-manage-moose/1

Woman amazed at rescue response

The shock of cold water on her head and an awareness that the water was rising around her made for a terrifying experience for Lezlee Coombs, who was stuck in her overturned car Sunday evening in a ditch on Robert E. Howlett Memorial Drive.

Terror quickly led to a feeling of helplessness for the Mount Pearl woman. But the sound of her car window being shattered by passersby trying to help quickly allayed her fear.

She says kindhearted saviours helped her escape from the car, which was totalled. She’s thrilled that so many people stopped to help.

“I barely realized I was in the water before people were running down the embankment, asking if anybody was in the car,” she told The Telegram Tuesday. “I’m grateful to the people who so quickly jumped into icy cold water and opened their arms, hearts and warm cars to help someone they didn’t even know.

“It’s remarkable and really restores my faith in humanity.”

Nalicia Williams, one of the people who responded, said all the possible outcomes filled her mind as she rushed towards the car.

“You’re expecting the worst and expecting the best with an accident like that,” she said.

Coombs can’t explain why her car ended up in the water-filled ditch.

She was checked and released from the Health Sciences Centre shortly after being rescued with a clean bill of health, but she doesn’t understand what happened.

“I think I might have fallen asleep,” she said.

“I slept great the two nights before and was well rested (the day of the crash). It doesn’t make sense. I’m seeing my doctor today to see what’s going on.”

 

Special to Telegram

http://www.thetelegram.com/News/Local/2015-04-07/article-4103014/Woman-amazed-at-rescue-response/1

Another hole in the ground

The Canadian Government needs to start investing more money in higher quality protective headgear because the moon isn’t doing its job anymore.

The moon is supposed to attract most asteroids to it. Of course, some will get through because the moon isn’t always on our side of the planet. But still, craters can be found everywhere in St. John’s, N.L. unlike anything I’ve ever seen in Ontario and Alberta.

“It’s a yearly battle here,” said Barb Sweet, a St. John’s woman I lived with during my internship at the Telegram. “The city sometimes just can’t keep up with all the repairs.”

The strangest part is you never even hear the asteroid hit and they show up out of nowhere on the roads after winter is over. Stranger still, the asteroids seem to be attracted to Newfoundland like invading aliens to the United States.

It’s a perpetual wasteland on the St. John’s roads. Craters left behind from the year before are joined with new ones each winter. People risk the lives of their cars each day and night.

No one’s been hit, thankfully, but it’s a gamble when stepping through the pool, which forms in the craters after a rainy day. It’s a gamble because you don’t know how deep the hole goes.

“It can be really bad at night. You never see the pothole coming,” said Steve, a cab driver that requested I not use his name.

Cars lose bumpers, tires need replacing and tire alignment gets so out of whack some people could have steering wheels turned permanently to the right just to drive in a straight line.

I say these are asteroids causing the damage. But Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans swear their just potholes. I think it’s a conspiracy but I’ll tell their story.

It’s Canada’s native pothole we’ll talk about now. Not asteroids. Weather is a pretty intense thing here but let’s be honest, “how about that weather” never works as an opening line.

 

According to Deputy City Manager, Public Works Paul Mackey, there is well over 2,300 potholes on the city streets this year.

St. John’s deals with crazy winters. I’m not talking 40 below on the celsius meter. I’m talking about minus 20 one day and zero degrees the next. All this flip-flopping makes for a really bad time for the roads.

Luckily enough for residents that’ll be in the city longer than me, as soon as the weather gets a bit brighter and the snow and wet clears up, the potholes will go away for another year.