26 September 2013 Baie-Comeau, Quebec

26 September 2013 Baie-Comeau, Quebec

Pulp Non-Fiction

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Baie-Comeau is on the Côte-Nord, or north bank of the Saint Lawrence, near the mouth of the Manicouagan River.[whohit]-Baie Comeau-[/whohit]

You’ve heard the term company town, right?

Baie-Comeau was a company town that essentially grew out of a single man’s investment and homestead.

And he wasn’t even a Canadian.

Robert Rutherford McCormick rose through the family business to become owner and publisher of the Chicago Tribune newspaper.

He was one of those publishers who felt that his newspaper was his personal megaphone.

A conservative Republican, he was a fierce opponent of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal. Also Democrats in general, liberal Republicans, easterners, the World Court, the League of Nations, and later the United Nations. Oh, and also he intensely disliked the British Empire.

He was an America First isolationist who strongly opposed entering World War II and supporting Britain.

So what was he doing in the Dominion of Canada, part of the British Empire until 1982?

Why, he was using the abundant water resources of Quebec and what seemed like an unending supply of soft wood trees to construct a paper mill and a hydroelectric power plant to operate it.

He established the town of Baie-Comeau in 1936.

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Baie-Comeau. Photo by Corey Sandler

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Newsprint is loaded onto a huge special-purpose ship in Baie-Comeau. Photo by Corey Sandler

He modestly named the structure holding back the Manicouagan river the McCormick Dam.

The dam thing is still there, just 3 kilometers or 2 miles west of town.

Hydro Quebec, the provincial power giant, owns and operates dozens of huge power plants in Quebec; I’ve been 1,200 miles north of Montreal to the La Grande complex at Radisson on Hudson Strait.

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Manic-2 Hydro Quebec power plant, and the Manicouagan River. Photos by Corey Sandler

Here on the Saint Lawrence River, the Manic-2 plant was completed in 1967.

The eight turbines together produce about 1.145 Gigawatts of power, which is in the range of a large nuclear power plant—without the nuclear reactor.

The tour is, shall say, electric. Especially when you are able to enter into one of the turbine and generator rooms and are able to feel the power of the onrushing water and see the huge rotor spinning within the stator.

Alas, photos were not permitted because of someone’s idea that allowing them would threaten the dam security. It almost killed me to walk around the dam without my cameras.

 

25 September 2013: Gaspé and Percé, Quebec

25 September 2013: Gaspé and Percé, Quebec

Traveling Back in Time

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

The Gaspé Peninsula reaches out to the east…toward Europe.[whohit]-Perce Gaspe-[/whohit]

Not all that much changed from the way it looked when Jacques Cartier passed through in 1534. He planted a cross on behalf of Francois I of France, and kidnapped the sons of Chief Donnaconna to bring home as trophies (and as pilots to bring him back to what became known as New France.)

For 400 years afterward, the peninsula developed just a bit, although it still seems frozen in time as if it were in the 1950s. Beaver Cleaver would feel right at home.

The word Gaspé is actually not French; in the Micmac language it means something very close to Land’s End, which it would be if you were coming from the west, from North America.

You could call it Land’s Beginning if you were coming from Europe.

We are near completion of our transatlantic crossing west from Europe, Iceland, and Greenland to Atlantic Canada.

As we do, let’s not forget that in the 15th, 16th, and 17th century it was all about Asia.

Trust me: Newfoundland and Nova Scotia and Quebec and Virginia and New York were not Asia.

But the reason they were explored was because the Europeans who came there thought that a passageway through to Asia was somewhere right in the neighborhood.

Depending on how you phrase the question…..and who you ask…..Cabot was in 1497 perhaps the second European to “discover” the mainland of North America.

As we know, the first quite possibly was Leif Ericson, about the year 1000, who may have established a settlement or at least a service station at L’anse Aux Meadows.

But some people will want to talk instead about Saint Brendan of Clonfert who set sail in a small boat—basically a leather bathtub—about the year 500.

True believers say Brendan made it to Iceland; others say he crossed all the way over to North America.

Christopher Columbus referenced Saint Brendan’s Island in his planning.

Why is Columbus not on the list?

Columbus never touched North America.

On his four expeditions he sailed in the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and landed on the coast of South America in Venezuela and Central America in Panama..

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Gaspé. Photo by Corey Sandler

It was 1534 before the next major expedition was sent to the northern part of North America. Among other things, François had been distracted by yet another war with Spain.

The man in charge: Jacques Cartier, born in Saint-Malo in Brittany in northwest France.

Like nearly all explorers of the time, Cartier was told by his sponsor that if he could not get through to the Orient he should at least try to find gold and silver.

The first peoples he met were probably the Micmac.

“As soon as they saw us they began…making signs…that they had come to barter with us…and held up some skins of small value, with which they clothe themselves.”

“We likewise made signs to them that we wished them no harm,” Cartier wrote, “and sent two men ashore, to offer them some knives and other iron goods, and a red cap to give to their chief…

“They bartered all they had to such an extent that all went back naked…”

In what is today called the Detroit de Jacque-Cartier (the Jacques Cartier Strait) he abandoned his exploration because of fog and bad weather.

On the way out, passing south of Anticosti at the Baie de Gaspé, Cartier met the members of a local migrant tribe, a Huron-Iroquois band called the Laurentians.

It would be a relationship that would bring benefit and loss, good and evil to each side.

Cartier gave gifts, and met Chief Donnaconna.

The alliance was formalized with dances and celebration.

Summer was ending and Cartier had little to show; he searched for something to convince the King to fund another expedition.

First he tried flattery. In July 1534, near today’s little settlement of Gaspé, he had his men erect a thirty foot cross with a fleur-de-lys shield.

Carved into the wood was “Vive le Roi de France.” (Long live the King of France.)

If you go into the town of Gaspe, you can visit the Cartier cross: not the original one, but the stone commemoration erected in 1934 as a gift from France.

The Pierced Rock

Rocher Percé, or Percé Rock is a large offshore rock in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence off the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula.

The Pierced Rock, which looks to some like a ship under sail, is one of the world’s largest natural arches located in the sea. The arch stands about 20 meters or 66 feet above the water.

The limestone rock is about 1,420 feet or 433 meters in length, about 288 feet or 88 meters high. Geologists estimate its age at about 375 million years.

The name was said to have bestowed by Samuel de Champlain in 1607.

He’d recognize the rock, but perhaps not the souvenir stands.

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Rocher Percé. Photos by Corey Sandler