Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Hogmanay - New Year's Eve

[1-Hogmanay monsters at Edinburgh, Scotland]

The New Years Eve celebration of Scotland is called Hogmanay. The name derives from the old Scots name for Yule gifts of the Middle Ages. The early Hogmanay celebrations were originally brought to Scotland by the invading and occupying Norse who celebrated a solstitial new year (England celebrated the new year on March 25). In 1600, with the Scottish application of the January 1 New year and the church's persistent suppression of the solstice celebrations, the holiday traditions moved to December 31 (Auld Year's Night). The festival is still referred to as the Yules by the Scots of the Shetland Islands who start the festival on December 18th and hold the last tradition (a Troll chasing ritual) on January 18th. [I like the idea of Troll chasing: think of the great fun it would be...]


The most widespread Scottish custom is the practice of first-footing which starts immediately after midnight on New Years. This involves being the first person (usually tall and dark haired) to cross the threshold of a friend or neighbor and often involves the giving of symbolic gifts such as salt (less common today), coal, shortbread, whisky, and black bun (a fruit pudding) intended to bring different kinds of luck to the householder. Food and drink (as the gifts) are then given to the guests.

[3-Hogmanay Street Party in Dornoch, Scotland]

The Hogmanay custom of singing Auld Lang Syne has become common in many countries. Auld Lang Syne is a traditional poem reinterpreted by Robert Burns, which was later set to music. It is now common for this to be sung in a circle of linked arms that are crossed over one another as the clock strikes midnight for New Year's Day, although in Scotland the traditional practice is to cross arms only for the last verse.


Photo Credits: [1][2]-weemacd CC=nc-sa-flickr, [3]-foxypar4 CC=flickr.

Jacques Cartier's Second Voyage to Canada, 1535-1536

Jacques Cartier set sail for a second voyage on May 19 of the following year with three ships, 110 men, and the two Iroquoian young men. When Cartier reached the St. Lawrence, he sailed up-river for the first time, and reached the Iroquoian village of Stadacona, near present day Quebec City, where Chief Donnacona was reunited with his two sons.

From there Cartier traveled inland, leaving his main ships in a harbour close to Stadacona, and used his smallest ship to continue up river and visit Hochelaga (now Montreal) where he arrived October 2, 1535. Hochelaga was a more impressive sight than the village of Stadacona, where over 1,000 Iroquoians came to greet them. The site of their arrival was identified as the beginning of the Sainte-Marie Sault—where the Jacques Cartier Bridge now stands. The expedition could proceed no further, as the river was blocked by rapids. There he talked through sign language with the Hochelagans and concluded that beyond the rapids at Montreal, the rivers led inland to several large lakes including a land called Saguenay, the source of gold, silver and copper. Cartier was certain the river was the Northwest Passage and that the rapids were the only thing preventing him from sailing to China that the rapids were named for China (La Chine).

[La Chine Rapids]

During his visit at Hochelaga, Cartier and his men were taken up the steep hill later named Mount Royal. A few of his men were dressed in full fighting armour, tired themselves out during the climb; and when it came time for their trip down, the Hochelagans generously picked them up and carried the heavy men on their shoulders to Cartier’s boats.*

After spending two days among the St. Lawrence Iroquoians of Hochelaga, Cartier returned to Stadacona on October 11. It is not known exactly when Cartier decided to spend the winter of 1535-1536 in Stadacona, and it was by then too late to return to France. Cartier and his men prepared for the winter by strengthening their fort, stacking firewood, and salting down game and fish.

During this winter, Cartier compiled in his journal several pages on the manners of the natives -- in particular, their habit of wearing only leggings and loinclothes even in the dead of winter: “They go quite naked, except for a small skin, with which they cover their privy parts, and for a few old furs which they throw over their shoulders…”**

From mid-November 1535 to mid-April 1536, the French fleet lay frozen solid at the mouth of the St. Charles River, under the Rock of Quebec. Ice was over a fathom (1.8 m) thick on the river, with snow four feet (1.2 m) deep ashore. To add to the discomfort, scurvy broke out -- first among the Iroquoians, and then among the French. In his journal, Cartier states that by mid-February, "out of 110 that we were, not ten were well enough to help the others, a pitiful thing to see". Cartier estimated the number of natives dead at 50.

[Arbor vitae, white cedar]

It was a cold winter even by Canadian standards. From mid-November until mid-April Cartier's ships were icebound. Worse still was scurvy, brought on by absence of fresh fruit and vegetables-basically the lack of vitamin C. Of Cartier's 110 men, only 10 were still well by February 1536, and 25 men eventually died. The native peoples had a remedy for scurvy which Cartier learned about just in time: an infusion made from the bark of white cedar which produced massive quantities of vitamin C and by which the men were quickly restored.

When Cartier was ready to return to France in early May 1536, he decided to take Chief Donnacona to France, so that he might personally tell the tale of a country further north, called the "Kingdom of Saguenay", said to be full of gold, rubies and other treasures. After an arduous trip down the St. Lawrence and a three-week Atlantic crossing, Cartier and his men arrived in Saint-Malo on July 15, 1536, concluding the second, 14 month voyage, which was to be Cartier's most profitable.

*McFarlane, Peter and Wayne Haimila. Ancient Land, & Ancient Sky: Following Canada's Native Canoe Routes. Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf Canada, ©1999, p. 54.
The Illustrated History of Canada, Edited by Craig Brown, Key Porter, p. 61-62, **p.61

Photo Credits: wikipedia

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Tuesday for Travis - Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park

Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park is located in southwestern Saskatchewan and southeastern Alberta close to the United States border.

[1- Cypress Hills, Bald Butte]

The Cypress Hills are the highest point of land between Labrador and the Canadian Rockies (160 miles to the west), rising 600 metres (1,950 feet) above the surrounding ranch land. A unique aspect of this area is 10,000 years ago when the land was covered by a sheet of continental glacial ice this plateau was untouched. They have a rich history from Canada’s “wild west” with whiskey traders, outlaws and Indians.

[2-click for larger view]

The park is divided into two sections: the Centre Block where the amenities and most of the campgrounds are located and the West Block, an undeveloped wilderness area adjacent to the Fort Walsh Historic Site which reaches into the province of Alberta.

[3-Camp breakfast}

The Centre Block contains 15 campgrounds with full service hookups including hot showers and modern facilities; while the West Block wilderness area has two rustic campgrounds and an equestrian campground.

[4- Ressor Lake]


There are four distinct habitats and a climate more moderate than the surrounding prairies. Eighteen species of orchids are among the 700 varieties of plant life found in the park.


The majestic lodgepole pines crowning the hills and the lower-lying aspen stands are home to elk, pronghorn antelope, white-tailed deer, fox, coyote and bobcat.

[7-Battle Creek - lower right corner shows trout]

For fishing enthusiasts the Cypress Hills offers some of the best trout fishing in Saskatchewan. The Battle Creek in the West Block wilderness area has Rainbow, Brown and the occasional Brook Trout. This creek is perfect for fly fishers and ultra light spin fishers. Another area is Boiler Creek, in the Centre Block, that has a series of beaver ponds containing Brookies.

[8- Loch Leven]

Loch Leven, in the Centre Block, is surrounded by lodgepole pines and offers angling for Brook and Cutthroat Trout. An effective method for fishing is fly fishing.

[9-another view of Loch Leven]

There are over 17km of groomed trails in Cypress Hills Park for cross-country skiing in the winter.

[10- Trail]


Photo Credits: [1][3]-jenjie CC=nc-nd-flickr, [2]-Travis King CC=nc-flickr, [4]-pansapien CC=nc-sa-flickr, [5][10]-Dave.Kuehn CC=nc-flickr, [6]-Space Ritual CC=nd-flickr, [7]-dinwelch CC=nc-flickr, [8] CC=flickr, [9]-calupso_orchid CC=nc-nd-flickr.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Quantum Shift in the Global Brain by Ervin Laszlo (Book Review)

How the New Scientific Reality Can Change Us and Our World

Our world is in a Macroshift. The reality we are experiencing today is a substantially new reality--climate change, global corporations, industrialized agriculture--challenging us to change with our rapidly changing world, lest we perish.

In this book, Ervin Laszlo presents a new “reality map” to guide us through the world shifts we are experiencing--the problems, opportunities, and challenges we face individually as well as collectively--in order to help us understand what we must do during this time of great transition. Science’s cutting edge now views reality as broader, with multiple universes arising in a possibly infinite meta-universe, and deeper, extending into dimensions at the subatomic level. Laszlo shows aspects of human experience that had previously been consigned to the domain of intuition and speculation are now being explored with scientific rigor and urgency. There has been a shift in the materialistic scientific view of reality toward the multidimensional worldview of multiple interconnected realities long known by the world’s great spiritual traditions. By understanding the interconnectedness of our changing world as well as our changing “map” of the world, we can navigate with insight, wisdom, and confidence.

The current reality experienced is the beginning of a rapidly changing world. It is important for humans to understand the new transition in science: multiple universes and how to interact with them. Ervin Laszlo acknowledges a shift from the “scientific view of reality toward the multidimensional world-view of multiple interconnected realities long known by the world’s great spiritual traditions.” It all comes down to change or become extinct. It is well known that complex systems evolve and science, as we know it, is in the midst of a paradigm shift.

We are headed toward a collapse of the economic and political processes, and military fallout…it is a necessity to transform ideas into solutions to combat these processes, to negate the collapse of economic and political processes, and prevent ecological shortages.

Currently humans are at the brink of extinction unless a positive outlook is formed and fresh opportunities are developed to evolve into a new civilization. All complex systems that evolve through bifurcations and species mutating to avoid extinction are known as macroshifts.

Ervin Laszlo presents a different approach for his ‘reality map’ which guides us through the changes in science and discovery for individuals and society. Quantum science has many shifts related to the worldview, values and Mr. Laszlo provides explanations on the maximum code, on how to manifest a new reality. This is humans’ time of great transition of old ways yielding to new multi-dimensional realities.

The current method of human morality is out-dated by allowing people to live any way they desire. Those at the top of the scale, the rich and mighty, consume a disproportionate share of the planet’s resources while blocking access to vital resources to the less privileged. The suggestion presented is in developing a new planetary ethic where others less fortunate are able to live properly and without resentment towards those who control the greater quantity of essential items to provide the ability to live.

In supporting his theories of making these global changes, Ervin Laszlo discusses life and mind-transforming experiences of people who have had a near-death experience returning to life with a changed consciousness and awareness of a new energy: they have achieved inner peace, empathy for others, a reverence for nature and a new found appreciation of existence. For those who dismiss this, I have personally had two near-death experiences which left me with a realization of being part of a larger plan and all people on this planet are inter-connected though we are individuals. It is through spiritual emotions that we are all connected, whether by use of negativity or positive thoughts. It is preferable to create positive emotions in order to create a new methodology of saving our planet and ourselves. Currently there is an excess of negative emotions which is dragging down mankind and creating unnecessary struggling. With these ideals Ervin Laszlo is trying to provide an explanation of how we might overcome these negative struggles to a better and more positive lifestyle that benefits everyone.

In creating a globally interdependent and interacting world the ethic must be an amalgamation of all the ethics of mankind to produce what Mr. Laszlo calls a ‘planetary ethic’. There have been ongoing changes in how some sub-culture organizations and individuals who desire a better lifestyle through the development of producing natural and organic foodstuffs, alternative healthcare, personal development and a stable ecological lifestyle.

He goes on to explain the new fundamental concept of reality as it relates to science as opposed to what most people believe. Everything is composed of different elements of energy complete with information: there are no bits of matter floating around in empty space. The universe is constantly changing and evolving into new realities.

Scientists working on quantum science have rediscovered a cosmic meditative state that has been in existence for thousands of years known as “akasha”, a Sanskrit term for the most fundamental of the five elements of the cosmos, from an Indian philosophical tradition. As “akasha” underlies all the manifest phenomena of the cosmos, it can be sought through spiritual practice of meditation, reached and implemented to manifest phenomena.

This is the same reality that a person who has a near-death experiences touches, if only briefly. There is nothing on earth quite like it.

Ervin Laszlo continues with probable explanations on how to evoke the next evolution of human consciousness by gradually developing the ability, not unlike the mystics, sages, healers and yogis who are able to raise their intuitive levels to seek their answers or manifest healing properties.

Ervin Laszlo, twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, is editor of the international periodical World Futures: The Journal of General Evolution and Chancellor-Designate of the newly formed GlobalShift University. He is the founder and president of the international think tanks the Club of Budapest and the General Evolution Research Group and the author of 83 books translated into 21 languages. He lives in Italy.

This is a book I recommend for those who are interested in quantum physics and the meditative state as it is written in a style I was able to understand, considering my strengths are not in science and mathematics.

Publisher: Inner Traditions International
Pages: 184

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Happy Holidays

For the remainder of the week I won't be posting anything due to Christmas but will be checking back for comments.

For those celebrating Christmas, a song from Celine Dion:

Magic of the Season

A time honoured Christmas tradition in my family was attending the ballet production of The Nutcracker.

The following videos are scenes from The Nutcracker performed by the Kirov Ballet in St. Petersburg.

The Nutcracker Ballet is based on the story "The Nutcracker and the King of Mice" written by E.T.A. Hoffman. When the ballet was choreographed by Marius Petipa, it was based on a revision by Alexander Dumas with the orchestra music by Tchaikovsky. Although what is seen on the stage today is different in detail from the original story, the basic plot remains the same: the story of a young German girl who dreams of a Nutcracker Prince and a fierce battle against a Mouse King.

The story begins on Christmas Eve at a large and grand house with the most beautiful tree imaginable where the Stahlbaums are hosting their annual Christmas party, welcoming the arrival of their family and friends. The children, Clara and Fritz, are dancing and playing when their godfather, Drosselmeyer, arrives. He is a skilled clock and toy maker and always full of surprises.

The children begin to open gifts when Drosselmeyer presents his to Clara and Fritz. Although his gift to Fritz is quite nice, he gives Clara a beautiful Nutcracker that becomes the hit of the party. Fritz becomes jealous, grabs the nutcracker from Clara and promptly breaks it. Clara is heartbroken looking on as Drosselmeyer quickly repairs the Nutcracker with a handkerchief he magically draws from the air.

As the evening grows late, the guests depart and the Stahlbaum family retires for the evening. Clara, worried about her beloved Nutcracker, sneaks back to the tree to check on him, falling asleep with him in her arms.

As the clock strikes midnight strange things begin to happen. Clara begins shrinking as her beautiful Christmas tree grows high above her. The toys around the tree come to life while the room fills with an army of mice, lead by the fierce Mouse King. As the Nutcracker awakens, he leads his army of toy soldiers into battle with the mice. The Mouse King corners the Nutcracker and battles him one-on-one. The Nutcracker seems to be no match for the Mouse King.

The Nutcracker and his army can go on no longer and are captured by the mice and their King. Clara makes a final daring charge throwing her slipper at the Mouse King, hitting him square on the head. The Mouse King drops to the floor and the mice run away, carrying off their leader's lifeless body.

The Nutcracker turns into a Prince and takes Clara on a journey to the Land of Snow, an enchanted forest wonderland where they are welcomed by dancing snowflakes.

The Prince escorts Clara to the Land of Sweets where they are greeted by the Sugar Plum Fairy. The Prince tells her about their daring battle with the army of mice and she rewards them with a celebration of different dances.

Sugar Plum Fairy

As a finale, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier dance a beautiful Pas De Deux.

Clara wakes up the next morning under the Christmas tree with her Nutcracker still in her arms.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Two Sentence Tuesday: 23 December 2008

When I have trouble sleeping, I read from a fantasy anthology from DAW on their 30th Anniversary (2002) with contributors such as Andre Norton, Melanie Rawn, Mercedes Lackey, Jennifer Roberson, Tanya Huff, Tanith Lee and others.

This book is filled with short stories, and today two sentences from Persian Eyes by Tanith Lee:

“The female slaves especially he did not like to chastise unduly. Like flowers, or animals, they looked better, and were a nicer ornament to his house, if well kept.”

And two sentences from my current draft work-in-progress:

“The treacherous reefs along the shore were the hiding places of pirates and brigands: opportunists from age-old families, generation after generation, who continued in their trade of procuring goods from the shipping lanes including humans to be sold as slaves in a variety of ports many leagues from their homes. The brigands were headed by a nefarious individual, one whose true identity was carefully concealed.”

Fishing Tuesday - Rushing River Provincial Park


Rushing River Provincial Park is 340 hectares in size, near Kenora, Ontario.

The forest is dominated by jack pines of a uniform height, due to a forest fire in 1910 which opened all the pinecones at once. Balsam, spruce, aspen, alder, and maple have intermingled with the pines. This dense forest canopy shades a community of other plant life, including many edibles such as blueberries, cherries, hazelnuts, raspberries, and strawberries.


Rushing River cascades over rock gouged by glaciers in a series of rapids but elsewhere is passable by canoe. Canoe routes ranging in lengths from 32 to 103 km are easily accessible from the park.


During early spring and late fall is when the visitor is most likely to see black bears, moose and deer and the smaller red foxes, weasels, mink and otters. Sixty species of birds also live here, including great blue herons, loons, night hawks, belted kingfishers, Canada jays and various waterfowl.

For the fishing enthusiast there are walleye, pike, smallmouth bass and lake trout.

For hikers:


Beaver Pond Trail 1.5 km loop (45 minutes) easy
Follow this trail to a quiet beaver pond full of fragrant water lilies. Listen for songbirds in the forest and watch for mallard ducks. If you look carefully, you might see orchids or other unusual plants.

[5- Dogtooth Lake]

Granite Knoll Trail 5 km (1.5 hours) moderate
This trail meanders along the shoreline of Dogtooth Lake and then swings back through open jack pine forest and over gnarly granite hummocks.

[6- Morning on Dogtooth Lake]

Lower Rapids Trail 2 km (1 hour) easy
This trail follows what may be a native portage around the rapids and waterfalls on Rushing River.

[7-Sunset over Andy Lake]

Rushing River has 217 campsites, 75 of which have electrical service. Washroom and shower facilities are conveniently located in the campgrounds and there is a park store for supplies.


Photo Credits: [1][2][3][4][7]-Jezz CC=nd-flickr, [5][6]-Marg S CC=flickr.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

My Town Monday - Seaton Village (Toronto)

[1- Horse drawn streetcar in Seaton Village 1890]

Seaton Village was originally settled by Colonel David Shank and Captain Samuel Smith. Both men were loyalists who served under John Graves Simcoe in the Queens Rangers during the American Revolution. All of the Lots west of Bathurst Street were granted to military men: Col. David Shank, Capt. MacDonnell (an aide-de-camp of General Brock), Capt. Samuel Smith, and Capt. Æneas Shaw (another captain in the Queen’s Rangers, a good friend of General Brock).

The Shank and Smith farm lots were acquired by George Crookshank in the early 1800s, who was a successful merchant in York, born in New York City in 1773. His parents, George Crookshank, Sr. and Catherine Norris, had been merchants in New York during the American Revolution. As they had sided with the British during that conflict, they lost everything. After the war they made their way to Upper Canada via New Brunswick, settling in York. George Crookshank, Jr. became a land speculator, and purchased the lots previously owned by Col. Shank, Capt. Smith and others. His property, which included his original 330 acres that had been granted by the Crown, now stretched from between Bathurst and Niagara Street, north to Davenport Road. He built a house in 1801 just north of Fort York on Front Street, west of Bathurst. His country home was located along Bathurst, just north of Bloor. A laneway from the Crookshank house ran north to his country farm, which is now part of Bathurst Street.

In the 1850’s the Village was laid out on the old Crookshank farm, but it wasn’t until 1888 when Seaton Village was annexed by the City of Toronto.

The Village is named after John Colborne, 1st Baron Seaton, Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada from 1828 to 1836. Seaton Village is bordered by Bloor Street to the south, Dupont Street to the north, Christie Street to the west, and Bathurst Street to the east. It is within the broader 'The Annex' neighbourhood, as defined by the City of Toronto. Although the Koreatown shopping district is at its southern border, it is sometimes referred to as the "West Annex". While Seaton Village shares several characteristics with the area to the east (notably its architecture and its popularity with University of Toronto students), it is generally quieter, family-oriented, and with smaller, less expensive homes.


Photo Credit: wikimedia

Winter Solstice / Yule

[1-Danish Yule Tree Candle]

Yule was a midwinter festival celebrated by the Germanic peoples, which was progressively absorbed into the Christian observations surrounding Christmas. It was described as celebrated "for a fertile and peaceful season" and had a fertility sacrifice for the god Odin. Odin was associated with Yule, and that the tradition of the Wild Hunt undoubtedly contributed to the association of the two.

The Wild Hunt was a folk myth prevalent in former times across Northern, Western and Central Europe. The fundamental premise in all instances is the same: a phantasmal group of huntsmen with the accoutrements of hunting, horses, hounds, etc., in mad pursuit across the skies or along the ground, or just above it.

[2-Wild Hunt, 1872]

The hunters may be the dead, or the fairies (often in folklore connected with the dead). The hunter may be an unidentified lost soul, a deity or spirit of either gender, or may be a historical or legendary figure like Dietrich of Berne, the Danish king Valdemar Atterdag, Woden (or other reflexes of the same god, such as Alemannic Wuodan in Wuotis Heer of Central Switzerland, Swabia etc.), or Arawn.

The Germanic Yule feast still had a function in the cult of the dead and in the veneration of the ancestors, a function which the mid-winter sacrifice certainly held for the West European Stone and Bronze Ages." The traditions of the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar, Yule singing, and others stem from Yule customs, and these customs "indicate the significance of the feast in pre-Christian times."

[3-Father Christmas on Yule Goat]

In Finland, on the eve of Joulu, children are visited by Joulupukki, a character similar to Santa Claus. The word Joulupukki means "Yule Goat" and probably derives from an old Finnish tradition where people called nuuttipukkis dressed in goat hides circulated in homes after Joulu, eating leftover food. Joulupukki visits people's homes and rides a sleigh pulled by a number of reindeer. He knocks on the front door during Jouluaatto, rather than sneaking in through the chimney at night. When he comes in, his first words are usually "Onkos täällä kilttejä lapsia?", "Are there (any) good (well-behaved) children here?" Presents are given and opened immediately. He usually wears red, warm clothes and often carries a wooden walking stick. His workshop is in Korvatunturi, Lapland, Finland, rather than at the North Pole like Santa Claus, or in Greenland. He is married to Joulumuori (tr. Mother Yule). Typical Finnish yule dishes include ham, various root vegetable casseroles, beetroot salad, gingerbread and star-shaped plum-filled pastries. Other traditions with a non-Christian yule background include joulukuusi ("Yule spruce") and joulusauna ("yule sauna").


Photo Credits: wikipedia.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Winter Perils

Toronto is getting a real blast of winter weather today: 10cm (4 inches) of snow, wind producing a frigid day to go out in: -18C (windchill) /0F. (Though this is balmy considering the frigid weather currently on the prairies. Winnipeg two nights ago had an overnight low of -38C. (-40C = -40F) Instead of venturing out I’ve decided to do some baking and listen to seasonal music.

Update 11:30pm: snowfall reported at 15cm to 20cm.

Outside my window the school bus driver got stuck trying to turn around. Spinning the back wheels like crazy. It will be interesting when he returns to find his parking spot drifted in with snow.

Every year drivers get stuck on the side street bordering my place. Most don’t have proper winter tires, or chains, or carry emergency items in the car trunk: shovel, spare gloves, thermal blanket, bags of cat litter (for ice), beeswax candle, packages of mixed nuts/trail mix, chocolate, candy; despite knowing every year there is snow, sometimes record amounts of it. They think winter radials are all they need and it’s just a short drive to the store.

Getting unstuck with horse power:

The notation with the video: “Some Floridians came by the Ski Farm for some cross country skiing but wound up in the ditch. Fortunately Max and his team of Percherons was there to save the day, and unblock the driveway. Western Maryland Backbone Ski Farm.”

Here’s slightly different version of Winter Wonderland with snow covered landscapes that I expect winter to have.

Time for hot cocoa.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Hiking Trails - Wapta Falls

Wapta Falls is near the west end gate of Yoho National Park on the Kicking Horse River. From the TransCanada Highway it is an easy half hour hike one way going 7-kilometres round-trip. The Kicking Horse River drops 27 metres at its full height and is 61 metres across. Wapta Falls has the largest volume of water of all waterfalls in Yoho National Park; with the distinction in 1858 of being close to the spot where Kicking Horse Pass explorer James Hector was kicked in the chest while trying to recover a runaway horse. He recovered enough to push on with the expedition which proceeded to make the first recorded passage of what is now known as the Big Hill leading up into the Bow Valley from the present day location of Field. Expedition members aptly named the river The Kicking Horse.

Tales From The Canadian Rockies, Brian Patton (1994)

Photo Credits: pinkcanoe CC=nc-nd-flickr.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Jacques Cartier's First Voyage to Canada

Jacques Cartier (December 31, 1491–September 1, 1557) was a French explorer, who claimed what is now Canada for France. He was the first who described and mapped the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the shores of the Saint Lawrence River including both Iroquoian big settlements he saw in Stadaconna (Quebec City) and in Hochelaga (Montreal Island) which he documented with the name Canada. The name is derived from the Huron-Iroquois word "kanata", or village, which was incorrectly interpreted as the native term for the newly discovered land. Cartier also named "Canadiens" the inhabitants (Iroquoians) he had seen there. Thereafter the name Canada was used to designate the small French colony on these shores, and the French colonists were called Canadiens, until the mid-nineteenth century, when the name started to be applied to the loyalist colonies on the Great Lakes and later to all of British North America.

[Keulemans-Great Auk]

In 1534, Jacques Cartier set sail under a commission from King Francis I of France, hoping to discover a western passage to the wealthy markets of Asia. In the words of the king's commission, he was to "discover certain islands and lands where it is said that a great quantity of gold and other precious things are to be found". Starting on May 10 of that year, he explored parts of Newfoundland, the areas now known as the Canadian Atlantic provinces and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. On one stop at Iles-aux-Oiseaux, Cartier noted in his journal that his crew slaughtered around 1000 birds, most of them great auks (now extinct).* Cartier's first encounter with aboriginal people, the Mi'kmaq (Mic-mac), was brief and some trading occurred.

On his second encounter Cartier noted in his journal that he panicked as 50 Mi'kmaq canoes surrounded one of his long boats. Despite the Mi'kmaq signs of peace Cartier ordered his men to shoot two warning shots over their heads. The Mi'kmaq paddled away.**

Cartier's third encounter took place at Baie de Gaspé with the St. Lawrence Iroquoians, where on July 24, without their assent, he planted a ten-meter cross bearing the words "Long Live the King of France" and took possession of the territory in the name of the king. The change in mood was a clear indication that the Iroquoians understood Cartier's actions.

From "The Illustrated History of Canada" is an entry from Jacques Cartier's journal after placing the cross on the land:

"When we had returned to our ships, the chief, dressed in an old black bear-skin, arrived in a canoe with three of his sons and his brother....And pointing to the cross he made us a long harangue, making the sign of the cross with two of his fingers; and then he pointed to the land all around about, as if he wished to say that all this region belonged to him, and that we ought not to have set up this cross without his permission...."**

Cartier ordered his men to seize the Stadacona to bring them aboard where they were provided with food and drink. "And then we explained to them by signs that the cross had been set up to serve as a landmark and guide-post on coming into the harbour, and that we would soon come back...."**

Prior to leaving for France, Cartier seized two young Iroquoian men, sons of Chief Donnacona, indicating that he would bring them back to the chief's village the following summer. Donnacona at last agreed that they may be taken under the condition that they return with European goods to trade.

Cartier returned to France in September 1534, sure that he had reached an Asian coast.

**The Illustrated History of Canada, Edited by Craig Brown, pp.60-61
Photo Credits: wikipedia

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Two For Tuesday: 16 December 2008

In my writing I have been striving for description to move the story forward.

Here is my written two line contribution for today, from a current draft work:

"With scarcely any room to move, she managed to rise to her knees, coughing in the thick, acrid dust until her chest ached and she tasted blood. Struggling in the cramped darkness, she got her shirttail out of her jeans and over her mouth and nose; it strained enough dust that she could breathe."

From a book I recently read are two sentences from Dark Fire by C.J. Sansom:

“Joseph’s mother sat ramrod straight in her chair, snow-white hair gathered under a black cap, veiny hands folded over a stick. She was thin, the planes of her skull visible beneath pale skin that was a patchwork of lines and smallpox scars.”

Tuesdays For Travis - Pukaskwa National Park, Ontario

[1-Playter Harbour on Lake Superior]

[2-Bay on Lake Superior]

[3-Lake Superior shoreline]

This park encompasses 1,878 square miles along the eastern shoreline of Lake Superior.

There are many spellings to the word “Pukaskwa” which provide different meanings: cleaning of fish, eaters of fish, something evil or safe harbour.

Of primary concern in Pukaskwa National Park is the survival of the small herd of woodland caribou resident there. Rare arctic plants grow here due to Lake Superior’s Arctic influence, as do coastal heron rookeries, forest mammals, birds, and inland water quality.

[4-This rabbit walked up to the photographer on the beach without any concern]

Ontario Fishing Regulations apply in the Park. The use of lead sinkers and weighted lures are prohibited in national parks and national wildlife areas in Canada.

Pukaskwa is a remote area with no refueling opportunities.

Cyclists can travel on Highway 627 and campground roads. Bicycles are not permitted on any of the trails in Pukaskwa National Park.


Parks Canada provides the following information about backpacking into the wilderness of the Park:

“Pukaskwa National Park protects a nationally significant area of Lake Superior shoreline and boreal forest. With no road access, the Lake Superior shoreline between Hattie Cove to Michipicoten is the least developed shoreline anywhere on the Great Lakes. As interest in exploring this coastline continues to increase, we ask that you take steps to minimize your impacts on the ecosystem as you travel through the park. Wild spaces can survive as long as we strive to be stewards, not consumers, of wilderness areas.”

[6-White River crossing on a wire and slat bridge on one of the many trails in the Park]

On the link below are guidelines to follow when visiting the Park.

[7-Sunset over Lake Superior]


Photo Credits: [1][5][6]-Geoffrey Rockwell CC=nc-nd-flickr, [2]-Troy B Thompson CC=nc-nd-flickr, [3][4][7]-begemot CC=nc-nd-flickr,

Monday, 15 December 2008

Fantasy Book Sales Are Up

From Galley Cat comes good news for fantasy writers (including me) where Juno Books editor Paula Guran studied the Nielsen Bookscan numbers.

For last week, 49th of the year, fantasy mass market paperbacks sold 102,660 up from 62,761 units last year. Also, in mass market paperbacks, romance sold 310,689 units up from 202,667 for the week.

My Town Monday - Cholera Outbreak in Toronto 1832

[North Side of King Street from Toronto to Church Streets in 1835 by John Howard]

The First Cholera Pandemic began in Bengal, India in 1816 and spread throughout India by 1820. The Second Cholera Pandemic reached Ontario in 1832, brought by immigrants from Europe and Britain.

Mary Agnes FitzGibbon wrote about the reminiscences of William Wallbridge, of Belleville, Ontario, an old Upper Canada College student, on his recollection of her grandfather, James FitzGibbon during the Cholera outbreak.

The following is an excerpt from “Veteran of 1812: The Life of James FitzGibbon”:

“I first went to college in 1831, my brother Lewis and I being the first sent from this district. I remember Col. FitzGibbon well. He was a remarkable-looking man. I remember him in the House, for, not caring much to join my companions in their games, I used to find my way there.

“The Legislative Assembly then held its sittings in the old building opposite the market-place on King Street. I was particularly struck with the Clerk, a tall man, straight, upright, and decidedly military in his carriage, his clear incisive voice and prompt performance of his duties. I frequently met him on the way to the House, at the corner where St. Andrew's Church now stands, his height and soldierly appearance, as well as an eccentric habit he had of carrying his tall hat on the end of his cane, slightly above his head, instead of wearing it, that the air might circulate freely about his head, attracting my attention. His hair was always cut as closely as possible, a fashion more noticeable then than it would be now.

“In 1832, when the cholera was raging in Toronto — (it was bad in '34, but nothing to what it was in '32) — FitzGibbon was the prominent man. It was he who arranged and organized every plan for the care and comfort of the sick, and the decent burial of the dead. He was here, there and everywhere. He was afraid of nothing, whether in the removal of the sick to the hospital or in conveying the dead to the grave. I remember seeing him once with two carts close to the college, one for the dead, the other for the dying. He was standing near, and with his own hands assisting in their removal. He seemed to have a charmed life, to need no rest, and to be as exempt from contagion as he had been from the enemy's fire on the field of battle. He was not acting under any authority from the Government or city, but solely and entirely on his own responsibility, and through pity for the sufferers."*

[The General Hospital was west of the Upper Canada College on Russell Square; and it was opposite this building, standing, as it does, slantwise to the street, that Mr. Wallbridge remembered seeing FitzGibbon attending to the removal of the plague stricken people in 1832.]

“Toronto was a different place then. There was not a foot of pavement in the whole city, except it might be a plank or two set down between a few doorways. During the spring and autumn, the streets resembled freshly ploughed fields, the mud particularly adhesive and heavy.”

* Dickson, in his "History of Upper Canada College," speaks of FitzGibbon as "risking his life to labor night and day during the cholera seasons of 1832 and 1834."

My Town Monday is the brainchild of Travis Erwin.

Source: A Veteran of 1812: The Life of James FitzGibbon by Mary Agnes FitzGibbon (1894)
Photocredits: wikimedia.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Winter Wonderland

Looking out from the porch of the Jumbo Pass Cabin in the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Provincial Park in southeastern British Columbia which has 500,000 acres of pristine wilderness.

Photo Credit: Mike Warren CC=nc-sa-flickr.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) Believed To Be Extinct

During my information hunt on the Tasmanian Devil for my post yesterday, I read about the Tasmanian Tiger. Their closest living relative is the Tasmanian Devil. I recalled first learning about them in school in the early 1960s, with their numbers dwindling. From observing the Thylacines presented in the video below, the head partially resembles the shape of an Akita dog when viewed from the side.

According to Wikipedia:

“The Thylacine held the status of "endangered species" until 1986. International standards state that any animal for which no specimens have been recorded for 50 years is to be declared extinct. Since no definitive proof of the Thylacine's existence had been found since Benjamin died in 1936, it now met that official criterion and was declared officially extinct by the IUCN. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is more cautious, listing it as "possibly extinct".

“The Thylacine (Greek for: dog-headed pouched one) was the largest known carnivorous marsupial of modern times. Native to Australia and New Guinea, it is thought to have become extinct in the 20th century. It is commonly known as the Tasmanian Tiger (because of its striped back), the Tasmanian Wolf, and colloquially the Tassie (or Tazzy) Tiger or simply the Tiger. It was the last extant member of its genus, Thylacinus, although several related species have been found in the fossil record dating back to the early Miocene.

Video of alleged sighting plus video footage of Tasmanian Tigers in captivity in early 1900s.

This weblink has a map of Thylacine sightings in both Australia and Tasmania.

Also, here is a weblink where Thylacines were reported as being pets.

"The Thylacine became extinct on the Australian mainland thousands of years before European settlement of the continent, but it survived on the island of Tasmania along with several endemic species, including the Tasmanian Devil. Intensive hunting encouraged by bounties is generally blamed for its extinction, but other contributory factors may have been disease, the introduction of dogs, and human encroachment into its habitat. Despite being officially classified as extinct, sightings are still reported.

[Thylacine cubs with mother]

Like the tigers and wolves of the Northern Hemisphere, from which it inherited two of its common names, the Thylacine was an apex predator. As a marsupial, it was not related to these placental mammals, but because of convergent evolution it displayed the same general form and adaptations. Its closest living relative is the Tasmanian Devil.

The Thylacine was one of only two marsupials to have a pouch in both sexes (the other is the Water Opossum). The male Thylacine had a pouch that acted as a protective sheath, protecting the male's external reproductive organs while running through thick brush.

The mature Thylacine ranged from 100 cm (39 in) to 180 cm (71 in) long, including a tail of around 50 cm (20 in) to 65 cm (26 in). The largest measured specimen was 290 cm (9.5 ft) from nose to tail. Adults stood about 60 cm (24 in) at the shoulder and weighed 20 kg (44 lb) to 30 kg (66 lb). There males were larger than females on average.

Thylacine footprints could be distinguished from other native or introduced animals; unlike foxes, cats, dogs, wombats or Tasmanian Devils, Thylacines had a very large rear pad and four obvious front pads, arranged in almost a straight line. The hindfeet were similar to the forefeet but had four digits rather than five. Their claws were non-retractable.

Although there are no recordings of Thylacine vocalisations, observers of the animal in the wild and in captivity noted that it would growl and hiss when agitated, often accompanied by a threat-yawn. During hunting it would emit a series of rapidly repeated guttural cough-like barks (described as "yip-yap", "cay-yip" or "hop-hop-hop"), probably for communication between the family pack members. It also had a long whining cry, probably for identification at distance, and a low snuffling noise used for communication between family members.

The Thylacine was a nocturnal and crepuscular hunter, spending the daylight hours in small caves or hollow tree trunks in a nest of twigs, bark or fern fronds. It tended to retreat to the hills and forest for shelter during the day and hunted in the open heath at night. Early observers noted that the animal was typically shy and secretive, with awareness to the presence of humans and generally avoiding contact, though it occasionally showed inquisitive traits.

There is evidence for at least some year-round breeding (cull records show joeys discovered in the pouch at all times of the year), although the peak breeding season was in winter and spring. They would produce up to four cubs per litter (typically two or three), carrying the young in a pouch for up to three months and protecting them until they were at least half adult size. Early pouch young were hairless and blind, but they had their eyes open and were fully furred by the time they left the pouch. After leaving the pouch, and until they were developed enough to assist, the juveniles would remain in the lair while the female hunted. Thylacines only once bred successfully in captivity, in Melbourne Zoo in 1899. Their life expectancy in the wild is estimated to have been 5 to 7 years, although captive specimens survived up to 9 years.

The Thylacine was exclusively carnivorous. Its stomach was muscular with an ability to distend to allow the animal to eat large amounts of food at one time, probably an adaptation to compensate for long periods when hunting was unsuccessful and food scarce. Analysis of the skeletal frame and observations of it in captivity suggest that it singled out a target animal and pursued it until it was exhausted. Some studies conclude that the animal may have hunted in small family groups, with the main group herding prey in the general direction of an individual waiting in ambush. Trappers reported it as an ambush predator.

Prey included kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, birds and small animals such as potoroos and possums. A favourite prey animal may have been the once common Tasmanian Emu. The emu was a large, flightless bird which shared the habitat of the Thylacine and was hunted to extinction around 1850, possibly coinciding with the decline in Thylacine numbers. Both dingos and foxes have been noted to hunt the emu on the mainland. Throughout the 20th century, the Thylacine was often characterised as primarily a blood drinker, but little reference is now made to this trait; its popularity seems to have originated from a single second-hand account. European settlers believed the Thylacine to have preyed upon farmers' sheep and poultry. In captivity, Thylacines were fed a wide variety of foods, including dead rabbits and wallabies as well as beef, mutton, and horse and occasionally poultry.

[Thylacines at the Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart, 1910]

Although long extinct on the Australian mainland by the time the European settlers arrived, the Thylacine survived into the 1930s in Tasmania. At the time of the first settlement, the heaviest distributions were in the northeast, northwest and north-midland regions. From the early days of European settlement they were rarely sighted but slowly began to be credited with numerous attacks on sheep. This led to the establishment of bounty schemes in an attempt to control their numbers. The Van Diemen's Land Company introduced bounties on the Thylacine from as early as 1830, and between 1888 and 1909 the Tasmanian government paid £1 per head for the animal (10 shillings for pups). In all they paid out 2,184 bounties, but it is thought that many more Thylacines were killed than were claimed. Its extinction is popularly attributed to these relentless efforts by farmers and bounty hunters.

Whatever the reason, the animal had become extremely rare in the wild by the late 1920s. There were several efforts to save the species from extinction. Records of the Wilsons Promontory management committee dating to 1908 included recommendations for Thylacines to be reintroduced to several suitable locations on the Victorian mainland. In 1928, the Tasmanian Advisory Committee for Native Fauna had recommended a reserve to protect any remaining Thylacines, with potential sites of suitable habitat including the Arthur-Pieman area of western Tasmania.

The last known wild Thylacine to be killed was shot in 1930, by farmer Wilf Batty in Mawbanna, in the northeast of the state. The animal (believed to be a male) had been seen around Batty's hen houses for several weeks.

Although the Thylacine is considered extinct, many people believe the animal still exists. Sightings are regularly claimed in Tasmania, other parts of Australia and even in the Western New Guinea area of Indonesia, near the Papua New Guinea border. The Australian Rare Fauna Research Association reports having 3,800 sightings on file from mainland Australia since the 1936 extinction date, while the Mystery Animal Research Centre of Australia recorded 138 up to 1998, and the Department of Conservation and Land Management recorded 65 in Western Australia over the same period. Independent Thylacine researchers Buck and Joan Emburg of Tasmania report 360 Tasmanian and 269 mainland post-extinction 20th century sightings, figures compiled from a number of sources. On the mainland, sightings are most frequently reported in Southern Victoria.

Some sightings have generated a large amount of publicity. In 1982 a researcher with the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, Hans Naarding, observed what he believed to be a Thylacine for three minutes during the night at a site near Arthur River in northwestern Tasmania. The sighting led to an extensive year-long government-funded search. In January 1995, a Parks and Wildlife officer reported observing a Thylacine in the Pyengana region of northeastern Tasmania in the early hours of the morning. Later searches revealed no trace of the animal. In 1997, it was reported that locals and missionaries near Mount Carstensz in Western New Guinea had sighted Thylacines. The locals had apparently known about them for many years but had not made an official report. In February 2005 Klaus Emmerichs, a German tourist, claimed to have taken digital photographs of a Thylacine he saw near the Lake St Clair National Park, but the authenticity of the photographs has not been established. The photos were not published until April 2006, fourteen months after the sighting.

The results of subsequent searches indicated a strong possibility of the survival of the species in Tasmania into the 1960s. Searches by Dr. Eric Guiler and David Fleay in the north-west of Tasmania found footprints and scats that may have belonged to the animal, heard vocalisations matching the description of those of the Thylacine, and collected anecdotal evidence from people reported to have sighted the animal. Despite the searches, no conclusive evidence was found to point to its continued existence in the wild.

UPDATE: On the site a 2006 Thylacine sighting was reported at Savage River near a conservation park (Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area) in Tasmania with a photo of an animal's torso with the distinctive striping on the lower back. The photographer described a "German Shepherd/Kangaroo thing" that looked like a pup which ran to a larger animal of the same kind when the flash of his camera went off.

Source: Wikipedia,, [sightings in 1960s]

Photo Credits: Wikipedia.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Endangered Tasmanian Devils Headed to Extinction

The Tasmanian Devil, at one time, covered all of Australia. The size of a small dog, but stocky and muscular, the Tasmanian Devil is now the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world after the extinction of the Thylacine in 1936. It is characterized by its black fur, offensive odour when stressed, extremely loud and disturbing screech, and ferocity when feeding. It is known to both hunt prey and scavenge carrion and although it is usually solitary, it sometimes eats with other devils. Now the animal is limited to the southwest of Tasmania in an endangered status because the farmers saw it as a threat to their livestock and poultry. It was exterminated in Australia from the bounty placed upon it by farmers, being hit by cars, and dingos competing for food.

Tasmanian Devils are widespread and fairly common throughout Tasmania. Found in all habitats on the island, including the outskirts of urban areas, they particularly like dry sclerophyll forests and coastal woodlands. The Tasmanian Devil is a nocturnal and crepuscular hunter, spending the days in dense bush or in a hole. Young devils can climb trees, but this becomes more difficult as they grow larger. Devils can also swim. They are predominantly solitary animals and do not form packs. They occupy territories of 8–20 km², which can overlap considerably amongst different animals.

Tasmanian Devils can take prey up to the size of a small wallaby, but in practice they are opportunistic, and eat carrion more often than they hunt live prey. Although the devil favours wombats, it will eat all small native mammals, domestic mammals (including sheep), birds, fish, insects, frogs and reptiles. Their diet is largely varied and depends on the food available. On average, they eat about 15% of their body weight each day; however, they can eat up to 40% of their body weight in 30 minutes if the opportunity arises. Tasmanian Devils eliminate all traces of a carcass, devouring the bones and fur in addition to the meat and internal organs. In this respect, the devil has earned the gratitude of Tasmanian farmers, as the speed at which they clean a carcass helps prevent the spread of insects that might otherwise harm livestock.

Eating is a social event for the Tasmanian Devil. Much of the noise attributed to the animal is a result of raucous communal eating, at which up to 12 individuals can gather, and can often be heard several kilometers away. A study of feeding devils identified 20 physical postures, including their characteristic vicious yawn, and the 11 different vocal sounds that devils use to communicate as they feed. They usually establish dominance by sound and physical posturing, although fighting does occur. Adult males are the most aggressive, and scarring is common from fighting over food and mates.

Because they were seen as a threat to livestock in Tasmania, devils were hunted until 1941, when they became officially protected. Since the late 1990s Devil Facial Tumour Disease has reduced the Devil population significantly and now threatens the survival of the species, which in May 2008 was declared to be endangered. Programs are currently being undertaken by the Tasmanian government to reduce the impact of the disease.

Some Tasmanian Devils are kept in zoos so humans and other animals cannot kill or hurt them. Now zoos are trying to keep the captive animals safe from the spread of Devil Facial Tumour Disease which produces tumorous growths on the face and muzzle. The disease spreads through biting—a common practice in Devils as they are natural fighters, battling tooth and claw for every morsel of food.

While the Devil numbers are decreasing, fox numbers are increasing. Foxes were introduced, and later they began to hunt and eat Devils. It is believed if the Devil numbers drop too low, then there is little hope the population will ever recover.

Sources: wikinews, wikimedia,
Photo Credits: wikipedia

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Hiking Trails - Takakkaw Loop - Day 4

Trail is considered moderate
Closest Town: Field, BC

This hike takes place in Yoho National Park in British Columbia in western Canada. Today is the fourth day of a hike that began November 20th at the Takakkaw Falls.

This hike returns to Takakkaw Falls campground with stops at Point Lace Falls and Angel’s Staircase 5.2 km taking 2 plus hours. The hike begins at the Laughing Falls campground.

Just down stream from Laughing Falls is a bridge over the Yoho Valley River which is 4.2 km to Takakkaw Falls.

Fairy Falls are 4 km north of Takakkaw Falls

[1-Fairy Creek Falls]

[2–Trail to Angel’s Staircase Falls]

[3- Western Toad on hike] According to Wikipedia the Western toad or boreal toad (Bufo boreas) is a large toad species, between 5.6 and 13 cm long, of western North America. It has a white or cream dorsal stripe, and is dusky gray or greenish dorsally with skin glands concentrated within the dark blotches.

Breeding occurs between March and July in mountainous areas, and as early as January in lower-elevation regions. The female lays up to 17,000 eggs stuck together in strings that adhere to vegetation and other objects along water edges.

B. boreas is frequently encountered during the wet season on roads, or near water at other times. When handled adults often vocalize, making a sound like a peeping chick while struggling. It eats any type of insect it can catch. It also has a very long jump.

[4- Near end of trail to Angel's Staircase Falls]

Highlights of this trail include Angel's Staircase Falls, a 300 metre cascading creek,

[5-Angel's Staircase]

and Point Lace Falls, 13.5 metre curtain waterfall, which the hiker will find just off the main trail, a mile north of Takakkaw Falls.

[6-Point Lace Falls]

Upon reaching the main trail again, the hiker walks along a gravel track for a few km to complete the hike.

[7-Looking back up trail]

[8- Approaching Takakkaw Falls]

[9- Yoho River near campsite]

[10- Yoho River below Takakkaw Falls]

Source: ParksCanada
Photo Credits: [1][6]-brilang CC=nc-nd-flickr, [2][3][4][5][7]-cuppojoe CC=nc-sa-flickr, [8][10]-danielebneter CC=nc-flickr, [9]-inottawa CC=flickr,