Lunenburg is a port town, located on the Fairhaven Peninsula at the western side of Mahone Bay, approximately 50 miles southwest of the county boundary with the Halifax Regional Municipality and 25 miles (by water) from Peggy’s Cove.
Since we were arriving there from Peggy’s Cove, we drove part of the distance through the marshy coastal landscape,
although in the inland areas, farming had tamed some of it.
The town was established by the four founding fathers, Patrick Sutherland, Dettlieb Christopher Jessen, John Creighton and Jean-Baptiste Moreau during Father Le Loutre’s War, four years after Halifax was established.
The town was one of the first British attempts to settle Protestants in Nova Scotia intended to displace Mi’kmaq and Acadian Catholics. British settlement posed a lasting, grave and certain threat to Mi’kmaq’s control over their traditional territorial borders of Mi’kmaq within Wabanaki. Considering that British conditions for peace required surrender of Mi’kmaq sovereignty to the Crown, Wabanaki groups raided Lunenburg nine times in the early years of the settlement in an attempt to reclaim their loss.
The historic town was designated a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site in 1995. This designation ensures protection for much of Lunenburg’s unique architecture and civic design, being the best example of planned British colonial settlement in Canada. We decided to explore the town before seeing the harbor and fisheries museum.
The design of the grey house above, including an extended central bay, carrying up from the entrance to the roof level, is apparently unique to Lunenburg. Though it’s not something used on every building, there are still enough examples for it to be a notable town feature.
Otherwise, the housing stock has been generally well preserved but the styles are typical of many Canadian and American small towns.
In the center of town, there’s a small park, balanced somewhat precariously on the side of a hill, that acts as a civic center for the plan, complete with facing church,
octagonal bandstand, and war memorial.
Imposing a ‘standard’ planning approach on to a steep landscape, has its advantages and disadvantages. It’s orderly, in that everyone can see the map in their heads,
but getting it to work and make it walkable is definitely harder. On the other hand, having a variety of viewing angles adds drama, when drama is called for.
We headed back down hill towards the main streets where we once again encountered the Canadian love of overhead wires. I can certainly understand the difficulty
of putting wires underground in very rocky ground; but you would think that in a World Heritage Site historic district some other solution could be developed – something more than adding occasional attractive graphics.
The harbor (red dot below) sits at the northern end of the long, complex Lunenburg Bay.
The town wraps around the end of the bay, basking in the southern exposure, here seen from a small park on the other side,
and here from the dock, looking back up the hill to a hotel and restaurant.
We had lunch on the terrace of the Salt Shaker Deli that also backed up to the view.
It also looked over the memorial to fishermen (and women) lost at sea.
This dedication explains it.
Each side of each pylon lists people from a lost ship; but this one lists just the ships themselves. A stark reminder of what you’re getting into out on the ocean.
Across the dock from the memorial we spent time on the Bluenose II.
It has quite a story. Bluenose was a fishing and racing gaff rig schooner built in 1921 in Nova Scotia, Canada. A celebrated racing ship and fishing vessel, Bluenose under the command of Angus Walters became a provincial icon for Nova Scotia and an important Canadian symbol in the 1930s, serving as a working vessel until she was wrecked in 1946. Nicknamed the “Queen of the North Atlantic”, she was later commemorated by a replica, Bluenose II, built in 1963. The name Bluenose originated as a nickname for Nova Scotians from as early as the late 18th century.
Designed by William Roué, the vessel was intended for both fishing and racing duties. The design was a combination of the designs of both Nova Scotian and American shipbuilders had been constructing for the North Atlantic fishing fleet. The vessel was constructed of Nova Scotian pine, spruce, birch and oak; and the masts were created from Oregon pine.
Bluenose II, being a Lunenburg schooner, used the dory trawl method. Lunenburg schooners carried eight dories, each manned by two members of the crew, called dorymen. From the dories, lines of strong twine up to 1.6 mi long which had 3 ft lines with hooks on the end spaced every 10 ft were released, supported at either end by buoys which acted as markers. The dorymen would haul in the catch and then return to the ship. Here’s a model of one of the dories in action.
Sailing ships like Bluenose II are sort of automatically photogenic; so it’s easy to wander around and find interesting things to inspect.
For the nautically curious, here are the ship’s statistics.
And for those who appreciate history and art, here’s the commemorative stamp (borrowed from Wikipedia).
A world away but still available on a nice day (They give sailing tours).
At the other end of the harbor we visited the Fisheries Museum.
This differed from the Maritime Museum in Halifax in that it focused less on the ships and more on the activities. Here’s a sense of the ocean where all this took place.
Along Nova Scotia, but especially south of Newfoundland, shallow areas (shown in white on the map) provided huge fish nurseries where the water was warmed by the sun and the Gulf Stream. Fishermen had long been aware of this; and fleets were developed specifically to take advantage of these conditions. (Of course, in true human fashion, they took so many fish that the entire cod fishery was destroyed – hard to believe but true)
The native Mi’kma’ki fished along the coast and in the rivers, using a different approach.
This worked for them but didn’t deliver the kinds of quantities that the European settlers were trying to deliver to a larger market place. The museum contains boats, drawings, and models to tell its story. The Lunenburg Dory drawings have elegant simplicity.
The real thing is still is a bit messier but still visually compelling.
Displays of tools and templates give a sense of what it takes to build a dory; but it would have been fun to see one actually underway.
Upstairs, pictorial sketches and scale models told the fisherman’s story.
Although they were not easy to photograph, given all the reflections, the portrayal of the water with small waves and larger swells gave the boats a real sense of being out on the water, and at work. On the other hand, the view from a dory could be much compelling than the one that these models present. Here are three by famed artist Winslow Homer.
The Herring Net gives a sense of how small these dories would feel with two fishermen and all the paraphernalia required for successful fishing. Emphasized by their ghostly silhouettes the ‘home base’ schooners seem very far away.
The Fog Warning underscores how vulnerable fishermen were to the vagaries of weather, again how far it was back to the schooner, and the grit it took to do this alone.
Finally, Lost on the Grand Banks makes clear what can happen when the fog stops warning and closes in for real – obscuring the schooner and creating confusion and fear.
Needless to say, we mere tourist mortals didn’t have to deal with any of this; and when we emerged from the Fisheries Museum we caught a glimpse of the Bluenose II returning across the harbor from one of its runs. Nice way to end the day.
That wrapped up our tour of Halifax and environs. Next we headed for Moncton !
See you there.