Monday, July 23, 2012

July 23, 2012

I left Charlottetown this morning and headed over to the western side of the island.  Once again, the weather was beautiful (if a little windy) and the skies were clear.  I headed around the north and west coasts of the island on Hwy 12 through a string of little towns, most of them fishing villages.  The terrain on Prince Edward Island is generally small rolling hills interspersed with inlets, rivers, and lakes of various sizes.  This shot was taken this morning at the point where the highway went over Grand River on the north coast:

This was typical of what I saw every time I came around a bend in the road.  One other thing I've noticed here on PEI is the proliferation of churches.  Most are small chapels, painted white, with a steep roof and tall steeple on top.  Most are 150-200 years old. And most, but by no means all, of them are Catholic churches, reflecting the Acadian (french-speaking) settlers of the area.  (I've also noticed a lot of people speaking French.  Not sure what they're saying about me, though.)  I came upon this church alongside the road and thought it was pretty remarkable:

The first stop of the day was the PEI Shipbuilding Museum in Port Hill.  There wasn't really a lot there, but what was interesting was that there were as many as 150+ small shipyards on PEI in the 19th century building everything from fishing boats to full-sized ships.  The shipyard in Port Hill was typical, and it stayed in business until the local timber supply was decimated around 1880.  Below is the area where they would build the vessel and the wooden device in the center is a "steam box" that was used to steam wood so it could be shaped during construction of the ship.  Interestingly enough, most of the ships built on PEI were loaded with cargo (lumber, principally), sailed to Europe, and then both ship and cargo were sold.  Some 4,500 vessels were built on PEI between 1800 and 1900. 

You can see the "steam box" on the left and the swayle in the top center is where the ships were launched into the adjoining stream.

From there, I rode on up to North Cape, the far northwest corner of the island.  From there the next thing on the horizon is the North Pole.  There is a lighthouse there (of course) and it's pretty much like the rest of them:

What's interesting about North Cape is it's the home of the Wind Energy Institute of Canada, a facility that conducts research into harnessing wind energy, including the engineering of the wind turbines themselves.  It's not hard to see how they ended up at North Cape.  The wind was doing about 30 mph the whole time I was there.  Surrounding the lighthouse and all along the west coast of the island are hundreds of wind turbines of various designs.  You can see several different styles in this photo:

All told, there must have been 50 windmills in the immediate area and a couple hundred more up and down the coast.

I headed on down the coast on Hwy 14 to West Point, PEI (no relation to the other West Point).  At West Point is the Lighthouse Museum in Cedar Dunes Provincial Park.  The West Point Lighthouse, which is still in operation, is the largest of the 140 or so lighthouses along the coastline of PEI.  They did have a lot of interesting information about how the lighthouse was build, how the technology for the light itself changed over time, and how the light keepers themselves lived.  This was an early kerosene-powered light:

In the display below, the bottom item was used to screen the light from German submarines and ships during WWII.  It allowed some light to escape to aid navigation, but greatly reduced the usefulness of the lights to the Germans:

The lighthouse itself was a little unusual in that it has living quarters (a small house) attached to it for the light keeper and his family:

And judging by some of the furnishings in the parlor, the light keeper must have been doing pretty well for himself:

After finishing up at West Point, I headed east to Summerside for the night.  Tomorrow, it's back across the Confederation Bridge, through part of New Brunswick, and over to Halifax, Nova Scotia for the evening.  So far, everything up here has been beautiful!

Miles today:  230
Total: 2,884.