Tuesday, January 01, 2008
It is getting ridiculously tough to find scenes that don’t instantly get identified by a lot of you. I would have thought November’s would have been difficult, but apparently not.
This interesting response from Coleman Baker was one of many:
“I believe this shot is taken at about Channel marker 151 looking downriver. Five Mile Light (recently restored) appears on the Canadian side, another channel marker and then range light just before the entrance to the Brockville Narrows. Molly's Gut slices a nice path for small boats around this point.
Looking down river, as this glimpse does, I can’t help but wonder how the pilots of log rafts charted their courses in the 1800's. Did they aim between the Canadian mainland and the island to the south – or south of the island along the US mainland? Straight ahead is now what we call the Brockville Narrows where the water runs swift and deep; to the right is wider, but fraught with shoals.
These unwieldy specimens of naval architecture were the size of floating islands - one to seven acres of logs lashed together by lines made of braided birch saplings. The enormous pine, spruce, elm, hemlock and oak trees were cut along Georgian Bay and the St. Lawrence Valley. The hardwoods were seedlings when William of Normandy was conquering England and Genghis Khan invaded China.
Upon arrival in Montreal and Québec City they were loaded, suppository style, into the hulls of sailing ships (later steam ships) bound for England to be used in the construction of His Majesty’s Royal Navy ships. The Napoleonic Wars of 1812 caused a blockade of lumber trade out of the Baltic, so pressure for lumber from other sources increased significantly. Often the rafts broke up in storms and navigational mishaps before reaching their destination and sprinkled logs throughout the river bottom – including many in this area.
Mr. Daniels, who grew up in the late 1800’s on a farm just upriver from our hamlet of Oak Point, recalled that in the summer he and his brother would keep a keen eye out upriver for approaching rafts. Upon spotting one, they’d run down to the River, push off in their heavy wooden rowboat and head out. Once they got to the raft, they’d tie up, run around with the children and dogs on the raft – without regard to any language differences - then head back before they reached the Narrows, arriving home in time for milking.
Today, Susan and I see this sight from our Lyman as we cruise several mornings each summer week from Oak Point – over countless sunken logs from centuries ago - to Brockville. There we walk the Brock Trail (a recreation path) then treat ourselves to a sumptuous breakfast at Tait’s Bakery. How times have changed.”
Great story Coleman. Many thanks. Your prints are on their way.
An early reply prompted by Coleman's words is worth adding:
"Coleman’s story was very entertaining, especially on this cold and cloudy Saturday morning in Chicago—waiting for a winter storm to hit. I do have some information to add to Coleman’s story…
My late father, Ian Ritson did extensive research into his family’s history and discovered he was related to the Gilmours through his mother. The Gilmours owned the lumbering rights to a large tract of forest which is now part of Algonquin Park. They built the Trent-Severn waterway to float their logs down to Lake Ontario, where they were “captured” at Gardner’s Island off Kingston for assembly into the large rafts Coleman mentioned. This was such a booming industry that the town on the island was one of the largest in Ontario at the time. The Gilmours also owned a large number of clipper ships which were used to ship the logs from Montreal to England. Oak and Spruce were the most valuable—oak for ribs and planking and spruce for spars. There are still many reminders in the park of the Gilmours and their activities there." - Scott Ritson, Axeman Island
I have often sat at the island imagining all who have passed, from the natives who arrived to enjoy the bounty of "the garden of the Great Spirit" some 7,000 years ago, not long after the last glaciers had receded, to the early explorers, the Voyageurs and the military of France, England and an emerging U.S.
However, it is these immense and unwieldy rafts with shelters and small buildings perched on top to house and feed their crews, drifting downstream with just a few sails to somehow help maneuvre them, that might well be the most intriguing. In their day, they were the largest movable objects ever created. As Coleman noted, storms and shoals caught and broke up many, so while treasure hunters might wish for gold and silver in the many shipwrecks here, the real treasure is the first growth oak that lies perfectly preserved in our freshwater depths.
Let’s see if any of you can come up with anything as interesting as Coleman's story to share about this part of the River. A set of six prints awaits the best story.
The live CAM(era) on the island went down during bad weather on the 20th of November. Attempts at ressucitation by a kindly neighbor have failed, so at this point it looks like the view from the island is not going to happen this winter. However, thanks to the generosity of John Street who has a camera pointed downstream from his Fernbank cottage near Brockville, we're not going to be deprived of a River view this winter, so the CAM on the menu is live again but viewing a new scene. It includes the Seaway Channel so you might just catch one of the last ships of the season passing.
I thought it might also be interesting (if extremely alarming) to post on the "CAM" page one of the last images taken from the island camera on November 19th, almost exactly one year after the first images in the "A Thousand Moods" video. Play the video to see how much the River has dropped in one year. The shoal behind the right shoulder of the rock we know as (my daughter) Hayley's Island has never broached the surface in my experience or that of any locals I've spoken to. If this isn't global warming, it's definitely a huge aberration. Here's hoping we're in for a snowy winter.
P. S. Some of you are receiving this mailing for the first time. The intention is to share this screensaver quiz which comes during winter months to help with River withdrawal as well as Paul Malo's Thousand Islands Life online magazine whenever new issues become available. If you didn't receive the first issue of the magazine, you can see it at: http://www.thousandislandslife.com.
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December Wallpaper 1152 x 864 (1.0 MP)
December Wallpaper 1280 x 800 (1.0 MP)
December Wallpaper 1680 x 1050 (1.8 MP)