Downhome's Grant Loveys recently visited the workshop of a man we've dubbed the "Shoal Harbour inventor." Oliver Vardy spends his days thinking up and constructing new and unique musical instruments. Perhaps the most unique is an invention that Oliver calls the Melody Chord Harp. It is essentially a combination of guitar, harp and lap steel, with elements of each instrument working together in a totally new way. Its five individual sets of guitar strings are each tuned to a particular chord. Parallel to these strings is a single string that can be plucked with the thumb and a metal slide, providing a haunting melodic accompaniment to the strummed chords. It's a strange little machine, but it sounds wonderful.
Watch and listen as Oliver strums a tune.
For the full story on the Shoal Harbour inventor, see the May 2013 issue of Downhome.
Big waves, whales, icebergs, seabirds, moose – you get the picture. In the May 2013 issue, we explore some of the very best places to spot icons of Newfoundland and Labrador. Below is awesome video footage of some of our iconic treasures.
On windy days, the shores of Middle Cove Beach on the Avalon Peninsula are lined with folks eager to see amazing wave action. But in 2010, some wave watchers got a rude awakening from Mother Nature when a rogue wave washed ashore on Middle Cove Beach. Check out this YouTube video of local news coverage of the phenomenon.
While the waters of Witless Bay, as well as Twillingate and Southern Labrador, provide almost guaranteed whale sightings in June, July and August, tour operator Ocean Quest takes whale watching to a whole new level with its "Close Encounters" tour.
In a province where two communities (St. Anthony and Twillingate) lay claim to the title "Iceberg Capital of the World," folks eager to see and photograph these glacial wonders are right to come here in search of them – and each spring and summer they do, in droves. But a group of tourists visiting Twillingate in July 2008 got an extra special iceberg sighting, as a giant berg foundered and fell into the churning waters before their very eyes.
We scoured YouTube for cool video footage of a moose - and this tourist's close encounter atop Gros Morne Mountain was, we felt, the most impressive. (Warning! Some mild foul language in this video - and who can blame her?)
Residents of Buchans, Newfoundland will likely remember this very special 1980s episode of CBC's "On the Road Again," hosted by Wayne Rostad. The quality of the video isn't the greatest - but the quality of the story makes up for it!
*Note: For long-time readers of Downhome, the magazine's illustrator, Snowden Walters, used Clarence the Caribou as inspiration for a series of cartoon sketches that appeared in The Downhomer in the 1990s. Click here to check them out.
Our province's heritage breed are known as hardy workers, used to plough fields and haul logs. But the Newfoundland pony featured in the video below, owned by passionate pony promoter Liz Chafe of Cappahayden, Newfoundland, is blessed with a rather unusual talent - we're fairly confident he'd make for stiff competition on any soccer field.
Actors & Re-enactors
The folks acting at L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site have to reach far back in time to get into their characters. In reconstructed sod huts Viking re-enactors mimic the Norse ways of life that played out here more than 1,000 years ago.
Watch this video and come along for a tour of the Point Amour Lighthouse, the second tallest lighthouse in Canada, located at L'Anse Amour, Labrador.
Placentia-native and master boat builder Jerome Canning details the province's historic boat building tradition in the following video. With the help of the Wooden Boat Museum in Winterton, Newfoundland, locals with knowledge of the now rare art form are passing the tradition to younger generations.
Parks Canada cameras follow along as Inuit descendants visit the homeland of their ancestors, known now as the Torngat Mountains National Park.
Watching waterfalls cascade down over high cliffs surrounding this 16-km glacier-carved, land-locked fiord in Gros Morne National Park, you'll think you've been transported to another time.
The puffins of Elliston usually prefer to stick to a small island a short distance from the headland - but this one decided to wander over for some close-up camera shots!
From our vantage point, Newfoundland looks very small. The Gaff Topsails, hundreds of square kilometres of stunning west coast land covered in snowdrifts so immense they resemble dunes, is just a small white smudge on the province’s grey-green face – like a spoonful of sugar dumped on a slab of speckled granite. Newfoundland’s innumerable ponds are, from here, no more than a collection of icy spots connected by threads of river winding chaotically around hills and plateaus and other formations too tiny to make out. In the distance, a thin strip of land extends like a finger: the entire length of the Burin Peninsula jutting into the sea, everything slightly pinkish from the sunrise. The sun too is visible, and the Avalon Peninsula, and even the curve of the earth. And there in the corner, the black nothingness of space. From this perspective, everything looks small.
John Hennessey, Amarnath Mukhopadhyay and I are 125,000 feet up, in the lower quarter of the stratosphere, nearly 40 kilometres above southwest Newfoundland. But we’re also in a quiet study room at the Queen Elizabeth II Library at Memorial University. We’re looking at a picture John and Amarnath took on February 16, 2013.
How did two university students take a picture from 125,000 feet in the air? The answer seems deceptively simple: they tied a camera to a weather balloon and sent it into the sky. But the real story is much more complex. It begins last year in a medical science lab.
“John came to me one day, we were working in the lab,” Amarnath says. “He had seen this video online of a couple of teenagers from Ontario who had done a similar thing, sent a Lego man into space. He mentioned there was no one in Newfoundland who had done this before. The reason was that the weather is so rough here and the chance of the equipment falling into a river or the ocean is really, really high. We thought it was a cool idea and decided to give it a shot.”
Amarnath Mukhopadhyay and John Hennessey with some of the equipment used during their space flight.
Behind the scenes
Together they researched exactly how things would work, meticulously planning every step: how they’d get the camera up into the air, what type of balloon they’d use, what to fill the balloon with, how to take the pictures and, perhaps most importantly, how to get the camera back. John purchased the camera, a GoPro Hero 2 (a very hi-tech, very small camera normally used for mounting on helmets and other objects in extreme environments, which can record high-quality video and take still photos), the balloon (a 1,500-gram Totex weather balloon that can carry 200 cubic feet of gas) and a GPS system that would allow them to track the balloon’s progress and locate the landing site. They also used special high-altitude ballooning software called “habhub” to plot the course the balloon would take.
Then, after six weeks or so of number crunching and material tests, they were ready. Their first launch took place in Pasadena.
Watch the first launch, from Pasadena, N.L. and footage taken during the flight
“We went out on September 29 and launched the balloon for the first time. It went relatively smoothly,” Amarnath says.
The balloon went up, the camera recorded the stunning footage and returned safely to earth, in Millertown Junction. Success. John and Amarnath uploaded the footage to YouTube and immediately began work on the second launch. But this one would be different. “We got such good feedback from doing it the first time that we decided to do it again in the winter and get a nice view of a snow-covered Newfoundland,” Amarnath says. John adds, “We wanted to be able to show people the juxtaposition of Newfoundland when it’s frozen and when it’s not frozen. Because Newfoundland is 70 per cent covered by fresh water, in the wintertime it really does become a frozen land.”
So, on the morning of February 16, John and Amarnath woke at five o’clock at the Corner Brook Comfort Inn and began preparing. “We thought about stepping right outside the hotel and launching it,” John says, “but we entered the data into the software and it said the payload would land right at the mouth of the Exploits Bay, which would have been dangerous because the bay is saltwater and would not have been frozen.”
Through a process of trial and error, John and Amarnath eliminated various launch spots, plugging data into the software and watching the course the balloon (pictured left) would take appear on the screen as a long green line cutting across much of central Newfoundland. Finally, they settled on Gallants, a small settlement roughly halfway between Corner Brook and Stephenville, as the crow flies.
John and Amarnath were excited as they went through their procedure – checking the gear, filling the balloon, securing everything. When they were ready, they counted down from 10 and let go. The balloon soared, swaying a fair bit at first, but eventually straightened out, and, for two hours 20 minutes, drifted along in the freezing, silent air, nearly 40 kilometres above central Newfoundland until it popped from the cold and the payload attached to a parachute coasted to the ground.
For the second time, the launch was a success. They used the GPS system to zero in on the payload, and eventually found it 182 kilometres northeast of the launch site, perched a few feet beyond the north bank of the Exploits River (pictured left). They say they were lucky; had the launch taken place in the summer or fall, the payload would have fallen directly into the river and been swept down into the falls.
Watch the February launch, from Gallants, N.L. and footage taken during the flight
Along for the ride
Two successful launches under their belt, the honour of being the first Newfoundlanders to send something into space, all that breathtaking footage, and the two still aren’t done. In fact, they’re ramping up. “We want to go higher and higher,” John says, “not only for ourselves, but also to educate the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, to entertain people with beautiful images of our province.”
Amarnath elaborates, “What we’re planning to do for the next project is aim for approximately 150,000 feet, whereas the last two balloons reached between 120,000 and 125,000 feet.” Doing that, however, requires more resources. They’re planning on using a balloon twice as big as the ones they’ve been using, one that can hold two tanks of hydrogen gas. They’ve purchased a camera that can deliver better footage. And they have a new idea: sponsorship.
“We’re asking companies if they’re interested in donating money. If they have a logo or something we can take up into the stratosphere over Newfoundland and Labrador, we’d be more than obliged to do it,” John says, noting interested companies can reach them through their YouTube channel (search “Newfoundland Weather Balloon” on YouTube or Google).
Already Downhome has signed on. Says company president Grant Young, “Our readers have taken Downhome magazine with them everywhere – tops of mountains, across deserts, under water. This is our 25th year as a magazine. What better way to celebrate than by attempting to reach for the stars?”
Downhome magazine in hand, John and Amarnath are preparing for the next launch, their biggest ever, scheduled to take place May 18, 2013.
For them, the sky is the limit. – Story by Grant Loveys
Although they are defined differently, the terms “genealogy” and “family history” are often interchanged. Genealogy refers to tracing family lineages for a family tree. Family history, on the other hand, is much broader and includes biography information, pictures, letters and other documents associated with a person or family. Both are very demanding tasks, often requiring extensive research. Like most tasks, they begin with a desire and a plan and then a knowledge of the resources available to complete the job.
Below are some helpful tips to get you started, followed by websites that offer assistance.
1. Start with yourself, and work backwards though your immediate family and then through relatives on both sides of your family.
2. Write down their full names, dates of birth and for those that have passed away, the dates of their death.
3. Check public records for birth and baptismal certificates. For family history information, check recordings, newspaper clippings and school records.
4. Record and develop your family tree and family history using computer software or a free or pay-for-service website. Some sites offer a free trial period to determine if the product is best suited to your needs.
My mom is a native of St. John's; she wed a G.I. and moved to the U.S. in 1946. Once the kids got old enough, our family began the annual trek to visit "the relatives" in St. John's.
A dozen or so aunts and uncles and an army of cousins celebrated, ate, played, fought and forged lasting memories. However, as the old set of relatives slowed down and a few sadly died, cousins moved out of the province and fewer of us travelled north - until our last great visit in the summer of 2002.
Uncles Myles, Wallace and Dick, along with their spouses, my parents and a few cousins, decided to take a day trip from St. John's to Fox Harbour that summer. It was the old homestead where my grandmother had grown up, and all of that generation had spent summer holidays in Fox Harbour.
I rented an extra-large van and we travelled in the one vehicle; as always when we are all together, everyone was in high spirits. Each uncle was certain that he remembered exactly where the house had stood and each was calling out directions to me. Once arriving in the picturesque town they unanimously directed me to the south side of the harbour. As I followed the directions, my cousin John, the oldest cousin, said quietly, "I think the house is on the other side of the harbo...I helped paint it when I was 14."
Nobody seemed to be listening to him, though, and a friendly argument broke out as each uncle remembered a different location for the house.
"That one, I remember the porch..."
"It's that one...it used to be green."
"I know it was the last one, here it is!"
I stopped the van and we all got out. My mom, who had not visited Fox Harbour since she was a very young girl, had no idea which house it was; the aunts, her in-laws, did not know either. John again said quietly, "It's across the harbour."
After much fuss as the uncles insisted they were right, I finally got them back into the van and we followed John's hunch around the harbour. John directed me to where he thought the house was: a lot with only a basement still in existence. I stopped in front of it even as the uncles protested and explained why we were in the wrong place. We all spilled out and stood behind the van, all of us excitedly talking and pointing at once.
An elderly gentleman was walking down the road and I approached him.
"Good morning, do you live around here?" I asked hopefully.
"Nope," he replied, so I just smiled and returned to the family melee.
Uncle Myles followed the "old timer" and asked, "Do you know which is the Healy home?"
"Was right there...gone now."
Overhearing his answer, I protested, "You told me you didn't live around here."
"Don't. Moved last year to be with my daughter in Bay Bulls."
So we walked up to the site, took pictures, and reminisced for some time before finally headed to our favourite day-trip restaurant destination: The Captain's Table.
It was our last great trip. We still visit the area, but the loss of uncles Wallace, Dick and Tom (he did not make that Fox Harbour trip) and cousin John has added to the sense of loss with each subsequent trip.
Fresh turkey breast (or thawed from frozen)
8 fresh sage leaves
4 cups dried apple wood chips (or type of your choice)
12 cups water
3/4 cup salt
3 tbsp black peppercorns
1/2 cup sugar
In a large pot, bring brine ingredients to a boil. Let cool. Refrigerate turkey in brine for at least 12 hours. In a bucket, soak 2 cups of apple wood chips in water for 12 hours (reserve the other 2 cups of dried chips).
When ready to smoke, remove turkey from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Pull back the skin of the turkey and stuff fresh sage leaves under the skin. Place turkey in a small roaster or foil pie plate. Drain soaked wood chips and mix with 2 cups dried wood chips. Wrap chips in aluminum foil, poking a few holes to let the smoke out.
Preheat barbecue to 400°F. Put wood chip package on grill and close cover until smoke starts to appear. Reduce heat to 275°F. Keep chips on one side of the grill and place turkey breast in roaster on the other side. Keeping the BBQ on low, smoke turkey for about 1 1/2 hours, or until internal temperature reaches 175°F.
If you’re an Atlantic Canadian, you don’t have to book a trip to Disney to experience thrilling adventures. We have plenty of our own high-flying fun right here at home with a wide variety of ziplines to experience, located in some of the prettiest places the entire country has to offer. So, harness up and get ready for a wild ride!
Newfoundland and Labrador
Marble Zip Tours: Since 2008, those with a thirst for adventure have been flocking to Steady Brook on Newfoundland’s west coast to view Steady Brook gorge and falls from on high. Eight zip lines provide the ride of a lifetime, plus you’ll land at 10 platforms along the way – giving you ample time to drink in the gorgeous view. Check out Downhome's "zip-cam" video, shot shortly after Marble Zip Tours opened.
North Atlantic Ziplines: Starting this spring, North Atlantic Ziplines is introducing the high-flying activity of ziplining to Newfoundland’s east coast in the scenic fishing community of Petty Harbour. The company estimates that once complete, the course will stretch across 3.2 km in total – with scenic vistas in all directions.
Cape Enrage Adventures: In addition to rapelling, rock climbing and watching the famous rising tides at Cape Enrage in New Brunswick’s spectacular Bay of Fundy, brave souls can also zipline across a valley to a 150-year-old lighthouse with Cape Enrage Adventures.
Zip Zag: Located in Grand Falls, New Brunswick, Zip Zag’s zipline takes folks for a dramantic ride across the waterfalls and gorge of the Saint John River. Plus, their dual-racing zipline allows you and a friend to take the thrilling adventure together, at speeds of 30 to 40 km/h. Click here to watch videos of Zip Zag in action.
Over the Hill Zip-Line: Thrill seekers zip along a 1,000-foot zipline hovering about 40 feet above the Little Sou’West Miramichi River in Lyttleton, New Brunswick. After your first ride across, you’ll hook onto an 800-foot cable and land at the river shore.
TreeGo: With locations in Mactaquac and Moncton, New Brunswick, TreeGo is much more than a standard zipline. The entire course takes adventure seekers through a series of exciting challenges – swinging on a Tarzan rope, keeping your balance as you cross log swings, and of course, a zipline adventure that cuts through a beautiful forested area. Click here to watch videos of all of TreeGo's adventures.
Saint John Adventures: Visit Fallsview Park to experience Saint John, New Brunswick’s only zipline adventure. Thrillseekers zip over falls and rushing water on five ziplines before reaching the final landing on False Island. Bring a friend, because the last zipline is a dual one – a magnificent race to the end. Click here to watch footage of folks enjoying Saint John Adventures' zipline.
Anchors Above Zipline Adventures: Nova Scotia’s one and only zipline, Anchors Above Zipline Adventures, is located in Pictou County. The first of two ziplines is 1,100 feet long and 240 feet high, with a 240-storey drop – while the shorter, final leg of your high-flying journey will drop you a full 10 storeys!