A Winter Crossing to Prince Edward Island
Just a few days earlier (a half century ago), I was taking notes in a French literature class at Rutgers, but today I rode a bus past the Canadian border into the province of New Brunswick with its sweeping forests of black spruce and balsam fir. Though it was springtime in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in New Brunswick, Canada patches of crusty snow lined the highway at the edge of the woods.
It felt good to be in Micmac country whose legends abound in forest ogres like Jenu ready to jump into a peaceful camp of Indian hunters hundreds of years ago. Here the air was fresh with the scent of balsam fir far northeast of industrial New Jersey with its oil refineries and linoleum factories more than scenting the air. The bus raced past occasional white farm houses on a bit of cleared land bearing future crops of potatoes.
All of this I recall as I peer out of an IcelandAir passenger plane flying high above eastern Canada some fifty years later, well on our way to Reykjavik.
Staring out the bus window, I was getting anxious to arrive at Mocton, New Brunswick where I would take a shuttle to the ferry terminal and board a ship bound for Prince Edward Island in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. But, wait a minute, I was in for a big surprise at Moncton in the midst of a wintry March–the tidal bore of the Petitcodiac River. Since I had more than an hour in Moncton, I ambled over to the shoreline of the Petitcodiac. Within a few moments I heard an earth-shattering noise and could not believe my eyes. A huge brown bulging wave crashed upstream from the Bay of Fundy, known for its gigantic tides of over thirty-five feet. This bore moved with such force against the river’s current that it heaved blocks of ice to the shore like the Micmac legendary giant Glooscap himself. How quickly it moved. Thick pan ice proved to be no match for this tidal bore. Crunch, crash, smash and bash–the ice piled up along the shore as Glooscap moved northwestward and upstream for miles on end, only to reform itself when the tide
in the bay became low. Then the bore would flow in reverse downstream along with the strong current.of the Petitcodiac River.
John Muir once wrote that the world was not created in just six days, Nature’s force is still at work in the glacial valleys of Alaska. Here, the Pewtitcodiac River knows no rest.
Before I knew it, time had come for me to catch the shuttle to the ferryboat, and at sundown (see digital image) I boarded the ship surrounded with three-feet of strangling ice; yet in New Jersey the forsythia bushes were already in bloom to punctuate a Rutgers spring break. No forsythia here, just hungry sea gulls mewing and laughing as they flew behind the ferryboat beginning its heroic journey through ice.
Since I was just as hungry as the sea gulls, I quickly entered the cafeteria to get some hot food and a steaming cup of coffee. As I ate my dinner of meatloaf and mashed potatoes, I couldn’t help but notice a dignified, white-haired elderly lady nervously sipping her tea as the ship ground and creaked its way through thick ice that rattled the ship as though it were being attacked by a giant squid. Each time the ship rattled, she quickly put down her teacup into its saucer only to have it rattle along with everything else.
“Not to worry,” I said to her. “We’ll be there in an hour’s time.”
“But such an hour!” she exclaimed.
By the time we did arrive just outside of Charlottetown, it had become dark and windy with the ferryboat lights reflected on the ice. The distinct odor of coal smoke filled the air with each home’s chimney contributing its fair share. It was good to enter my cozy hotel room overlooking the harbor lights way out on Prince Edward Island where I would contact a friend of a friend to visit his snowy farm the next day in Morrell.
His wife served a marvelous meal of baked ham with roasted potatoes along with homemade mustard relish full of whole pickles and cocktail onions. Mr. Anderson invited me to return in the late summer, before school stated again, to work, along with his youngest son Thane, on the farm harvesting potatoes out of the bright red soil of a warm and sunny Prince Edward Island. I knew that I would return.
The captain announced over the PA that we would soon be flying over Newfoundland and that we should be landing at sunrise in the rugged little country of Iceland.
Note: One more hub “The Birds of Newfoundland” will follow as part of “North by East to Iceland” before we get to Iceland itself.