20170713 – Day 15

We got up at 04:00 this morning to drive out to Cape Spear to watch the sun rise at the easternmost point in Canada.  Evidently this was a thing that people commonly do, because the guy at the hotel lobby desk already had some breakfast food out and printed off some directions for us.  Of course directions are only helpful when there are street signs (which there aren’t), but we managed to only miss 2 of the turns and ended up backtracking slightly to get ourselves back on course.

It was colder and windier at Cape Spear than we expected, but we were there for the sunrise.  Unfortunately the actual sun was behind some clouds, so we’re probably going to try again tomorrow and hope for a clearer day.  We headed back to the hotel, since it was still before 06:00 and went back to sleep for another few hours.

We got breakfast around 09:00 and tried to decide what our plan for the rest of the day involved.  Originally we’d planned to go back to Cape Spear when the visitor centre was open, but we decided instead to visit the Girl Guide office (my mom and sister are both very involved in guiding) and see Signal Hill today.  That involved another series of confusing directions, but luckily I had loaded them up on Google Maps before leaving the hotel.

The Girl Guide office was on the northern side of Quidi Vidi lake, in one of two remaining buildings constructed by the US military when they had an army camp here during one of the world wars.  Leaving, we drove down through the Quidi Vidi village area but there weren’t any signs indicating where to park or what exactly to see, so we ended up continuing on past it and trying to make our way up to Signal Hill.

We went to the Signal Hill visitor centre to read about the history of the site and get some food, and then walked up by Queen’s Battery and over to Cabot Tower.  Signal Hill looms over the entrance to the St. John’s harbour and has been an important site for hundreds of years.  It’s been a nearly constant site of military defenses, figuring prominently in the last battle of the Seven Years War when the English climbed up the hill to recapture it from the French.  It was also used in World Wars I & II to defend the harbour.

Beyond military uses, Signal Hill has been used for signalling for even longer than its military uses.  Ships waiting to enter the harbour would raise flags to be visible from Signal Hill, and the signalmaster there would raise flags that could be seen from the city below.  This worked like a sort of relay system to inform companies along the waterfront when their ships were arriving, as well as signaling to the ships when they could proceed.

Signal Hill is also famous as the site where Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless transmission, ushering in the use of radio signals for overseas communication.  An amateur radio station VO1AA still operates out of Cabot Tower, but unfortunately there was no communication happening while we were there, and the attendant wasn’t qualified to allow others to use the station.  In theory, I’d be allowed to use the station, since I hold an amateur radio basic qualifications licence, but not today.  Heading back down from Cabot Tower, Mom somehow managed to lose the very obvious gravel trail and got her shoes soaked and muddy, so we called it a day and headed back to the hotel.

We drove down to a nearby shopping mall to hit up the food court for dinner.  One thing that keeps surprising me at food courts here is the lack of compost bins.  In Vancouver, composting is mandatory, and it’s routine to have 3 or 4 different bins for garbage, glass/plastic recycling, paper recycling, and organics/compost.  Here, it’s just garbage and glass/plastic recycling.  It feels so wrong to be throwing things like napkins and tea bags into the garbage, so evidently that west coast indoctrination is working as intended.