Lesson #376: Nova Scotia’s 42 Cranberry Lakes

Cranberry Lake, Nova ScotiaI was on the phone with my mother today and we got to talking about how I’d met a guy at a neighbourhood meetup on Tuesday who spent a lot of time at his family’s cottage on Cranberry Lake in the Adirondacks. This sent us off looking at whether Cranberry Lake is the source of the river that flows behind my parents’ house (it’s not). That, then, took me to a Wiki disambiguation on Cranberry Lake in Nova Scotia.

Cranberry Lake, HalifaxOf which there are apparently 42. I’m not even joking. There are 14 in the greater Halifax area alone.


Lesson #334: That Time the Stanley Cup Spent the Night in the Rideau

In 1905, the Ottawa Silver Seven (pre-NHL, so the team was made up of amateur players) won the Stanley Cup*, after which the team went boozing. Like victorious teams — and losing teams, I suspect — are wont to do. As a group of adrenaline-high, liquored up macho dudes aren’t usually the best decision-makers, their post-game festivities took a turn for the rather stupid when forward Harry Smith accepted a dare from his teammates to drop-kick Lord Stanley’s Cup into (or over, depending on what you read) the Rideau Canal. 

Now, I’m definitely not one to throw stones because I have been known to make my own stupid choices after a few beers,** but the men of the Silver Seven then promptly forgot all about Lord Stanley’s Cup and sauntered off — presumably to get more beer — without it. So it spent the night in the Rideau.

Smith went back the next morning to retrieve it.

Here’s the thing: there are varying reports about this. It’s January in Ottawa (remember, this is well before the days when hockey season ends in June). I’m pretty familiar with winter in Ottawa, and the Rideau freezes up pretty well; it’s a big thing to skate on it. So the likelihood that the Cup ended up at the bottom of the Rideau in the dead of winter is almost nil. The Hockey Hall of Fame’s page says it was pulled from the water. Sports Illustrated says it was retrieved from the dry bed of the canal. The Wiki mention of it on the Sens’ page cites Michael McKinley’s Hockey: A People’s History and says it was rescued from the surface of the ice. So…I guess go with whatever version you like? I’ll go with the one that makes the most sense. 

As an aside: I also learned that the Fourth Earl Grey was the Governor General of Canada at the time. As a tea-drinker and hockey fan, this amuses me — though the tea was not named for this particular one, but for his grandfather, the Second Earl Grey, who served as Prime Minister of Great Britain and Ireland in the 1830s. The Grey Cup, however, was named for this Earl Grey.

For more, read the Sports Illustrated article from before I was born. (See, Dad, I’m not “nearly old.” Jerk!***Or see if you can find McKinley’s book. The Hall of Fame’s reference is here. Or you can read the Wiki entry

*which, at the time, was just the sterling silver bowl that makes up the top of the modern trophy

**True story: I have a scar on the back of my left leg from the time I forgot there was a ditch on the other side of a barbed wire fence a friend and I had climbed over in the middle of nowhere in the southern state where I used to live so we could go climb a windmill in the middle of the night. I managed, in one jump, to rip a two-inch gash into my flesh from one of the barbs, damage my right ankle in a way that, to this day, doesn’t allow me to wear certain pairs of high heels, leave myself with a limp for two weeks, and require a tetanus booster. And that was only after three beers. Legally, I was still sober.

***Dear readers, please don’t think I say that with any sort of seriousness. My dad is awesome, and I love him very much.

Lesson #276 : Winnipeg and Minnesota

Autobiographical note: I intended to do some research into the origins of the Indo-European languages on account of my ongoing (informal) Turkish lessons, but wound up spending the better part of 12 hours in the emergency room with a friend, so today’s lesson will not be very long.

I randomly read today (from a not-so-reliable source) that both the words Winnipeg and Minnesota mean “murky water.” Winnipeg is Cree and Minnesota is Sioux. I decided to look this up somewhere around hour 7 of the wait, having finished the book I had with me.* I have to admit I got a little distracted while looking this up.

I have always known that the word Canada is from the Huron word kanata meaning “settlement” or “village.” I think we were taught that in grade 2. But it turns out that six of the 13 province/territory names are also aboriginal in origin. These include the provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec and the territories of the Yukon and Nunavut. I knew that of Saskatchewan (because, well, just look at it), Ontario (because that’s where I went to school) and Nunavut (again, just look at it). The Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada website has a decent, but by no means exhaustive, list of cities and towns with aboriginal names — including Winnipeg — that can be found here. My favourite? Rimouski, if only because it means “land of moose” and my best friend is convinced that everyone in Canada has a moose for a pet.**

Anyway, once I got back from my educational sidetrack, I also verified that Minnesota means “murky water” in Sioux. Etymonline says “cloudy water.” Good enough for me.

*I have had a smart phone for less than a year and I have absolutely no idea how I lived without one before that. In fairness, I was overseas from the time the first smartphones came out until just before I got my smartphone, but still. It’s amazing how easily accessible information is these days and how quickly I have adapted to having access to that information at all times.

**He doesn’t actually believe this because he’s not a complete idiot, but nearly every time I talk to him, especially if he’s been drinking, moose come into the conversation. It has been this way for as long as we’ve known each other.

Lesson #258: Ringette

Inevitably, conversations with my brother end up on hockey. Which, I think, is because on the whole, we’re fans of different sports and what sports we have in common, we support different teams. He’s a Red Sox fan, I’m a glutton for punishment. He loves American football, I love soccer football. But we are both Maple Leafs fans.

Anyway, we were talking tonight and we got onto hockey and somehow that made its way to ringette (and his somewhat hilarious attempts to explain it to someone). At which he informed me, to my surprise, that ringette still exists. I had assumed that with the rise of women’s hockey, ringette was a thing of the past.

We both had friends who played ringette growing up. One of my friends, in particular, was very good at it. It was, essentially, what you played if you were a girl. It’s like hockey…played on ice with five players and a goalie, the penalties are the same, the rink is the same size, there’s a stick (sort of) and a puck (more or less) and the point is to get the puck (as it were) into the goal. The stick has no blade and the puck is actually a rubber and felt ring so it’s easier to handle than a puck, but other than that, it’s more or less the same as hockey.

And, while the largest ringette community is in Canada, once women’s hockey came into play as a viable option most Canadian girls apparently headed in that direction to dominate the world, the Finns pretty much rule the ringette world. They’ve won the last 3 (and 5 of the last 7) world championships. And placed second in the other two. (The Canadians have won the other two and finished second in the other five).*

*That information can be found here.

Lesson #206: How the Brits Acquired Manhattan

While I was living in an Eastern European capital a couple years ago, I came across a documentary produced by the CBC called Big Sugar. It turns out, I could care less about sugar and what I found most interesting about the documentary is how the British Empire came to be in possession of Quebec. They had already claimed the rest of Canada for the king (queen? I have no idea…imperialist monarchs are not my area of expertise) and forcibly removed several thousand Acadians, and after a French defeat at the Plains of Abraham*, but victories elsewhere in the world (as the Seven Years’ War was ongoing — ah, imperialism…the direct cause of the first global war**), the French offered Britain a choice at the 1763 Treaty of Paris. They could have Quebec or they could have the sugar islands of Guadaloupe and Martinique. Influenced by greedy sugar barons with lots of money with which to bribe government officials in London, Parliament voted to take control of Quebec. I find this one of the more interesting pieces of Canadian history.

Interestingly enough, how the Empire came to be in control of Manhattan is strikingly similar. In the mid-17th century, Britain decided it had had enough of The Dutch East India Company controlling, well, everything and a couple of (cleverly named) Anglo-Dutch Wars were launched.

At the heart of the struggle was the Indonesian archipelago island of Run, which produced nutmeg. Nutmeg could be sold at a markup of over 3000% because at the time, Run was the only producer of nutmeg in the world. The island had belonged (in the Eddie Izzard “well, do you have a flag?” sense) to the British East India Company from 1603 until 1620 when the Dutch spent four years laying siege to it until the British packed it in.

The concession in the Treaty of Westminster, which ended the First Anglo-Dutch War in 1654, was that control of Run was to be returned to Britain. However, two attempts (in 1660 and 1665) to retake Run failed and after the second attempt, the Dutch, somewhat bafflingly, destroyed the nutmeg trees. All of this annoyed the Brits enough to launch the Second Anglo-Dutch War in 1665. The fighting went on for two years until the signing of the 1667 Treaty of Breda, in which both sides agreed to keep the lands they were illegally occupying. The Dutch would keep Run (and presumably, a monopoly on the nutmeg market) and the British would keep Manhattan, of which they’d seized control in 1664.***

*Which would go on to have a rather interesting history as a popular place for prostitutes to engage johns in the 19th century, site of hangings, an observatory, a rifle factory, a skating rink, a fine arts museum, an arsenal, greenhouses, a discovery pavilion and a reservoir among other things. It is now under the protection of Parks Canada as part of the National Battlefields Commission.  More about that here.

**More on the Seven Years’ War here.

***Okay…more on Run here, the First Anglo-Dutch War here, the Second Anglo-Dutch War here, the Treaty of Westminster here and the Treaty of Breda here.

Lesson #205: Marconi’s Canadian Site

I applied for a research job in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia today. While I was looking into the town to see what I might be getting myself into, I learned that Glace Bay was the site of Marconi’s first transatlantic wireless station. It was also the North American terminus of his first west-east transatlantic wireless transmission in 1902.* The site was abandoned in favour of Port Morien east of Glace Bay when increased transmissions necessitated a larger facility in 1904.

The 5-acre site at Glace Bay, called Table Head (presumably because it’s flat and part of Cape Breton’s headland) is now under the control of Parks Canada, which maintains it as a National Historic Site**

*The European one was Cornwall, England (which makes perfect sense if you know geography).

**You can read more about Marconi National Historic Site here.