The lag between posts is not due to any delinquency on my part, though that would make a solid and feasible excuse. Instead, it all comes from internet issues at the Andrews Hall Residence at UPEI. The wireless mysteriously stopped working sometime Tuesday while we were out learning and exploring the island, remained down for all of Wednesday, and who knows if it will return at some point on Thursday. The odd thing is the only place the UPEI wireless seems to not be working is in Andrews Hall. Next door in the McDougall Building there is no such problem.
The days here are absolutely packed with learning, traveling, wandering, learning, chatting, and stopping to refuel. Everyday, after a hardy breakfast, starts at 8:45pm and usually we get back to the residence between 8:30pm and 10pm depending if the evening keynote was at the university or somewhere else on the island. We are getting good at being herded and getting from point A to point B pretty close to on time. It is amazing how much of PEI we’ve managed to see and how well all the talks, panel discussions, response periods, field trips, and keynotes fit within the theme of the day and discussions from pervious days. The planning is great, though a little more time to just take it all in would be nice sometimes – PEI is a beautiful place.
Tuesday’s theme was Forests and it was a bit of an information overload. There was an informative and much needed walk through a beech forest in Strathgartney Provincial Park in the afternoon that part of the group turned into a very quick loop down to the river and back to the bus.
Afternoon tea and biscuits was at the Bonshaw Community Hall – all home made of course – and was followed by a creative writing exercise. Some of the short responses we did were read out loud and it was interesting to hear what people came up with in response to the bits of nature picked up on the forest walk. Everything read a loud was great, and should be since a good part of history is writing clearly, but Graeme Wynn’s was particularly entertaining. I mention his because Wynn was also the keynote speaker for the day and delivered the third great address of the conference.
The highlights of the day for me were the walk in the forest and the presentation on the watershed environmental history blog set up by George Main from the National Museum of Australia. The first on is a given since anytime spent outside wandering is a highlight even in the rain and it was not raining. The second was a pleasant surprise because it was an excellent example of public history stepping outside the institution via the internet to attempt to speak to a wider audience. It is called “The Waterhole Project” The waterhole in question is at Comebanning in Australia and the blog is at http://www.nma.gov.au/blogs/waterhole. It was also interesting to talk to George over dinner about the place of environmental history in public history institutions in Australia as it is an area I feel Canadian institutions of all sizes could do better. We do an excellent job with nature museums and conveying Aboriginal-environmental connections, but bringing environment into play explicitly in the narrative of Canadian history is not often done. The environment is there implicitly, much like it is implicit in the work of Innis, but there is definitely an opportunity to learn from places like Australia how to make it a key player in our past instead of the backdrop to the human action.
Tuesday’s Anne count: 0, well there was one license plate but those don’t count.
Wednesday was full of fish in every possible way. The theme was fisheries and the day started with an unbelievably engaging, entertaining, and informative talk from Boyd Berk from the provincial museum of PEI. He is such an eloquent and engaging public speaker was a little disappointing when his time ran out. From there we headed to Greenwich National Park to hear about the Icelandic fishery, lunch and an afternoon exploring the area. Lunch was the first taste of fish of the day prepared by a local chef from local ingredients – including haddock and mussels. Definitely the best meal in all respects and my first time trying mussels. The mussels were interesting and might be an acquired taste.
After lunch there was a choice between a) 5km hike along the parabolic dunes, b) 2km walk to pre-contact/Acadian archaeological sites, and c) going through the interpretative centre. Some of us opted for d) just enjoying the beach. The water was great, the views beautiful, the surf looked surfable, and it was nice to have a little quiet time before the drive to Souris for the lobster dinner.
Dinner was my second first of the day and it was a four course extravaganza. It started with more mussels, then salad, then the lobster (the main event), and finished with a very sweet blueberry cake. Lobster is without a doubt the most involved animal I’ve ingested to date. The claws were the best part and I was brave and tried a little bit of the green stuff that is supposed to be the best part but reminded me of ripe avocado in texture.
After the crustaceans were devoured and everyone de-bibbed, we walked over to the Souris Show Hall for Daniel Pauly’s keynote on the history and future of global fisheries. The picture he painted was pretty bleak and it was interesting to hear him characterize economics in term of energy instead of dollars. His last slide showed a break down of the various economic costs and benefits of large scale fisheries versus small scale fisheries. In every way small scale trumps large scale which left all of us wondering how it is the west – especially North America – continues to justify and support the less economical option.
Wednesday’s Anne Count: 2, in a shop in Souris and in a Parks Canada booklet (picked up for the map of the Greenwich trails).