Glacier Bay – Where the Birth of the World is Continuing

In the morning of 31 July after breakfast we played cards in the Card Room as the ship cruised its way into the Glacier Bay.  Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve contains some of the world’s most impressive tidewater glaciers. The bay has experienced at least four major glacial advances and four major retreats and serves as an outdoor research laboratory.  Glacier Bay has more than 50 named glaciers, as well as two major arms: East Arm and West Arm. The cruise ships head up the West Arm, towards the Margerie Glacier as it is the most impressive glacier, which is advancing three to four meter a day and calves frequently.

The glaciers in Glacier Bay are remnants of a general ice advance—the Little Ice Age—that began about 4,000 years ago. This advance is not comparable to continental glaciation that occurred during the Wisconsin Ice Age.  By about 1750, the Little Ice Age reached its maximum stage and a general recession of glaciers began.  200 years ago the Glacier Bay was covered by the Grand Pacific Glacier, which was more than 1,200 meter thick and about 30 km wide. Since then the ice has been retreating with the Glacier Bay  now having 20 separate glaciers, of which 11 are tidewater glaciers including Margerie Glacier that calve into the bay.

Margerie Glacier is named after French geologist and geographer Emmanuel de Margerie who visited the area in 1913.  The Glacier Bay was completely covered by ice in 1794 when Captain George Vancouver, a British officer of the Royal Navy, best known for his expedition which explored and charted North America’s North-Western Pacific Coast region was stopped by a wall of ice 32 km wide and 1,200 m high.  The ice wall has since retreated from the mouth of the bay and is only a remnant of the massive glacier seen by Vancouver.   Today, the ice flows have been recorded at Margerie Glacier at 610 meter per year or about 1.75 meter per day.

Like a river, the glacier flows down the mountain  choosing the path of least resistance. As it moves,  it swallows rocks into its lower layers. These  acquired rocks grind away at the bedrock, carving deep valleys in the  mountainside over the years.

When the ice reaches lower, warmer elevations, it begins to melt. Eventually the loss through melting is greater than the supply of ice flowing down the  mountain. Noe the glacier ceases to make further  progress, though the body of ice is still moving  down the mountains.  The length of time it takes for a snowflake that falls in the mountains to emerge at the end, or terminus of a glacier varies, depending on the speed at which the glacier is flowing. The ice visible at the face of the park’s glaciers today  is about 200 years old.

As we entered the Glacier Bay we first sighted the South Marble Island. This small island is the sunbathing spot of the gigantic Sea Lions. They lay on the rocks  with the dominant males sitting with their back arched and head erect.

Then came up the ‘Gloomy Knob’, a well rounded, dome shaped granite feature.  Surely it would have been smoothened by the glacial activities over the years.  The grass growing on the rocks formed the grazing pasture for the Mountain Goats.

After we passed the Gloomy Knob, a boat belonging to the US National Park Services came alongside our ship.  The Rangers from the boat boarded the ship through the rope-ladders provided by the ship’s crew.

These Rangers, lead by Ms Highsmith, the Warden,  conducted classes about the Glacier Bay, its ecology, geology, about the original inhabitants, etc.  She brought out as to how the current conservation effort has been a great success as they included the local inhabitants into it, respecting their beliefs, traditions and customs.

Our ship then moved closer to the Margerie Glacier, nearly a mile away to facilitate us to view the spectacle of calving.  Cows have calves, glaciers calve icebergs, which are chunks of ice that break off glaciers and fall into water. This is caused in the glaciers of the Glacier Bay due to the forward motion of the glacier and the erosive action of the salt water of the Pacific Ocean, the tidal waves and the wind.

As we stood on the deck watching the Margerie Glacier, it calved five times, each time bringing down a heavy volume of ice, falling into water with a thunderous sound.  It was a great natural spectacle showcasing the fury of the nature.

As our ship steamed off from the Glacier Bay, we all enjoyed a swim in the top deck swimming pool.

Next : Skagway – Gateway to the Klondike Gold Rush

Yakutat Bay and Hubbard Glacier

Our Ship sailed through the night after casting off from Whittier.  We had early breakfast and set out to explore the ship.

In the Mid-Ship was the lavishly decorated and well laid out Shopping Arcade with stores selling everything from Scotch Whisky to Jewellery.

The Shopping Arcade covered four floors, very done up with chandeliers, artwork, murals and et all.

Our ship entered Yakutat Bay by 11 AM from the Gulf of Alaska.  It was a breathtaking sight to see large icebergs that had calved out of the giant glaciers floating around.

On to the East was  St Elias mountains ranges.  The mountains rises like a white pyramid to an elevation of about 6000 meter in one of the world’s most dramatic transitions from sea to summit.  The Fairweather mountain ranges lies on the Eastern side of the Bay.  These mountains are scarred by glacial activity from the Ice Ages to date.

As we sailed through the Bay, more ice bergs, both small and big, were sighted as we sailed into Disenchantment Bay.  This bay was  named Puerto del Desengano (bay of disenchantment in Spanish) by Alessandro Malaspina in 1792, when he felt ‘disenchanted’ that the bay was not the entrance to the North-West Passage.  He was in fact looking to sail through the Arctic Ocean to Europe through the North-West Passage.

Map courtesy of the US Geological Survey

As our ship entered Disenchantment Bay, we could see Hubbard Glacier from over 50 km. This massive glacier is a staggering 125 km  long, 10 km wide, and 400 meter deep. Its face is over 100 meter high, which is as high as a 30-40 story building.  Hubbard Glacier,  is one of the over 110,000 glaciers in Alaska and is North America’s largest tidewater glacier. Hubbard Glacier was named in 1890 in honour of Gardiner G. Hubbard, the founder of the National Geographic Society.

A Tidewater Glacier is fed by the snow that flow out of the mountains and down to the sea.  The saltwater of the sea ‘eat’ into the thick ice-wall, causing it to break off .  This process is called ‘calving’.

Hubbard Glacier has been thickening and advancing toward the Gulf of Alaska, in stark contrast with most glaciers, which have thinned and retreated during the last century. This atypical behaviour is an important example of the calving glacier cycle in which glacier advance and retreat is controlled more by the mechanics of calving than by climate fluctuations. If Hubbard Glacier continues to advance, it will close the seaward entrance of Russell Fiord and create the largest glacier-dammed lake on the North American continent as it has done in 1986 and 2002. Hubbard Glacier remains an ongoing study of calving glacier dynamics for the scientific community.

In 2002 the advancing terminus of Hubbard Glacier created a glacier lake dam which turned Russell Fiord in to a lake for about two and a half months. Rising water in the newly formed lake altered local hydrology and was a threat to nearby communities. During the two and a half months that the channel was dammed, Russell Lake rose 20 meter. In 1986 a similar scenario resulted when the glacier caused dam raised the lake level 27 meter over the course of five months. Erosion of ice dam from saltwater eventually carved a new outlet channel and restored the fiord to its previous elevation in both cases.

Our ship after being in the Disenchantment Bay for over two hours turned around.  During this manoeuvre, the ship’s propellers churned out the glacial deposits brought down by the calving ice bergs and deposited on the ocean floor.

After spending another two hours in the Disenchantment Bay, our ship sailed for the Glacier Bay.  We all were really ‘enchanted’ by the natural beauty of the hills, the bay, the floating icebergs.  We were not at all ‘disenchanted’ as we were surely not looking for the North-West Passage to Europe.

As our ship sailed ahead from the Disenchantment Bay, we watched the Sun setting into the Pacific Ocean – It was 10:45 PM.

Next :  Glacier Bay – Where the Birth of the World is Continuing

Alaska – Here We Are

During the summer of 2017, we along with Stephens, our travel companions, booked Alaskan Cruise on Coral Princess luxury liner.  The cruise commenced from Whittier, Alaska, USA, sailing South-East and ending at Vancouver, British Columbia (BC),  Canada.

On 29 July 2017, we boarded the early morning Air Canada flight from Toronto to Vancouver on the first leg of our Alaskan Cruise.  The flight duration was of about five hours, but the clock only moved by two hours because the clock had to be set back by three hours as the time zone of Vancouver is three hours behind Toronto.

The five hours flight was made more comfortable than the regular one as the aircraft, an Airbus 319 variant deployed was the special charter plane used to fly various teams of the National Hockey League (NHL).  The aircraft had only 60 seats, that too all First Class, with all the accessories like comforters, extra legroom, LCD screens, etc.  Thank you Air Canada.

After a two hour stopover at Vancouver, we flew to Anchorage, the largest Alaskan City.  We were impressed by the Military Lounge at the Anchorage Airport.  An effective way to project the power of a strong military, thus a strong nation, especially to  foreign tourists.  A country that respects its soldiers will always be powerful for sure.

We boarded the bus for Whittier where Coral Princess, our cruise liner was anchored.  The route between Anchorage and Whittier on the Portage Glacier Highway was very scenic.  The road ran parallel to the railway track, both hugging the coastline.  We passed through the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, known as Potter’s Marsh, a good place to spot migratory birds, water fowl and moose.

The road continued along the Turnagain Arm, a body of water featuring the world’s second highest tides at over 30 feet.  We passed through the Girdwood and Portage Glacier and the bus stopped at the entrance of the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, also known as the Whittier Tunnel. It is highway and railway tunnel that passes under Maynard Mountain. At 13,300 ft (4,100 m), it is the second-longest highway tunnel and longest combined rail and highway tunnel in North America.

We alighted from the bus at the banks of a lake formed by the melting Portage Glacier.  As the tunnel is one-way and is also shared by the railway, there is a schedule for the traffic passing through it.  All the vehicles assembled in the staging area at the entrance of the tunnel.  At the scheduled time the convoy moved with the buses leading the way.  The buses being public transport are given preference over cars.

The Whittier Tunnel was constructed in 1941 to use Whittier as a rail port during World War II.  It is named after Anton Anderson (1892–1960), Chief Engineer of the Alaska Railroad Company and Mayor of City of Anchorage from 1956 to 1958.  The tunnel’s entrance portals are designed in an ‘A’ shape, with a large  door, which allows traffic in and out of the tunnel. The entrance portals are designed to withstand the force of an avalanche.

The ride through the 4 km tunnel was for about 15 minutes and surely there is light always at the other end of the tunnel.  As we emerged out of the tunnel at the  Whittier Port, Coral Princess, our cruise liner anchored there, came into our view for the first time.

Whittier came into prominence during World War II as it offered a shorter voyage into the Pacific Ocean and reduced exposure of ships to Japanese submarines.  It also reduced the risk of Japanese aircrafts  bombing the port facilities because of the high mountains around the port and bad weather for which Alaska is very famous for.  It pours all through the year and gets less than a month of bright sunshine every year.

We were escorted into our cabin E731 on the eight floor of the ship.  The cabin was very spacious and comfortable with a balcony facing the ocean.

Adjacent to the port was the small boats and fishing boat jetty and also the railway station where a train was waiting its schedule to cross through the tunnel.

The ship casted off at 8:30 PM and we all headed straight to our watering holes for our first drink on board.

How did Alaska become the fiftieth state of the United States of America, detached from the mainland USA with Canada in between?

Russians colonised Alaska in the 17th century and exploited the local resources like fur and gold.  When Crimean War broke out in 1853, Britain, France and Turkey stood against Russia. Russia could neither supply nor defend Alaska during the was as the sea routes were controlled by the allies’ ships. There was a fear that the British might blockade Alaska or even seize it.

Tensions between Moscow and London grew, while relations with the American authorities were warmer than ever. Russia offered to sell Alaska to the United States in 1859, believing the United States would off-set the designs of Russia’s greatest rival in the Pacific, Great Britain. The US Civil War delayed the sale, but after the war, on March 30, 1867, US agreed to a Russian proposal to purchase Alaska for $7.2 million. The Senate approved the treaty of purchase on April 9, President Andrew Johnson signed the treaty on May 28, and Alaska was formally transferred to the United States on October 18, 1867.

For three decades after its purchase the United States paid little attention to Alaska, which was governed under military, naval, or Treasury rule or, at times, no visible rule at all. Seeking a way to impose US mining laws, the United States constituted a civil government in 1884. Major gold deposit was discovered in the Yukon (Canada) in 1896, and Alaska became the gateway to the Klondike gold fields. Alaska became a state on January 3, 1959.

Next – Hubbard Glacier at Yakutat Bay

Jonah the Musical

On 01 July 2017, we along with Stephens, our travel companions, set out early morning to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA.  After eight hours of car ride from Toronto, we reached our hotel and checked-in by about 10 AM.

Lancaster is nicknamed the Garden Spot of America or Pennsylvania Dutch Country and located in South Central Pennsylvania.  The county is home to America’s oldest Amish settlement, where thousands still lead the age old lifestyle – without motor cars, without modern gadgets like cell phones, computers etc – but with their horse buggies, ploughs pulled by mules, homes without electricity etc.  It is called Dutch Country as most Amish settlers are of German (Deutsch) descend and have nothing to do with the present Netherlands.  It is called the Garden Spot because of the well drained plain farmlands which support agriculture, the mainstay of the Amish people.

In the evening we watched the Biblical Stage Show – Jonah by  Sight & Sound Theatre, a Christian faith-based, company -complete with grandiose sets, costumes befitting the time period, music and songs, use of modern technology like GPS to move various props around the huge stage – it was amazing. The center stage was very wide, and they also had props and action the left stage and the right stage.  They used the aisles in the seating area too for the actors and animals to make their entry.  They lighted up the ceiling of the theatre to immerse the audience into the ambience of day, night, storm, underwater – it was a journey into a different world.

The cast was fantastic and everyone fitted into their roles and the story being told very well.  Kudos to the technical and arts team, the changes of the sets were flawless and smooth.  In minutes one was transported from a little town to a sea port, then to a ship bumping through the storm ravaged seas to an evil town.  The props were magnificent and huge -especially the ship covering almost half the stage.  The details have been really gone into designing the ship with all its sails, masts and the most amazing was the lower deck when the hull opens to show the inside of the ship.  Truly Fantastic!

It was real technical wizardry and art on display all through the two hour show.  They have made three dimensional ancient cities come live with people and animals.  A fleet of boats sailing across the stage, and a 50 foot ship being tossed up and down in a storm at sea is amazing.  After intermission, the entire theatre is transformed to an undersea world with schools of exotic fish swimming about, beautiful iridescent jellyfish floating above our heads, sharks prowling for prey, colourful clownfish and seahorses swimming around, and a giant whale swimming over our head.

The story of Jonah has been scripted very well with a fine touch of humour.  The story has been extended to fill two hours, but will never distract the audience even for a second.  The story dates back to about 700 years before Christ where in a boy, Jonah gets a prophecy from God about the victory of the king of the Israelites.  When it comes true, he is declared a prophet and everyone waits for more prophecies.  God does not appear to Jonah thereafter, but the people of Gath-Hepher erect a heroic statue of him.

One day God ordered Jonah to go to Nineveh to declare the city’s wickedness and impending destruction.  Jonah does not want to save the people of Nineveh as his father was killed by soldiers from Nineveh and he hates the city and its people.  This forces Jonah to flee.

He goes to Joppa, a seaport and embarks on a ship sailing to Tarshish.  A storm rages and the ship is battered and tossed around by it.  Jonah, realising that the storm is God send to curtail his journey to Tarshish, orders the Captain to throw him off the ship.  Thus the storm dies down.

Jonah falls into the deep sea and the audience are transported into a serenely beautiful undersea world.  Jonah is gulped down by a huge whale and he survives this encounter for three days.  He repents and prays to God for mercy.  Now God wants Jonah to help the people of Nineveh find redemption.  God ensures that Jonah is thrown out from the whale’s stomach to land in the City of Nineveh.  Jonah keeps avoiding the people of  Nineveh as he hates his father’ killers, but ultimately understands the idea of forgiveness and redemption and saves the people.

The music and the songs in the play were apt and spectacular, especially the powerful voice of the Queen of Nineveh.   The show was supported by about 25 stage technicians who run the show and the 48 actors who star in it.  They all have done a remarkable job bringing a story alive both as a spectacle and as a Biblical message.

Some history behind the Sight & Sound Theatre.  It was founded by Glenn Eshelman who painted landscapes as a boy. As he grew up, Glenn continued to pursue his artistic interests, eventually buying a camera to take reference photos for his paintings. After marrying Shirley, Glenn sold his artwork out of the trunk of his car to make a living. In 1964 he presented a scenic photography slide-show at a local church using a slide projector, a turntable for musical underscore and a microphone for narration. This was the first unofficial “Sight & Sound” show.  By the mid-1970’s, Glenn and Shirley took their slide-shows around the United States.  They formed the Living Waters Theatre in 1976, marking the birth of  Sight & Sound Theatres.

In January 1997, a devastating fire destroyed the theatre, but the couple rebuilt it in 18 months.  The new 2000-seat, state-of-the-art theater featured a massive, 300-foot panoramic stage that wrapped around the audience, with the ability to house sets four stories tall.  They have now further enhanced the theatre by incorporating the modern technological light & sound equipment and software, coupled with other technologies like GPS and digital communication.

York-Durham Heritage Railway

On October 1, 2016, we embarked on the York-Durham Heritage Railway train on a trip around the city of Uxbridge, about an hour’s drive from Toronto.  The York-Durham Heritage Railway trains operate on the original Toronto & Nipissing (T&N) rail line, built in the late 1860’s. This line was built to allow its owner, William Gooderham, a distiller from Toronto, to carry grain to his distillery as well as lumber.

On March 4th, 1868, the Company was chartered and construction began the following year. As it was advantageous at that time to have the rail line pass through any town, many paid handsomely for the privilege. Markham raised over $4,000 in one evening, and Unionville made a successful last minute effort to have the line rerouted after it bought $500 worth of shares. The town of Uxbridge was chosen for the site for the railway’s shops.

We  reached the Uxbridge station, with its distinctive “Witches Hat” roof, owned and maintained by the Township of Uxbridge for the heritage journey. Uxbridge is situated in a beautiful valley on the northern slope of the Oak Ridges Moraine, about 64km northeast of Toronto, Ontario.  The York-Durham Heritage Railway reopened the line between Uxbridge and Stouffville in 1996 and has been running on summer weekends since then. The train journey of about 90 minutes.

After we boarded the train, the Captain of the train – the Conductor – briefed the passengers about the train and its journey, what to see and do with the coach attendant awtching. All the staff running the train are volunteers.

The fall had set in (01 Oct) and the leaves were changing colours – before they fall off.  This gave a kaleidoscope of colours all through the journey.

The guard’s wagon  of the train called the Caboose at the rear end of the train, acted as an office and living quarters for the crew of a freight train in the old days. A viewing Cupola is built to facilitate a crew member to look forward at the train to see if anything is amiss

The Baggage Car with open doors fitted with safety barricades is the best place to view the landscape while the train is on the move.

One side of the Baggage Car is a ‘Railway Play Station’ for kids, to keep the kids engaged all through the journey.

On the other side of the Baggage Car is the Souvenir shop and a snack-bar – all manned by volunteers.

The rail-road crossings do not have barriers like those along an operational rail line as the trains operate only on weekends.  It is the duty of the drivers who cross the railway line to lookout for approaching trains and stop.

A musician, again a volunteer, entertained the passengers with his melodies. The passengers also joined him in chorus.

A volunteer ‘Clown’ was also seen entertaining kids with his tricks on board

This is a lime stone quarry enroute of LaFarge Cement Company.  Ontario has large deposit of limestone which supports the large cement manufacturing industry.

The journey was very pleasant, especially with the friendly, easy – going volunteer staff.  The staff obviously loved what they did.  It is an experience worth sharing as it goes to prove that a volunteer force can run a railway and much more.

 

Pelee Island : The Southernmost Tip of Canada

On July 08, 2017, we along with Stephens, our travel companions, travelled from Toronto to Lemington, a four hour car drive along Highway 401.  We boarded MV Jiimaan, a vessel 200 ft)in length that transports 400 passengers and 40 vehicles on Lake Erie from Lemington to Pelee Islands.  The cruise was of  about 90 minutes.  The ferry housed a cafeteria and the view from the deck was awesome.

Pelee Island, (42 Sq Km) largest island in the Western End of Lake Erie, is the Southernmost tip of Canada.  It was leased to Thomas McKee by Ojibwa and Onawa tribes in 1788.  The island’s name is derived from a French word ‘pelee’ meaning barren.  It remained barren, true to its name until it was purchased by William McKormick in 1823.

The Pelee Island Lighthouse was built by John Scott in 1833.  William McCormick donated the land and also served as its first light-keeper till 1840.  The lighthouse used to guide sailors through the rocky Pelee Passage. in the Erie Lake until it went out of service in 1909.

The only other way to get on to the Pelee Island is through the International Airport with a 3,300 feet paved runway.  Regular flights operate in winter when the ferry services are closed.  It serves as the emergency pickup point. It might be the smallest International Airport in Canada – it is International as it receives flights from USA, just South of it.

The population of Pelee Island is about 140.  In summer about 100 migrant workers land on the island to support both tourism and agriculture.  The island has a Police Station manned by two personnel, obviously there is hardly any crime and the last major crime was reported in 1920.  The Emergency Services is operated by two Para-Medics with an ambulance and a Nurse Practitioner manning the Medical Clinic.  Emergency cases has to be airlifted to the mainland at Lemington.  The Fire Department has a fire tender operated by volunteer crew.

This is the shoe tree which has an interesting history.  The tree was given up for dead and the home owner tied a pair of shoes on to it and it is believed to re-grow thereafter.  All the migrant workers, on leaving the island at the end of the season now tie their work-shoes on the tree to bring them good luck.

The island is mainly  agricultural based with about 5,000 acres of soybeans, about 1,000 acres of wheat, 500 acres of grape cultivation.  The centre of the island was a large marsh which was drained out to form the fertile agricultural land.  Thus most cultivation is done below the Lake’s level and hence there is always fear of floods.  The houses on the island are built on stilts to save them from flooding.

After spending the day on the island, we boarded the ferry on our return voyage to Lemington and then we drove off to Toronto.

 

 

Victoria – Capital City of British Columbia

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Our trip to British Columbia in August 2016 concluded with a visit to Victoria Island, the capital of British Columbia (BC).  Victoria is an island that  offers heritage architecture, colourful gardens and traditions like afternoon tea, mixed with outdoor adventure, culinary experiences, especially fish and chips.  Victoria Island is located about 100 km from Vancouver and can be reached by ferry, sea plane, tourist boats or by air.

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We set sail by the 9AM from Vancouver on the ferry operated by BC Ferries and it took about 90 minutes.  There were about 200 vehicles and 400 passengers (and a few dogs) on board.  The ferry ride offered a deck-side view of the breathtaking scenery through the Strait of Georgia.  The ferry had three restaurants with various food options and viewing platforms, both inside and outside.

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Our first halt was at the Parliament building.  Overlooking the harbour stood the statue of Captain James Cook, the first non-aboriginal man to set foot on Vancouver Island in 1778.  Many aboriginal families lived on Victoria Island, each referring to themselves by distinct family group names.  In 1843, James Douglas chose Victoria (then known as Camosack), as a Hudson Bay Company trading post.  The post was eventually renamed Fort Victoria, in honour of Queen Victoria.

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On July 21, 1871, BC became the sixth province of the Dominion of Canada and Victoria was proclaimed the Capital City.  The Parliament building to house Legislative Assembly of BC opened in 1898.  In the twentieth century, Victoria evolved as a city of government, retirement and tourism.

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We were thrilled to see the three statues located in front of the Parliament building.  They would enthrall any military history enthusiast and veteran.  The first was a statue of a soldier to commemorate BC’s fallen in World War I, World War II and the Korean war; then a statue of a Veteran Sailor and a statue of homecoming of a sailor to commemorate 100 years of Canadian Navy unveiled on 04 May 2010.

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Our next destination was Butchart Garden, surely a place for a nature lover and a gardening enthusiast.  Robert Pim Butchart, a pioneer in the North American cement industry, came to Victoria Island lured by its rich limestone deposits.  In 1904 he developed a quarry and built a cement plant.  His wife Jennie Butchart became the company’s chemist. Close to the quarry, the Butcharts established their family home with a small garden.  As Mr Butchart exhausted limestone deposits, his enterprising wife Jennie, converted the gigantic quarry into a beautiful garden.

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The renown of Mrs Butchart’s garden quickly spread. By the 1920s more than fifty thousand people visited her garden each year. The hospitable Butcharts christened their estate ‘Benvenuto’, the Italian word for ‘Welcome’.  Their grandson Ian Ross was given the Gardens on his return from World War II.  He made the garden self-sustaining, transforming the mostly neglected home and gardens into an internationally famous tourist destination.   Each year over a million bedding plants in some 900 varieties give uninterrupted bloom from March through October. Almost a million people visit annually for spring’s colourful flowering bulbs; summer’s riot of colour and fall’s russets and golds.

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The most impressive sight was of the Sunken Garden from the lookout.   The old quarry had been transformed by Jennie into a beautiful sunken garden of massive dimensions and dramatic aesthetic qualities representing exceptional creative achievement in gardening. Deep expansive walls, beds of annuals, flowering trees, unique shrubs, central rock mound and  a fountain, all added variety to the uniqueness of this marvellous garden.

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We were welcomed by the luscious scents of roses to the Rose Garden.  The flowerbeds bordered by magnificent delphiniums had roses of many varieties and bright colours.  The garden has an extensive collection of floribundas, ramblers, climbers and Hybrid Tea Roses.  Each rose variety has been marked by name, origin and year registered with the American Rose Society.

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A Torii gate welcomed us into the serene Japanese Garden.  Walkways by the side of streams and ponds guided us through many bridges. Japanese maples and birch trees spread abundant shade on to the well manicured lawns.  Jennie, with assistant Isaburo Kishida, an expert Japanese landscaper, completed this garden in 1906.

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The next stop was the Italian Garden bounded by two arched entrances. This garden was originally Butchart’s tennis court.  A splendid Star Pond adorned the centre of this garden.  It was originally designed to house Mr Butchart’s collection of ornamental ducks as he was an enthusiastic hobbyist who collected ornamental birds from all over the world.  He kept ducks in the Star Pond, peacocks on the front lawn and had many birdhouses throughout the gardens. 

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Past the Italian Garden, we entered the Mediterranean Garden.  This area had an enchanting arrangement of lush, exotic plants from around the world.  We were all surprised to see that even a banana grove could enhance the beauty of an enchanting world renowned garden.

From the Butchart Garden, we headed straight to the Red Fish Blue Fish.  It is  an outdoor waterfront eatery in a modified cargo container, standing on a wooden pier in Victoria’s Inner Harbour.  It is one of Victoria’s most cherished eateries.  There was a long queue and after about half an hour in the queue, we ordered fish and chips.  We relished the battered and steaming pieces of halibut, sitting on the dock overlooking the bay.  Indeed it was worth the wait standing in a long queue.

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Our next destination was ‘Mile 0’ which marks the start of the over 8,000 km Trans-Canada Highway that spans the entire length of Canada – from the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic.  Mile 0 is also home to a statue of Terry Fox. Fox lost his right leg to cancer when he was 18 years old. He started a trans-Canada run to raise money for cancer research, beginning in Newfoundland on the East coast of Canada and was to end at the Mile 0 marker in Victoria. Unfortunately, Fox’s journey ended tragically near the halfway mark when he fell ill and passed away. Since then, hundreds of millions of dollars has been raised in his name by the Terry Fox Foundation for cancer research.

With the visit to Mile 0, we culminated our exploration of Alberta and BC this time.

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Now it was time for us to catch the return ferry to Vancouver and say goodbye to the beautiful Victoria Island.  As we cruised through the Pacific Ocean, the sun was about to set and its rays painted the islands with different shades of gold.