Pioneers of Appalachian Geology

The Pioneers of Appalachian Geology are back! With much help from the IAT/SIA geology committee, the new and improved pioneers page now honors over 30 geologists who have made key contributions to the understanding of Appalachian/Caledonian terranes and to geologic principals in general.

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The IAT is in Guthook Guides!

, it took longer then we thought it would, but the first three sections of the IAT are now available in Guthook Guides. And by first three, we mean the original sections of the IAT: Maine, New Brunswick and Quebec.

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Spring News from the Quebec Chapter of IAT

The Sentier international des Appalaches – Québec has published its May, 2020 newsletter. In addition to COVID-19 related updates, it includes information for hikers on reservations and trail guides, and introduces Alexis Turcotte-Noël, the new director of SIA-QC.

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Night on Deasey Mountain

The historic Deasey Mountain Fire Lookout is unusual in many ways. First, it is a “ground cab” lookout meaning that, rather than perched on top of a 20- or 30-foot metal tower, it sits directly on the ground. The cab is anchored in place by four heavy steel cables attached to large eyebolts set in the bare granite knob of the mountain’s summit.

As the full moon sets to the west, dawn approaches to the east

The cab offers a spectacular 360-degree view that includes Katahdin and other peaks in Baxter State Park, five miles to the west, as well as Mars Hill on the Canadian border fifty miles to the northeast. In essence, a hiker can see the entire route of the IAT in Maine from the Deasey Cab.

The cab is also unusual in that it’s the original 8 x 8-foot building constructed in 1929 by the Maine Forest Service. The cab has been lovingly maintained for 15 years by members of the Maine Chapter of the IAT, who have replaced siding, doors and windows, and have re-roofed the building twice. In 2016, a group of IAT’ers, led by Earl Raymond, installed a replica of the original alidade that was used by wardens to pinpoint the location of forest fires from the summit. Read more on that here.

Orion shines over the Deasey Fire Lookout

It’s a wonderful experience to spend the night in the cab, especially in clear weather with a full moon. Do be aware, though, the nearest reliable water supply is a half mile away down the mountain!

We’re Back!

Well, that was a bit of a span between posts. Sorry about that. The IAT/SIA has had a busy year and posting stories to the website kept falling to the bottom of the to-do list. But that should change soon! Mainly because we’re nearing the completion of an updated website design and we’re all itching to see our stories in the new and improved format.

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Coming to a smart phone near you!

Guthook Guides

For the past six months, the Maine Chapter of the IAT has been working with the developers of the premiere trail guide app, Guthook Guides, to create a digital hiker’s guide of the International Appalachian Trail in Maine and Canada.

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Maine to Reroute 52 Miles of IAT

The International Appalachian Trail continues to draw hikers to northern Maine, offering a tour through varied landscapes and a connection to Canada and beyond.

This summer, the Maine chapter is aiming to reroute 52 miles of the trail that currently is set along roadways in southern Aroostook County. About 65 miles of trail are currently set along a road shoulder.

The roughly 13 miles along Grand Lake Road from Matagamon to Shin Pond is actually “good road walking,” with wide shoulders and few trucks, and that will remain a part of the route, Hudson said. For the other 52 miles, the chapter is working with landowners to reroute the trail from Shin Pond to Monticello, aiming to move the trail to old woods roads and all-terrain vehicle trails. A section they’ve secured will run along the south side of Mount Chase, and offer a link to a trail up the 2,440-foot mountain of the same name.

Location of new sectiion of off-road trail

“The idea is in the long-run to get rid of the bulk of the road walking, and to use a combination of woods roads and paths,” including multi-use ATV trails, said Hudson, the former president of the Chewonki Foundation in Wiscasset.

For more on the story, go to the Bangor Daily News – Maine Outdoors website.

Early Portuguese Exploration of North America

In 1498, just one year after Italian explorer Giovanni Caboto rediscovered North America and six years after fellow Italian Christopher Columbus “discovered” the New World, Portuguese explorers João Fernandes Lavrador and Pêro de Barcelos were the first modern explorers of much of northeastern North America, including the Labrador Peninsula.  They were followed (1500-02) by Portuguese explorers Gaspar and Miguel Corte Real.  This is the story of Portuguese exploration of North America, the fourth in the IAT Natural and Cultural Heritage Series.

View of Lisbon, 1572, Braun and Hogenberg

In 1295, when Italian merchant Marco Polo returned to his native Venice after 24 years travelling across Asia to China with his father Niccolò and uncle Maffeo, few Europeans had any knowledge of lands beyond the Near East, where four years earlier, 200 years of Christian military campaigns to the Holy Land known as the Crusades had ended. 

Marco Polo Wearing Tatar Outfit

However the Polos returned at a time when Venice was at war with Genoa, another wealthy Italian city-state with an extensive Mediterranean trading network.  After outfitting a galley for war, he was soon captured and imprisoned for approximately 3 years, during which time he dictated a detailed account of his travels to fellow prisoner Rustichello da Pisa, who after adding his and other tales, published a book with the English title The Travels of Marco Polo.

Handwritten notes by Genoan explorer Christopher Columbus on his Latin copy of The Travels of Marco Polo

Though written before the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press (c. 1439), the book was widely copied in many languages, inspiring merchants, seamen and nobility with tales of riches in the far east.  Already experienced traders in the eastern Mediterranean, Italian city-states were well positioned to capitalize on increased trade with Arab and Turkish middlemen.

Fra Mauro Map, c. 1450, with south at top, inspired by The Travels of Marco Polo

However in the early 15th century, another bold and visionary European had another idea.  He would pursue trade directly with the far east, avoiding non-Christian middlemen.  Portugal’s Infante Dom Henrique de Avis, Duke of Viseu, better known in the 20th century as Henry the Navigator (1394-1460), would devise a plan to reach Asia by sailing around Africa, from the Atlantic to Indian Ocean.

15th Century Portuguese Prince, Henry the Navigator

In 1415 at the age of 21, Henry convinced his father, King John I, to conquer the port of Ceuta on the North African coast.  This Moorish stronghold in the Strait of Gibraltar had long been used as a base for Barbary pirates who raided the Portuguese coast, capturing locals and selling them in the African slave market.  Soon after, he was exploring the West African coast, hunting pirates and seeking the source of the area’s lucrative gold trade and the legendary Christian Kingdom of Prester John.

14th century Catalan map showing Mansa Musa, king of Timbuktu, holding a golden nugget

Because Mediterranean ships of the era were too slow and heavy for these dangerous forays into the Atlantic Ocean, a new and much lighter ship was developed that was faster and more maneuverable.  Rigged with 2 or 3 lateen sails, these shallow-keeled Portuguese caravels of 50 to 150 tons were able to tack against the wind and sail upriver into shallow coastal waters.

16th century Portuguese Caravel

Soon Henry’s explorers were discovering new lands in the eastern Atlantic, including the Madeira Islands (1420) and Azores (1430), which were quickly colonized.  They also discovered the volta do mar (Portuguese for “turn of the sea), the navigational technique whereby mariners returning to Portugal from the west coast of Africa had to follow the clockwise currents and trade winds and sail northwest to reach northeast.  This was a major innovation in Atlantic navigation that would play a major role in future exploration.  By the time of Henry’s death in 1460, Portuguese caravels had discovered the Cape Verde Archipelago and circumvented the Muslin land-based trade routes across the western Sahara Desert, thus enabling direct trade for gold and slaves.

Map of West Africa by Luis Lázaro (1563) showing volta do mar

During the generation that followed, Portuguese explorers continued south along the west coast of Africa until 1488 when Bartolomeu Dias sailed around the southernmost tip of the continent, becoming the first European to reach the Indian Ocean from the Atlantic.  Four years later in 1492, Christopher Columbus followed the volta do mar on his first voyage west across the Atlantic Ocean in search of the East Indies.   

Christopher Columbus, posthumous portrait by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519

On October 12 he landed on a Bahamian Island which he claimed for supporting monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, after being rejected by King John II of Portugal on the basis that his estimated travel distance of 2400 miles was far too low and Diaz had already rounded the “Cape of Good Hope” for an eastern maritime route to Asia.

“Columbus Map”, c. 1493 from the Lisbon workshop of Bartolomeo and Christopher Columbus

This new discovery precipitated a dispute between Spain and Portugal, which had been granted all lands south of the Canary Islands in the Alcaçovas Treaty of 1479, which ended the War of the Castilian Succession (1475-1479).  The dispute was resolved by the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494, which divided all new lands in the Atlantic Ocean between the Portuguese and Spanish empires along a meridian 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands, approximately halfway between those islands and the islands discovered by Columbus in 1492.  Lands to the west of the meridian would belong to Spain, while lands to the east would belong to Portugal. 

1494 Treaty of Tordesillas between Portugal and Spain

In just three years, Venetian Giovanni Caboto became the first European to reach Newfoundland in North America since the Norse Greenlanders, approximately 500 years earlier.   Sailing with a royal patent from England to find a northwest route to the East Indies, his discovery would complicate future Portuguese and Spanish claims to the New World.

John Cabot departing Bristol, England in 1497, by Earnest Board

That same year, Vasco da Gama departed Portugal for India, following Diaz’s route south into the Indian Ocean, where in 1498 he became the first European to reach India by sea.  Two years later, countryman Pedro Álvares Cabral followed the counter clockwise ocean currents and trade winds of the South Atlantic on his voyage to India, and in the process discovered the northeast coast of South America, claiming the future “Brazil” for Portugal.

While Cabral was exploring the southwest Atlantic, Portuguese explorer Gaspar Corte-Real and his brother Miguel were exploring the northwest and reached what is believed to be Newfoundland.  Though Miguel returned to Portugal with two of the expedition’s three ships, Gaspar continued southwards and was never heard from again.  Miguel met the same fate the following year, when he set off in search of his younger brother.   As a result of these voyages the names Terra Cortereal and Terra del Rey de Portuguall began to appear on European maps of the day.

Cantino Planisphere (1502) showing Brazil and Newfoundland east of the Tordesillas Meridian

The Corte Reals were following in the wake of fellow Azores countryman João Fernandes Lavrador, who in 1498 was granted a patent by Portuguese King Manuel I to search for new lands on the Portuguese side of the Tordesillas Meridian.   He reached Greenland and Labrador, named Island of Labrador and Land of Labrador, respectively, and was granted title to many of the lands he discovered.  In 1501, he too was lost at sea in the North Atlantic. 

Pedro Reinel Map (1504) showing (top left) Labrador, Newfoundland and Cape Breton

The Portuguese Pedro Reinel Map of 1504, the world’s first to include lines of latitude, clearly shows the Canadian regions of Labrador, Newfoundland and Cape Breton, as well as the Strait of Belle Isle and Cabot Strait.  

500 years earlier, the coast of Labrador and Strait of Belle Isle were familiar to Norse explorers from Greenland, beginning with Leif Erikson who established the settlement of Vinland at the tip of Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula. 

16th century Skálholt Map of Norse America identifying Promontorium Winlandiae

In 1534 and 1535, Jacques Cartier entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence via the Strait of Belle Isle during his first two voyages of discovery.  In 1536 after overwintering in “Canada”, he returned to France via the Cabot Strait, thus becoming the first European on record to determine Newfoundland to be one or more islands. 

Though the first French explorer of “Canada”, Cartier was not the first explorer flying the French flag in North America.  in 1524, Florentine Giovanni da Verrazzano explored the east coast from North Carolina to Newfoundland in the service of King Francis I.

Nicolas Vallard Map of eastern North America, 1547, with south at top

For the next half century, the Strait of Belle Isle continued to establish itself as Canada’s Heritage Gateway, when whaling fleets from the Basque region of France and Spain (whose King Phillip II  was also crowned Philip I of Portugal in 1581) hunted right and bowhead whales as they migrated through the strait between the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Labrador Sea.

Woodcut from the ‘Cosmographic Universelle’ of Thevet, in folio Paris, 1574

In spite of the Portuguese claim to North America under the Treaty of Tordesillas and the voyages of João Fernandes Lavrador and Gaspar Corte-Real, Giovanni Caboto’s discovery of Newfoundland on behalf of King Henry VII of England one year before Lavrador’s voyage in 1498 established “British title to the territory composing [Canada and] the United States.  That title was founded on the right of discovery, a right which was held among the European nations a just and sufficient foundation, on which to rest their respective claims to the American continent.   Whatever controversies existed among them (and they were numerous), respecting the extent of their own acquisitions abroad, they appealed to this as the ultimate fact, by which their various and conflicting claims were to be adjusted.”  (Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, by Joseph Story, LL. D, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, and Dane Professor of Law, Harvard University, 1833).

Sir Humphrey Gilbert claiming Newfoundland for England in 1583 in the name of Queen Elizabeth I

The English claim to North America was disputed by its historic rival France, based on the voyages of Jacques Cartier who discovered the St. Lawrence River and the interior of “Canada”.  After the English victory in the Seven Years War (French and Indian War in North America, 1754-1763), England finally gained possession of the continent and quickly employed James Cook to survey and chart the Strait of Belle Isle and French Shore of Newfoundland, which together with the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, were the only remaining territories under limited French control.

French version of James Cook’s Map of the Strait of Belle Isle, 1784

The victory was short lived.  Twenty years later, England lost the southern half to the American States during the Revolutionary War for independence. 

As for Portugal, they continue to fish in Newfoundland waters, an enduring tradition lasting over 500 years.  In Labrador, one of the biggest employers today is the mining company Vale, a Portuguese language multinational based in the Tordesillas Meridiancountry of Brazil.

Statue of Gaspar Corte Real on the grounds of the Newfoundland Legislature, St. John’s

And in Portugal, the country proudly remembers their classic age of exploration, a time when their country was without equal on the high seas.

One side of the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of Discoveries) in Lisbon, Portugal

 

IAT Chief Geologist Celebrates 85th Birthday

IAT Founder Dick Anderson presents Walter with his cake while Walter’s daughter Ruth and wife Ann look on

Family and friends gathered at the Muddy Rudder Restaurant in Yarmouth, Maine on Thursday, February 27, to wish IAT Chief Geologist Walter Anderson a happy 85th birthday and announce the new Walter Anderson Endowment Fund.  Fellow geologists and colleagues on the IAT Maine Chapter board noted Walter’s long career as the Maine State Geologist.  Under his direction, maps of the state’s bedrock and surficial geology were updated and a new map of the state’s water aquifer resources was created.  Walter also introduced geographic information systems mapping to Maine as part of the process to determine Maine’s suitability to host a deep geologic repository for high level radioactive waste.  The answer was “No!”

Chapter President Don Hudson presents Walter with a gift and announces the Walter Anderson Endowment Fund

Walter joined the board of the Maine Chapter of the IAT in 2004 and developed the first maps of the trail in Maine, New Brunswick, Quebec and Newfoundland. From his first days on the board, Walter emphasized the importance of geology to the story of the trail. When a couple of Scottish geologists attended a Geological Society of America meeting in Portland, Maine in 2008, they stopped by a poster prepared by Walter that illustrated the Appalachian orogeny through time, ending with the opening of the Atlantic Ocean. Now, those ancient mountains can be found around the rim of the North Atlantic from Alabama to Morocco.

It’s fair to say that Walter’s illustration prompted an invitation to the IAT to attend meetings in Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Northern Ireland. The rest is history! The IAT now winds its way through thirteen countries on three continents, thanks in large part to Walter’s leadership and his teaching about the origin of our common geologic heritage.

Portugal To Launch IAT At Naturtejo Geopark

On March 28, 2015, IAT Portugal will officially launch the GR38 – Grande Roto Do Murada l-Pangeia as the Trilho Internacional dos Apalaches Portugal

Dr. Fernando Marques Jorge, Mayor of Câmara Municipal de Oleiros will preside over the event to be held at Naturtejo Geopark in the foothills of eastern Portugal. 

Also in attendance will be IAT Portugal Coordinator Carlos Neto de Carvalho, Geologist and Scientific Coordinator at Geopark Naturtejo, IAT Chairperson Paul Wylezol, Canadian Consul to Portugal David Marion and IAT Spain Coordinator Ruth Hernandez.

The event will feature walking adventures and folk music and continue on March 29 with outdoor theater and a gastronomical festival.

The municipality of Oleiros voted in favor of including the Grand Route Muradal-Pangea as the centerpiece of an IAT Portugal in July 2013. Since then, trails have been developed and signage erected. 

Stay tuned for more news on the IAT Portugal Launch and the next installment of the IAT Natural and Cultural Heritage Series, featuring the historic maritime connection between Portugal and North America.

Now the time has come to walk and celebrate the Trilho Internacional dos Apalaches Portugal!

Stranraer Rotary Mull of Galloway Trail Marathon

On May 30, 2015, Scotland’s Stranraer Rotary will hold its third annual  walk/run over the stunning marathon length of the Mull of Galloway Trail, from the Mull of Galloway to Stranraer.  The 26 mile route across mostly rough path will begin at 10am.

For the less adventurous, there will be a 10 mile walk/run from Sandhead to Stranraer over rough path and tarred roads with light traffic.  It will start at 11:30am at Tigh na Mara Hotel, Sandhead.

There will be an entrance fee of £25 per person for the longer course and £15 for the short course.  This includes transportation from the start at Stranraer marina to the Mull of Galloway or Sandhead, and a barbecue and complimentary drinks at the finish.

Unlike previous years, there will not be a yachting component to the race, but there will be places on Sunday when yachts will host runners for a (weather permitting) trip round Ailsa Craig.  These places will be limited and so there may be a ballot.

Various types of accommodation are available and organisers can advise how to maximize the enjoyment of your stay.

Please register your interest or send queries by email to gordon.baird@me.com