~ Saint Croix Island International Historic Site and Eastport, Maine ~

In 1604, over a hundred artisans, soldiers and gentlemen sailed here from France in a bold attempt to establish a European colony north of Florida. They built a settlement on an island offshore and came here to the mainland to hunt and garden. The settlers were led by Pierre Dugua, who in return for control of the region's fur trade pledged to found a permanent colony. Knowing that other settlement attempts had failed, this expedition was well equipped with supplies and workers. Dugua decided to settle on the island for defense. His concern was for safety and the French immediately built a palisade and installed cannons.

They had brought many building materials with them. Archeological excavations on the island uncovered yellow bricks and ceramic pots from Normandy. They built a French style community with a central square surrounded by houses and service buildings. On the mainland they planted gardens and erected a water-powered mill.

In late summer, Dugua sent a crew, led by Samuel Champlain, to explore the coast. Champlain traveled along the coast of Maine, meeting native peoples, producing detailed maps and naming places such as Mount Desert Island. Within a month, bad weather and a lack of food forced the crew to return to the settlement. Champlain was 34 years old in 1604. It is due to his journals that we know the story of Saint Croix Island.

When winter came, treacherous ice made crossing to the mainland impossible. They were trapped on the island without fresh water or game. They survived on preserved food, wine and melted snow. But then sickness struck and by spring 35 of their men, half of their number had died.

After that terrible winter, Dugua ordered his men to take down the buildings and relocate. The French had learned valuable lessons about North America. This time they chose a mainland site with a fresh water supply. This time they built for winter weather. This time the new colony at Port Royal, now Annapolis Royal, in Nova Scotia, succeeded.

Jean de Biencourt, one of the Saint Croix settlers, would head the settlement at Port Royal, which was the nucleus of Acadia. Samuel Champlain founded Quebec City and acted as Governor of New France.

The 1604-05 colony on Saint Croix Island is important to both the United States and Canada as one of the earliest European settlements in North America north of Florida. From Saint Croix Island, and the hard lessons learned there, grew Acadia, New France and an enduring French presence on the continent.

Saint Croix Island International Historic Site

On the historic trail there were several bronze statues depicting the life, dress and characters of 1604

Above is a bronze model of the Saint Croix settlement as determined by the archeologists' excavations
At that time, this was the land of the Passamaquoddy Indians. In the summer, several families would have been camped here to harvest fish and shellfish. No one knows what the Passamaquody thought when a large ship landed at the nearby island. We do know they helped the settlers and left them in peace. The Passamaquoddy probably had contact with earlier European fishers and fur traders. However, those contacts were all seasonal. No Europenas had ever wintered there before.

Saint Croix Island
Saint Croix Island is a protected archeological site and visitors are not allowed on the island

On the right is some of the "interesting stuff" that washes ashore

Eastport, Maine

Eastport's fishing industry has sustained the area from the city's beginning. Originally, shallow-water fish harvesting was adapted from the Passamaquoddy Indians use of weirs (barriers to channel fish into nets). Eventually, Eastport became the Sardine Capitol of the World, at one time being home to 18 sradine factories as well as the world's largest sardine cannery. Already a dangerous occupation, the fishing fleet found itself contending with the Old Sow, located between Eastport and Deer Island, New Brunswick. The Old Sow is the largest whirlpool in the Western Hemmisphere with a diameter of 250 feet. The sardine canning industry ended in Eastport in 1983.

Before driving into Eastport, I decided to have a look at the Old Sow whirlpool. The photo on the left is what I saw. Did I mention that it was a rainy, overcast day?

Just north of Eastport in Perry, Maine, is the 45th parallel north, which is a circle of latitude that is 45 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Europe, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America, and the Atlantic Ocean. The 45th parallel north is often called the halfway point between the Equator and the North Pole, but the true halfway point is actually 10.1 miles north of the 45th parallel because the Earth is oblate, that is, it bulges at the equator and is flattened at the poles. I have crossed the 45th parallel many times during my travels and often take note of these crossings, whenever I come across a marker.
In the United States the parallel runs through the states of Oregon, Idaho, the Montana/Wyoming border, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, the very northern tip of New York state, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Historic Eastport

Not much going on at sea on a day like this

There must have been a thousand gulls and terns flying and swimming and eating

That last shot is looking back on Eastport and was taken from the end of a pier

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