In the shadow of Nanabijou: A visit to Thunder Bay

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I attended the Canadian Nautical Research Society‘s annual gathering for the first time, this year hosted in Thunder Bay at the Prince Arthur Hotel, originally built to wow passengers coming off the CNR trains that used to run along the waterfront. The conference was just fabulous: a dedicated group of naval historians representing a huge range of time periods and specialties, all curious about each other’s work and completely welcoming. One night we had a tour of CCGS Alexander Henry, built in Thunder Bay and now back there as a museum ship; I’m posing on it with Dr Chris Madsen, past president of the CNRIMG_4069S. I remember staying on the Alexander Henry when it was a Bed and Breakfast in Kingston so many years ago. I presented on the mountain of paperwork Victorian Admiralty administrators had to sift through when considering innovation in the Royal Navy, and did a reading of Lady Franklin of Russell Square. Muriel Gimblett, wife of the CNRS’s current president Richard, had plenty to say about the role of brave wives whose husbands leave on ships, perhaps never to return. Plus ca change!

I’d never been to Thunder Bay before, and while my Sunday night arrival gave me a sad impression, my week here has been amazing: hiking the head of Nanabijou, the Sleeping Giant, attending a great free outdoor concert with Winnipeg band The Treble, eating completely amazing food at Bight and El Tres, and today, my last afternoon here, enjoying a five-hour wander in the trails up above Boulevard Lake with a picnic on the bluffs and a dip in the Current River. It’s a quiet paradise here. I will miss it very much; this is the capstone to what was already a completely spectacular summer.

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