Saturday, August 4, 2007

Icebergs off Newfoundland

While I was reading Latitudes of Melt by Joan Clark, Booklogged and her husband Candleman were actually IN Newfoundland, Canada, taking photos of icebergs! This one was floating offshore at a village near Gander. [CORRECTION: Booklogged says it was off the northern tip of Newfoundland. See her comment on this post.]

Click on the photo to enlarge it. I'm reading the journal of their travels and have gone from Utah to Newfoundland with them so far. This is so much fun, traveling in books and discovering another book blogger is seeing IN PERSON what I'm seeing in my book! Read what they wrote and photographed that day by clicking this:

And here's what I think of Latitudes of Melt, the novel by Joan Clark that I was reading while they were there:

It is 1912 when some fishermen, separated from their ship and rowing back to shore, discover a baby girl adrift on an ice floe in the North Atlantic. One of the men takes her home with him, naming her Aurora because of her dawn rescue at sea. This strange, pale little girl becomes part of the his family. Aurora is a plucky and independent person, which I guess she would have to be, growing up on the austere Newfoundland coast. As a young woman she marries Tom the lighthouse keeper, and they have two children: Nancy and Stanley.

Nancy is not like her mother and grows up wanting to be everything Aurora isn't. Stanley, on the other hand, has his mother's passion for exploration; he becomes "Stan the ice man" because he learns all about ice and is an expert on icebergs and the way they scour the ocean floor as they move. Imagine icebergs drifting down the Labrador Current and grounding in the coves and bays outside your windows. These people live on the coast of Newfoundland, which lies smack-dab in the middle of the "latitudes of melt" (p. 166).

Nancy's daughter, Sheila, is the one who is most curious about why her grandmother Aurora was on the ice in 1912 ... shortly after the sinking of the Titanic. So Sheila sets out to unravel Aurora's mysterious past. Does she? Sure, but that's no spoiler; all through the book, we are given hints, once we even get a name from someone trying to learn about a baby. That person, however, was deliberately misled ... don't you wonder why?

My lasting impression of this book will be the beauty and danger of icebergs; I'll also remember Joan Clark's beautiful writing. Here's how she wrote about an injured and sedated character:
I am on the sea. Am I following Stanley? How strange that I should be floating on the water, when as far back as I can remember I've been afraid of the sea. I'm not afraid now, perhaps because I'm imagining myself as a little boat toddling down the bay. I'm no bigger than a skiff, but I'm perfectly seaworthy and know how to mould myself to the water as the swells lift me up and down. I take my time, drifting into coves and tickles, inlets and bights, on my leisurely journey through the latitudes of melt, idling past capes and points and beaches in no hurry to reach the place of trespass, the bay of souls.
I've thought about this book and this place for a couple weeks now, during and after my reading. This is one of the best books I've read recently. Here's my earlier review that got no comments and, apparently, no one's interest: You really should read the book. Rated: 9/10, an excellent book!

UPDATE: I found this news story, showing that Aurora's story in the novel Latitudes of Melt was possible.

Canadians Identify Child Aboard Titanic
By Associated Press, Tuesday, July 31, 2007

HALIFAX - For years, Titanic buffs knew him simply as the Unknown Child. Buried in a small plot in a Halifax cemetery, the baby was a poignant symbol of the children who perished on the vessel when it sank in 1912. ... DNA tests showed the boy is Sidney Leslie Goodwin, whose family perished aboard the ship on their way to Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Researchers had used samples of the child's DNA they had exhumed in 2001, including three teeth and a small piece of bone. ... the team went ... to the Goodwins and found a surviving maternal relative who submitted DNA evidence. Tests showed a match. It's believed that Goodwin, his parents and five siblings boarded the massive steamliner in Southampton, England, as third-class passengers. The father, an electrician, was headed to New York to work at a power plant.


CJ said...

Well, I don't know how I missed your review the first go-round but it does sound like an interesting book. And I liked the passage you quoted.

The picture is pretty neat, too. I've never seen an iceberg up close but I have seen the ice floes on Lake Superior in the dead of winter. They're impressive enough. I'm not sure I'd like to see anything bigger.


Chris said...

I remember another Titanic story of an unknown toddler who turned out to be buried just behind his parents' graves all along. Amazing what they can do now. I've driven past that cemetery but have never gone in. It's actually become a tourist attraction since the movie.

I think I've heard of this book but must have forgotten it. Wayne Johnston is another good writer of all things Newfoundland.

Booklogged said...

First let me clear up a little misunderstanding. That little iceberg is not near Gander, but a little village near St. Anthony's on the northern tip of Newfoundland. We saw a much bigger iceberg on that same boat tour.

Somehow I thought I would get lots of reading done before my trip and while on the trip. What a dreamer! I only read 1/2 of Devil and the White City and 2/3 of Shadows on the Rock. A couple of other I had along to read were Latitudes of Melt and Random Passage. Your review of Latitudes of Melt has me even more anxious to read than I already am. Such a wonderful title, don't you think?

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Yes, it's a very interesting book.

Thanks for the tip. I haven't heard of that writer before, but I'll look him up.

I have added the correction to my post ... thanks. Yes, I love the title Latitudes of Melt. When I look at the photo you took of the iceberg and remember that most of it is BELOW the water, I realize how it can SCOUR the rocks below as it moves south. That's something I learned from this book.