COVID-19 Numbers, numbers, numbers

The COVID-19 numbers out there can be scary.  We have cocooned ourselves for the past several days and the stats are still going up.  Most of us have nothing much else on our minds but anxiety about where this is headed, particularly when we look at the devastation that has happened in Italy, Spain and New York City.   We wonder “Is Ontario next?”

Today the Ontario government released projection figures that are both disturbing and motivating.  We know how this virus tracks from how it has exploded in other parts of the world.  With those models as a predictor, Ontario, without any restrictive measures in place, would have anticipated 300,000 cases and 6000 deaths by the end of April.   If we follow the current recommendations to limit physical contact and stay at home most of the time, however, that number can be reduced to 80,000 cases and 1600 deaths by April 30.  Still an incredible burden but it means we will effect a significant reduction of over 4400 deaths in Ontario this month alone if we just stay the course.  If we restrict further (and further restrictions may ensue) that number could be reduced even more.

It may be frustrating to see that we are trying to stay in and stay apart and the number of cases and deaths in Canada keep going up.  But that was anticipated. For a while we were slow to get testing results so the statistics lagged by a few days.  We also had the influx of travellers returning to Canada and some bringing their virus with them.  Some of those didn’t self isolate as diligently as requested. Although they thought they were not infected or had minimal symptoms, they could have spread the virus to others. There is also a 7-14 day incubation period before the symptoms become evident and some people have minimal symptoms of infection. This means that people who were exposed two weeks ago might just now be showing symptoms and becoming ill enough to test. And others are simply unaware that they are infectious.

Don’t get too frustrated by the current increasing numbers.  From the charts of the various possible trajectories, it is evident that our current social isolation is actually working to reduce the otherwise catastrophic infection and death rate that would have happened if left unabated.


Another graph that was released today was also encouraging. (see below) It shows the possible numbers (in red) if no measures were in place and the anticipated numbers if we are compliant with the current stay at home  and physical distancing recommendations (in blue)   The two dotted lines represent the Ontario capacity for ICU management in the province both in place prior to the pandemic starting (the lower line) and now planned (the upper line).  We are fortunate that we have had time to anticipate this imminent glut of infection cases and our hospitals are putting additional capacity in place.  If we follow the blue curve we will be able to sneak under the expansion capacity line.  That is good news.  

Our COVID-19-associated death rate per million in Canada right now stands at 5 per million population as compared to 21 per million for the USA and 243 per million for Italy.  Remember that deaths occur later in the process so they will continue to rise for the next while. As long as we can stay under that dotted line and have adequate access to ICU beds, we will be better able to manage the seriously ill and more lives will be saved.  Many of the deaths in countries with very high rates were partly as a result of ICU capacity being suddenly overwhelmed and medical management simply not being available.

So, the message is that the potential for seriously devastating numbers is there but we are already going to have some effect on the curve with what we are doing now. With more dedication to these restrictions we can do even better over the next month. This will be a marathon, not a 100 metre dash.  Take some big breaths.  Settle in to our new temporary reality and know that it is making a difference, saving lives, and in the long run things will get better.

Through various medical connections and meetings, I have been impressed that our Public Health officers, Ministry of Health and local and provincial physician groups and clinics have been very actively anticipating and planning for the surge that we anticipate that we will experience in the next couple of weeks. I feel confident that in Kingston, Ontario, and across Canada, we will receive excellent care and support during this unprecedented challenging time.

For my neighbours in Kingston, as of this morning we have 48 confirmed cases and no COVID deaths in the KLF&A district with likely many more out there who are not ill enough to have been tested. General testing has been a bit restricted initially because of the need to ration available tests but this will likely loosen up a bit soon so more cases might be confirmed. This increased testing may lead to more confirmed cases being reported.

Coronavirus in Kingston, Canada. My take on what we might expect.

There has been a lot written and published about COVID-19 and I don’t want to add to the barrage of information out there.  But I thought I could give my friends some indication of what I have learned and what to expect with regard to current status about COVID-19 as it pertains to our Kingston, Canada community.

In some ways, we are lucky that we are farther down the chain.  Our Public Health authorities have had the advantage of seeing how this is playing out in other parts of the world and how the virus is behaving so appropriate measures can be taken to limit its effect here.

The numbers around the world change by the hour.  For up to date numbers you can see how many people have been diagnosed  worldwide and in every country (and their outcome) on this website.  https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

This novel coronavirus was unknown only a few weeks ago and currently there are over 100,000 cases and there have been 3600 deaths. Using these figures, gives a death rate of over 3%. The death rate from influenza which causes thousands of deaths a year is 0.1%.  In other words, according to current worldwide figures, COVID-19 has about 30 times the death rate of influenza. This figure may be a bit high as there are likely undetected cases in the community which would skew the denominator but even conservative estimates indicate that COVID-19 is at least 10 times as deadly as influenza which causes about 3,500 deaths in Canada and over 50,000 deaths in the USA annually.

Of those who contract the virus, 80% will have relatively mild symptoms – cough, fever and shortness of breath – that will resolve in a few days with symptomatic treatment.  Another 10% may develop pneumonia (viral or a superimposed bacterial pneumonia) and require additional support.  Another 10% may require hospitalization and 3% will die of complications of the infection.

Currently the highest death rate occurs in people over the age of 70 and particularly those with other chronic diseases like diabetes, COPD, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.  If you are under 50 and in good health your risk of dying from this virus is minimal but you might have a couple of weeks when you are sick. You will, no doubt, know people who become seriously ill and who die from this virus.

As for your kids and grandkids, for some reason, not yet understood, children either tend not to get this virus or are not significantly affected by it.  It may be, however, that children can present a minimally ill or asymptomatic reservoir that can spread the virus to others who are more vulnerable.

The virus attacks and replicates in the lungs primarily and as lung cells are compromised, breathing becomes more difficult.  Any illness associated with significant fever also causes malaise, muscle aches, headaches and fatigue. 

The virus spreads by droplets from sneeze or cough. Droplets containing virus can also be on hands, phones, desks, coins or any other surface. If you are within a metre or so of people who sneeze or cough without covering their face, or if you handle some object that has been contaminated by infected hands or droplets from sneezes and then touch your face, you may become infected,

The incubation period from exposure until when symptoms appear is about 5-7 days.  Most people who have been exposed and will get ill, should show signs of the illness by 14 days.

The test for the virus is a Nasopharyngeal swab.  This is done by advancing a swab through your nostril to the back of your throat for a sample. It is uncomfortable but not painful. Currently there there are an adequate number of swabs to test and identify patients who are most likely to be infected and the turnaround time for a test, done in Kingston, is 24 hours. If you require a test, you will be asked to self-isolate until the results are back.

The 95% of people who acquire this virus and recover from it will likely develop immunity, at least for a few years. Only time will determine with certainty how we respond with acquired immunity to this virus but one hopes that it will be like how we react to similar viruses.

There is no immunization yet for this virus and it will take at least a year to get one. longer to have it widely distributed.  Having an influenza shot is a good idea if you have not yet done it BUT the FLU shot does not protect from COVID-19 (just as it is not effective for the common cold).

There is no current treatment, other than symptomatic management for the disease in the 80% who are mildly affected.  These folks should NOT go to the Emergency Department or even to their doctor’s office.  They should self-isolate at home for 14 days, use fluids, and acetaminophen or ibuprofen.  Cover their mouth when sneezing or coughing.  Avoid  close contact with others in the household.  Do not go to the store or out to places where you are in contact with others.  You might wear a mask to avoid droplet spread to others but masks are now in short supply so you may not be able to get them.  Masks in public to prevent getting the disease are not effective and not necessary.

People who are more significantly ill with an Acute Respiratory Illness (ARI) of cough, fever and shortness of breath should call their doctor’s office for information as to where to be evaluated.  In all likelihood, there will be Regional Assessment Centres set up in our community where all people with ARI will be evaluated and tested if deemed necessary.  This will avoid anyone with COVID-19 passing the virus on to other people who are seeing their doctor for other reasons and may be more at risk for serious complications.   Currently the testing in Kingston will likely be for anyone presenting with an ARI and who have been outside Canada in the previous 14 days since person to person spread in our community has not been happening – yet. Yes, this means if you were in Florida for Spring Break and within 14 days develop a cough or fever, you will be sent to the Regional Assessment Centre and be tested.  Drive-through testing might also occur. You wind down the window of your car and are swabbed through the open window, thus avoiding contamination of others in an office or waiting room.

Even those who are not ill or are minimally affected should be prepared to be significantly inconvenienced by an outbreak which will inevitably arrive in our community.  There may be school closures and cancellations of sporting events or conferences or meetings.  Certain travel might be curtailed.  Theatres or any place where people may be congregating within a metre of each other may be closed.  You may be required to self isolate (stay home) if you have been in close contact with a known COVID-19 case or if you have returned from traveling to a high risk area – and these are increasing all the time. 

So, if most people have mild illness, what’s the big deal?

This is a totally new virus and none of the 7.7 billion people in the world will have acquired immunity to it. (Except the 60,000 who have had it in the past month and have recovered.) We are all susceptible.

This virus is readily transmitted by droplet spread. 

We have no treatment to cure it.

It will be at least a year before immunization is available. 

It has a high death rate for vulnerable people. 

It will put a huge strain our health care resources if it comes in a big wave.

We can not prevent this virus from hitting our community but we can dampen the spread by diagnosing and isolating positive cases, avoiding close contact with others in group events, avoiding shaking hands or hugging friends or co-workers, washing hands regularly with soap and water or using a 60% alcohol hand sanitizer (currently not available as it has been sold out), and avoiding touching your face. 

If you have symptoms or if you have been diagnosed by swab, you MUST self isolate.  This may seem like a bother if you are only mildly ill but you need to avoid spreading this into the community and to others who may be at much higher risk.

If we can flatten the curve of infection in the community using the above measures, we will be able to deal with those who are more seriously ill with the virus.  If there is a huge spike in cases all at once, the health care system will be overwhelmed, there will not be enough beds to support those who are seriously ill and health care workers will also be affected and need to self isolate which will cut the number of health care providers who can look after the acutely ill. 

If you want to see the restrictions ITALY has put in place today, March 8, 2020, to try to curb spread of this virus for the above reasons, check here : https://johnageddes.com/2020/03/08/restrictions-applied-in-italy-on-march-8-to-curb-spread-of-covid-19/

All this is changing day to day. I have tried to give a current status of how we are or might be affected in Kingston.   We have to hope that there will be  a slow infection rate so our system is not overwhelmed.  If we are lucky, there may be some abatement over the summer (we don’t know if that will happen yet but it does with influenza) but, even if that happens, it will definitely be back with a vengeance next fall as immunization will still not be available at that time and there may be more asymptomatic or mild cases throughout the community.

I hope this information is helpful to you. We will be OK in the long run but there may be some bumps along the way. Be glad that you live in Canada where we have a capable, publicly-funded health care system.

John A Geddes MSc MD CCFP

March 8, 2020

I have published and updated to this information HERE on March 12, 2020.

Stepping out – October in Kingston

I have continued my walks around Kingston this month and have enjoyed the fresh air and great autumn colours. Here are three composite videos that I have made of photos I have taken on my walks around Kingston this month. Enjoy.

The photos were all taken with my iPhone 11 Pro and edited and compiled on the iPhone and iPad using QuikStories and Kinemaster.

Long time running…

I was never really a huge fan of The Tragically Hip.  I didn’t not like them but I never caught on to their genre and lyrics like so many others did.   I think I was at the edge of a previous generation, more Beach Boys and Beatles. (I was reassured to learn that Gord Downie was a closet fan of the Bee Gees.)

But I did recognize their talents and knew there must be something to their music that appealed so broadly to the generation that followed me.  I did, however, join the rest of Canada Day on August 20, 2017 to celebrate this phenomenonal and truly Canadian  band.

Last weekend I was eager to see the documentary about their 2016 tour – Long Time Running.   It has been shown at TIFF and other film festivals with good reviews and had a few showings at Kingston’s Screening Room this week.

I was surprised what I got from this film.   Someone asked me if it was kind of sad.   Absolutely, it was not.  It was actually a very inspiring and positive.  It goes through the diagnosis of “terminal” brain cancer for the lead member,  Gord Downie,  his initial treatments and struggles to remember things and put sentences together after having his temporal lobe and hippocampus removed surgically and 30 radiation treatments.  (The surgeon, by the way, a Kingston neurosurgeon).

Despite this, Gord was keen to go on tour with the band once more.  Obviously the others were a bit skeptical if this would work but, no spoiler here, they finished the tour across Canada, culminating in the August 20 concert in Kingston, broadcast all across Canada and drawing thousands to Kingston, including our Prime Minister.

It was interesting to see the backstage preparations and angst about this tour but I got a lot of messages from this film that surprised me.

Several themes developed for me.

1.  Never give up.   This guy was sort of written off by a lot of people and was initially in no shape to perform, let along tackle a cross country tour.   But he did.  In doing so, he earned a lot of respect from the public, drew attention to cancer treatment and research, highlighted the plight of Canadian First Nations people and entertained thousands.  Make that hundreds of thousands.  Incredible really.   Maybe his cognitive deficits from his surgery and treatment made him naively bold or brave or fixated.  But what an example to set.   I am sure that his fortitude and positivity has helped many people who have been struck by cancer. And it was a gift to Hip fans to be able to celebrate their 30 year run before it came to a crashing close.

2.  The expression of true friendship.   These guys had worked together for 30 years and were a real team.  I am sure that there were bumps along the way, but it was incredible that Downie’s band-mates dug in and just supported his dream.  It was a huge risk.  Anything could happen.  It could have turned out to be a disaster.   It was incredibly touching to see them kiss each other – on the lips – and hug each other and genuinely show real love to each other prior to each performance. This is the kind of love that is meant by the Greek word, Agape.*  They were all vulnerable and all a team with a mission.  It seemed that egos were set aside.  You hear about this kind of teamwork and friendship but rarely see it so obviously.  It was very intimate material to be shared publicly.   But this support was also quite evident in their performances.   Another lesson for us all.  Downie’s diagnosis and fate overshadowed the rest of the band but they deserve great respect and accolades for helping their friend live out his dream.

3.  This was just so…Canadian.  The whole country was moved by this story.  We all wanted to be part of it.   And thousands were.   Fans bought tickets both to be entertained but also to support this band that was so loved.   And they were also ready for anything.   It could all be cancelled in a moment.  Or fall apart in the middle of a performance.   But no one cared about that.  This was about being part of this team and joining in to keep it going.

4.  It was a lesson in closure.  All good things come to an end.   Concerts, vacations, childhood, holidays, friendships , life.  Things come to an end.  It’s natural. It helps to deal with that fact if we learn to accept it with some stoicism and dignity.   It is helpful to fondly remember good times past and friends and family who have departed.  And maybe it is helpful to others if we acknowledge the end of something, celebrate and share our acceptance.   I think this is what Gord Downie and the Hip did, most graciously and unselfishly.

Little did I know when I wrote this earlier in the week that Gord Downie would die last night, October 17, 2017.  It makes all of the above lessons more poignant and pertinent today.

I took my 15 year old granddaughter to the show on Saturday and we went early because I thought it would be packed.  There were only about 10 people in the audience!  I do hope that more people see this show as it not only provides some concert-like Hip music but it caused me to reflect on many other things – life in general.   I think that is what Gord Downie (and his band-mates) would have liked.

The Hip concert on August 20, 2016 in Kingston was a celebration of the past and acknowledgement of an ending.

Hip Concert pano

* Agape – Agape love involves faithfulness, commitment, and an act of the will. It is distinguished from the other types of love by its lofty moral nature and strong character. Agape love is beautifully described in the Bible.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  1 Corinthians 13 4-7.

 

I have always enjoyed a good party.

Last fall, my friend Margi McKay interviewed me as part of a Kingston Public Library project to have people select an old photo from their past and talk about it.  You might enjoy listening to the 22 minute interview.  I am happy to have it preserved.  Some day my grandchildren or great grandchildren will be able to hear me talk about my childhood.

And how things have changed in my lifetime.  I feel like a bit of a pioneer.  The TV set in the photo was the latest technology.  Now everyone has this in their pocket.

There is a link below to an edited version of the interview but if you have the 20 minutes, the longer interview is better as it is more thoughtful and complete.  You can access it by clicking on the photo below or here.

2016-09-14-1315_GEDDES-Halloween-party-recto

For the shorter edited version you can click here.  It is a bit more rushed and the editing sounds like I have had about 4 cups of coffee prior to the interview.  But in these days of shorter attention span, this works well.  Click here for the abbreviated version.

I talk about 448 Mornington Ave, London in the interview.  It is where the party took place. Here is my brother Bob and I on the front porch of that house about the same time.

2016-09-14-1315_John-and-Bob-Geddes-circa-1953

Crossing the Atlantic in 1855 – 7 – Montreal!

May 20 Sunday

Sails up today.  Some very pretty places on the riverside.  We passed close by a town called Three Rivers, its name drawn from the three rivers that join into one and empty into the St Lawrence close to it.  

We have been sailing through St Peters Lake this forenoon.  At the head of this lake we came to a curious place, actually sailing among plantations…thickets of weed, the water running through the thickets which gave it a wild looking appearance.  About 9 o’clock we came in sight of our destination haven, Montreal.*  The lights of the town were to be seen. It was too late to anchor in the harbour.   This is my fifth Sabbath now on the “Home”.  I have been indeed highly favoured as I can say I have been amongst the healthiest and the ship all our voyage. And now that we are near prospect of being landed in a strange country, may our ever Kind Father in Heaven be with and guide us all times by his Counsel and afterwards receive us into glory there to meet to part no more forever.

May 21

We took up anchor between 6 and 7  and were immediately towed into the harbour.  It was this morning five weeks ago that I left Marnoch for America.  This morning at 10 I went ashore act montreal and set my feet for the first time on the often heard of and famed land of America.  I went through the town with a letter I had to a Mr Kingston, St Paul’s Street. , the gentleman who had charge of me.  I was 34441_std.jpgnearly struck with the horses running about, they were so nimble , little creatures, their cards or what they have for them consist of 2 wheels and an axle with two long sticks, something like a ladder laid on the centre of the axle with stuck out behind for a piece and 2 spring shafts.  They appear always to be running at a trot, sometimes at a gallop.


This afternoon mot of the passengers got their luggage off the ship to go on board a steamer to sail early in the morning.  We were all sorry to part with each other as we have been very agreeable and neighbourly all along the voyage. It is not likely we will all meet again in this world. Oh, t
hat we may all be fitted for spending never ending eternity with each other there to part no more forever.

May 22

Went aboard the steamer “Fashion” ** which sailed at 1 o’clock for Port St Lewis.  We met a good number of rafts in the canals and stopped at a number of ports to stop at and get off and take on luggage etc.  I got a fine view of Montreal.  I saw two parks thickly set with apple trees all in rows, near the town. 

May 23

Arrived at Port Lewis 5 am, this morning, got my trunk o the wagon which runs daily to Huntingdon.  Our road was none of the finest, a great part of it being laid with planks of wood as the ground appeared vert be very soft in some places.  The wagon went past Mr Reid’s and I was, owing to this lucky chance, landed at the very house about 10 o’clock in the forenoon, tired enough of the first drive I got in an American stage wagon.

Thus I am landed safely here, 5 weeks and 2 days from the time I left my own dear home.  There is a great cause for thankfulness on my part for the great blessing of good health all along this voyage.  I can likewise commend Captain Poole being very careful of us all along, and of missing no opportunity of forcing on the way as fast as he could.  The men were kind to us in their own way but mind at times with oaths and bad language, a habit to be regretted and so prevalent especially among these sailers who are exposed to dangers night and day and not knowing how soon they may be ushered into an eternal world where “he that is filthy, let him be filthy still.”

And now, may that god who is the same yesterday, today and forever be with me at all times and guide me with his counsel in a foreign land. May he enable me to discharge the duties now before me with all faithfulness, keep me from every evil, may and at last to bring me into His Own Kingdom in glory, there so spend with him a never ending Eternity.

*Montreal had a population of about 60,000 in the early 1850’s and was a busy port, receiving many immigrants to Canada from Ireland and Scotland.

C-080319.jpg

**The Fashion, was a sidewheel steamer like the one below,  built in 1847 in Michigan – 160 ft long and 25 ft wide. It suffered a number of accidents and repairs and in November 1856 was drawn ashore and abandoned in Bayfield, Ontario.

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A letter to Peter Porterfield from Huntley, Scotland – sent in 1862.  You may remember that Peter set out from Marnoch, Scotland and when he arrived in Huron County, Ontario he named the hamlet where he lived Marnoch.  

Peter and Mary (Stevenson) Porterfield 2a.jpgThis is a portrait of an older Peter Portefield and his wife Mary Stevenson, my great grandparents.  They were married on January 25, 1863 in Belgrave, Ontario and Peter died on December 5, 1907 at the age of 73. He is buried in Brandon Cemetery, Belgrave, Ontario. 

And finally, this old clock sits in my living room still keeping good time. It was purchased in 1880 by Peter Porterfield and had a 2 year warranty. 

Clock

Crossing the Atlantic in 1855 – 5 – Land!

May 10

I was awakened by 4 in the morning by the Captain calling to us to rise and see “land, land!”  The land to the North West of us was covered with snow and extending along the sea for considerable distance – high, rugged cliffs that put in mind the Crags of Gaurie in appearance. We have been only about 18 days without seeing land.  I am told where we are sailing today this same vessel, the “Home” was ice bound for a month last year.  There were eight Glasgow ships tied up with the ice for nearly two months last year not very far from the place we are sailing today.  

Voyage

There was more land made its appearance to the south of us called St Paul’s Island*.  We are out of the Atlantic today and in the Gulph of St Lawrence.   It is three weeks since we left Glasgow.  How short to look back to it, time files on, how needful to improve it to advantage so that we may not have to look back upon it when we come to leave this “passing show” with sorrow and anguish of heart.

*St Paul Island is off the northern tip of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in the Cabot Strait between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.  Foggy conditions and rocky cliffs have, over the years, claimed about 350 ships, earning the island the nickname “Graveyard of the Gulf”.  One year after Peter Porterfield passed this spot, 82 people lost their lives in a shipwreck on the rocks of St Paul Island as described in this NY Times article published in June 1856.wreckonrocks.jpg

May 11

Toward afternoon a ship came down to us before we were aware as we could not see very far because of mist.  She was a passenger ship named the ‘Rose of Plymouth” bound for Quebec. Her Captain and our one spoke to each other from a distance of 20-30 yards.  He told us he saw land this morning but had turned back as he thought he was taking the wrong woad.  Our captain though we were right, on the other hand.  About 4 o’clock the mist cleared off and we saw, not at a great distance, a long range of rocky cliffs extending along the sea coast and a great deal of woods back from that all covered with snow. I can now say that I have seen part of North America but, dear me, what I have seen appears to be very cold!

About 7 in the evening a Wherry boat with a number of pilots on her came along side of us and one of them came on board our ship and will, in the course of a day or two, take command of our vessel until we get to Quebec.  He is a French Canadian and has wintered at a place called Green Island.  He told us that he had spoken to a vessel which sailed 15 days before us from Glasgow and she was not 3 hours ahead of us hwhich shows we have been favoured with a good passage as yet.

May 12

“Tacking” today – that is going awhile as far as we can safely and then turning the ship about and got for a while in the other direction but al the while e making for our desired haven as fast as we can.   The Captain again spoke to “The Rose” from Plymouth. The had been 5 weeks at sea already and is just lacking bout like ourselves.  This afternoon is very calm, hardly a breath of wind, the water like a sheet of glass with the sun shining brightly.  I don’t think I ever saw anything more beautiful than the scene around us tonight. Everything is so quiet and the water so smooth.  About 4 o’clock two large whales were seen near the ship.

Two whales.jpg

May 13  Sunday

A most beautiful morning, not a cloud in the firmament to be seen. We are now in the St Lawrence and expect to make the harbour of Quebec in the course of 2 or 3 days.  About 9 o’clock we came in sight of a lighthouse to the northeast of us.  It was quite dark and the light had a good appearance. Shortly after that a vessel, a brig, was observed bearing down on us to the windward. In a short time she was almost along side of us and as the wind was still very high, our captain was afraid that she would come in contact with our vessel.  After sailing along side of us for awhile she got clear of us, being a lighter vessel.

This is my fourth, and to all appearances, my last Sabbath for sometime at see if we get on as we expect to do. We can not be too thankful for being so highly favoured with a quiet passage.  Last spring, I believe the average number of days for each emigrant ship that sailed for Quebec was 49 days.  I have seen a great deal of strange sights since I left Marnoch and well may I say with the Psalmist, David  “O, Lord, how manifold are thy  works, in wisdom has thou made them all, the earth is full of thy riches so is this great and wide sea, etc. Psalm 104, verses 24 etc.*

Psalm 104

*The bible in these photographs belonged to Maud Code Porterfield (1879-1976) –  Peter’s daughter-in-law.   My brother and I knew her as a dear little old lady with a shaky voice who lived with her sister in Wingham, Ontario.  Her sister, Sadie, was Alice Munro’s grandmother.  I have a clock belonging to Aunt Maud and my middle name, Alex, is after her husband, Alex Porterfield, a favourite uncle of my Dad’s.

Alice Munro, who won a Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013, describes Aunt Maud and Uncle Alex to a tee in her somewhat autobiographical book, The View from Castle Rock, calling them Aunt Charlie and Uncle Cyril.  Aunt Maud and Aunt Sadie appear in many other Alice Munro short stories as well.  

In the 1920 photo below, Alex is on the left, Aunt Maud on the step looking sideways,  my grandparents, Ernest and Mary,  are the thin man next to Alex and the woman standing by the older woman and the old lady in the rocking chair is Mary Stevenson Porterfield,  Peter’s wife.   I think the man in the middle is William Porterfield,  a brother visiting from Calgary. And in a Where’s Waldo moment, my Dad, Stewart Porterfield Geddes is in a pram on the porch to the left of Aunt Maud!marnoch1

Crossing the Atlantic in 1855 – 2 – Out to sea.

Excerpts from my great grandfather’s diary as he immigrated to Canada on a sailing ship in the spring of 1855 – continued.  If you missed the start of this voyage it commences here.

April 23

We are going at the rate of seven miles an hour.  The Captain says we are not about 500 miles from Glasgow.  I am about 700 miles from Ardmeallie.  Our “Home” is dancing beautifully across the waters sometimes mounting on a high wave and then down again till i sometimes think she will be engulfed in the might deep. It is now about 7 o’clock , the rest all bedded a while ago and I am the only sound one amongst the steerage passengers.  The only company we have now is a few seagulls.

April 24

Wind still very high…sea was very rough betimes throughout the night, a terrible swing on the ship which makes some of our gear tumble about. We have great difficulty in keeping on our feet above or below. Toward sunset the wind still increased and the spray was splashing in over upon the deck terrible betimes.

April 25

Wind very high throughout the night, it has shifted a point farther west, now right ahead of us. We are coming very little speed today, about 4 miles an hour.  The sailors tell me that it matters little whether we go or stand today as the wind is driving us too far North we are going the wrong way.

Wrong way.jpg

Going the wrong way!

So there they are, a week at sea, God knows where in the North Atlantic,  the wind blowing against them and driving them north  off their course. Nothing but sea around them.  How did they navigate?  Nothing but the stars to guide them on the open ocean.

Water sloshing over the deck and “the ship rocking fearfully betimes.” Trouble staying on their feet.  Gear being bounced around in the hold. No other ships in sight.  “We are very lonely.”  I wonder what the passengers were thinking. 

Lonely.jpgApril 28

It blew a complete hurricane throughout the night, making our water cans tumble about and making a terrible noise, the water dashing in over the deck sometimes with a fearful noise in the silence of the night, driving sleep away from the most of us…This morning I got an awful tumble, the deck being wet and slippery,  but did not hurt myself…much. 

April 29

I was told by one of the sailors that if I had been up half an hour earlier I would have seen a whale.  I have spent this day in reading my Bible and other religious books when not engaged in works of necessity. We are now nearly half way across the Atlantic and have been blessed with a beautiful Sabbath, a foretaste, I hope of that eternal rest which remaineth for those who love and serve God in this world below.  Truly God has been mindful of us all aboard this ship, we are blessed with good health, all of us.”Oh that men would praise the lord for his goodness and for his wonderful words to the Children of Men”  Psalm 107.

Peter does seem to like Psalm 107!

May 1

The captain says if we continue all day (24 hours) we will make 160 miles or thereby. We are going at the rate of 6 1/2 miles per hour.  I heard the first mate say today that we have had a very quick passage so far, but the most difficult part of our passage is yet before us especially when we come to the River of St Lawrence.

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Although Peter does mention water in barrels rolling around in the hold, there is no mention of food at any point in this diary.  He does say that most of the people were ill during the first part of the journey.  What did it smell like below deck?  Don’t dwell too long on that thought.

They would have to bring along enough food and fresh water for 150 people for 6 weeks with no place to replenish supplies.  Can you imaging making those plans, in a time without refrigeration or power?    

I have read that most of the time the passengers had to bring along their own food.  Here is a list I found of what might be necessary to bring for one adult on a ten week sailing trip in 1870.  The meat would have to be salted or dried or pickled somehow.   And what about fresh water?  It was likely rationed.  They had to presume that they would be at least six weeks crossing the Atlantic and Peter has mentioned that there were 96 passengers on board.  I am not sure if this included the crew.

The following is a list of provisions printed by Det Norske Udvandringsselskap in Christiania (later Oslo) in the 1870s. These provisions were intended to be adequate for an adult for up to ten weeks:

– 70 pounds hard bread (or the equivalent in soft bread or flatbread)
– 8 pounds butter
– 24 pounds meat
– 10 pounds sidepork
– 1 small keg of herring
– 8/3 Td. potatoes
– 20 pounds rye and barley flour
– ½ bushel dried peas
– ½ bushel pearl barley
– 3 pounds coffee
– 3 pounds sugar
– 2½ pounds syrup
– Quantities of salt, pepper, vinegar and onions
Of course, each passenger may take along the type of provisions desired as long as they are adequate for 10 weeks. [Pound = 454 grams, Td. = tønne = keg]

 

Here is a notation made by Ole Ellingsen Strand,  a Norwegian lad of 11 when he crossed the Atlantic from Drammen, Norway to New York in 1851 on a ship similar to the “Home” 

“The first week out their appetites did not require much of any cooking, and the lunch baskets that people brought with them from home lasted several days. But they finally had to get on with it. Then every morning at a certain hour one from each family had to go down into the bottom room or hold of the vessel where the food and water was dealt out to each family for the day. The wood had to be split very fine before they could use it to any advantage, and the water had to be put into jugs or something similar to prevent it from spilling.

And now for the kitchen. Early in the morning you could see the women coming up from below with a little bundle of fine split wood in one hand and a little kettle of some kind or a coffee pot in the other, heading for the kitchen, eager to find a vacant place somewhere on this bed of sand large enough to set their kettle on and build a fire under it. But it would not be very late in the day, if the weather was favorable, till every place in the kitchen was occupied, and there would be a large crowd outside waiting for vacant places, which were generally engaged already. And if you sat outside watching the kitchen door you could in 18 minutes time see perhaps half dozen women come out with their aprons over their faces, wiping tears, coughing and almost strangled with smoke. They would stay outside long enough to get their lungs filled with fresh air and the tears wiped out of their eyes, then they would crowd themselves back in again. Perhaps to find the fire and wood removed from their kettle under somebody else’s. Then, of course, broad hints and sharp words would be exchanged, and the loser would have to watch the opportunity when her next neighbor would have to go outside for fresh air to get her wood and fire back again. And these were not the only adversities and troubles in the kitchen because it was hardly ever so stormy but that somebody tried to cook something, and if it was too stormy for the women to be on deck the men would generally volunteer to steep tea, cook coffee, or even make a kettle of soup. They would start their fire, put their kettles on, and in a little while the cook shanty would be chock full of men. Some would be on their knees, some sitting flat on the floor while others would be standing outside peering in. Then imagine an oncoming big wave striking the vessel and almost setting it on end, and in a wink of an eye every kettle, coffee pot, and teapot is upset and spilled in the fire and hot ashes. This of course made them scramble for the door and you could see that coming out like swirling bees from a beehive. Some would swear, some could laugh, while others would say they might have known better than to try to cook anything this stormy day, but in less than an hour the shanty would be full again and perhaps going through the whole performance. This was how we came to America in an early day. And thus we worried and suffered for nearly 8 weeks until we finally arrived in the City of New York about the 11th of July and everybody soon forgot the troubles and trials they had on the voyage by seeing the beautiful green fields being thawed out by the warm rays of the sun after they had been a constant target for the cold and raw winds of the Atlantic.”

Crossing the Atlantic in 1855 – 1 – leaving home.

*** This is the first in a series of seven blog articles I have posted that follows Peter Porterfield across the Atlantic in 1855.  Check them all out by reading the next article in the blog if you are interested.***

One hundred and sixty two years ago today,  my great grandfather, Peter Porterfield set out from Scotland to come to Canada.   I am trying to imagine this trip, made across the North Atlantic in a clipper ship.  The voyage took five weeks.  Today we do it in a plane in 6 hours.

Fortunately,  20 year-old Peter wrote a diary along the way and it is still in the family.  I plan to follow him along over the next five weeks to reflect on this ancestral voyage and hope you will join me.  I will copy some of Peter’s notes (italics)  as these weeks unfolded for him. I will mainly let him speak for himself.  I will post a few daily journal entries every few days until Peter arrives back on dry land in May 21. Come along on this journey with us.

April 16, 1855

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I bade farewell to Ardmellie*, Parish of Marnoch, this day about 11 o’clock.  Was in Huntley about two o’clock and took the 3 o’clock train and was in Aberdeen about half past 5.

April 17

Left Aberdeen this morning on the 6 o’clock train for Glasgow.  Arrived there about 20 minutes past 3 in the afternoon, got my trunk on board the “Home”** which was to sail next day if things could get ready.

April 18

Went on board the “Home” about 2 in the afternoon.   Slept on her that night for the first time.

April 19

Gloomy…we set sail about 2 o’clock in the afternoon, being pulled down the Clyde by two steam tugs….There are about 96 passengers on board, likewise 3 dogs and more poultry.  Mr Jas. Poole, commander.

April 20

Fine morning…we were lying before Greenock this morning. Must wait until the wind goes around… A chaplain came from Greenock in the forenoon in a boat and distributed books among us, wishing us good passage. The wind still continuing contrary we were again obliged to get a steam tug with came to our assistance about have past 3, led us down the channel a good distance and left us about half past 5.   Between 7 and 8 o’clock the first mate found a bottle of whiskey about some of the sailor’s hammocks.  He gave the owner a good scolding and then threw it overboard into the sea and bade him to get it now if he could.

April 21

Fine morning…now paling between Scotland and Ireland and the land fast disappearing from our view.  Good-Bye Bonnie Scotland –It may never to be seen any more by some of us. In the morning, some of us began to get sick for the fist time and by 9 o’clock we were, with the exception of a few, al on the sick list…There was a strong wind and the ship was heaving a good deal…The sea was very rough throughout the night making the ship tumble about like a cradle, the water betimes coming across the deck. The only land in sight before going to bed was the north west coast of Ireland.

Now, imagine being on this sailing ship with about 100 other people, most of them sick and watching the land disappear into the distance,  heading out to sea for the next few weeks.  What kind of navigation would they use? They had no power but sail.   It was spring in the North Atlantic.

April 22

Sunday.  Slept sound last night.  No land in sight.  Sea very rough.  Our only element now is water, water in whatever direction we turned our eyes.  I have this day seen something of the Mighty Deep like what is described in the 107th Psalm, verses 23-28.

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Most of the passengers are very sick today. I have as yet not been very sick myself.  i have been able to step about today and read a little betimes, though debarred from attending the House of Prayer.  I have been won’t to do in times bast from my infancy till now. Yet I hop my Meditation this day on the Mighty ocean will be blest to me for good.

*Ardmeallie is in Northern Scotland near the Marnoch Bridge over the Deveron River.  The only reference I can find to it now is Ardmeallie House, a privately-owned estate with a lovely walled garden.  The house was built around 1750.  I found a Google maps image of the house (below) and its location relative to the river.  Peter must have lived very near there but his father farmed 42 acres, not the lord of the manor.Ardmellie House, Marnoch.png

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It intrigued me, as well, that train trains were so efficient in 1855.  Peter was able to travel from Aberdeen to Glasgow by train in a few hours.  The railways in this district were relatively new, most being completed in the 1840’s.  It must have been remarkable to get from one city to another so conveniently and quickly.

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**The “Home” was a bark ship – one with three large masts and under wind/sail power only.  Imagine setting out from Glasgow to Canada across the north Atlantic in April on a boat that had no other power but sail.

 

 

What’s up?   Docks!  – Part 1

A Facebook friend recently posted a visually striking black and white photo of a man on a pier and it reminded me just how drawn I am to photographing docks and piers and breakwaters.   I think it is the idea that the dock leads somewhere and the somewhere is often an expansive body of water.  The boats at the docks are transport for  adventure into the ocean or lake. There is something solitary about many of these images at the same time. Perhaps we are dwarfed by Nature.

It spurred me to look through my photo library for pictures of docks and piers that I have taken in many parts of the world.  I have so many that I have to divide this into three parts.  I hope you enjoy this maritime travelogue.

 

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Fishing Boat in the harbour at Tofino, British Columbia

 

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The pier near Sandy Cove, Nova Scotia

 

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On a pier in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

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A sort-of pier in Cinque Terra, Italy.   You would not want to get caught up in the waves near the rocks.

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Dhows in Stone Town, Zanzibar

 

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A dock I have visited many times in Mbita, Kenya – Lake Victoria

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Dubrovnik, Croatia

SF dock

San Francisco Bay, California.  Golden Gate Bridge way in the background

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On the pier/breakwater in the photo above – Lima, Peru.  It was amazing how this very natural Pacific Ocean site was in a city of 8.5 million people.

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A memorable fish dinner on a dock on the island of Lopud, Croatia                                           with friends Sue and Jim.