Sunday, December 8, 2013

Keeper of the Light by Cynthia Owens - Welcome to Turtle Island

Turtle Island, the setting for Keeper of the Light, is the product of my imagination. It’s always fun to create a community, a town or village, and I had a wonderful time trying to make Turtle Island unique and – I hope – memorable. So grab an armchair and enjoy a little Maritime hospitality with me.
The Island
Turtle Island is an island 10 miles off the coast of New Brunswick, British North America. It measures eight kilometers in length and is 12 kilometers wide. It was named by the Mi’kmaq Indians because its shape resembles a turtle.
The only way to get to the island is by boat. It is completely cut off from the mainland from December till April. 340 people live on Turtle Island.
The island is famous for its dairy products, particularly its cheese. The hard-soft cheese is made from raw milk from the island’s herd of Brown Swiss cows, who feed on the sandbank hay, which gives the cheese a special flavor, and aged in the island’s cave.
There is a mill, a small appe orchard, and each farmer raises chickens, pigs, sheep and cattle. The women of the island make their own clothes from material brought in at the end of the autumn shipping season.
There is a marsh at the eastern end of the island that is home to many species of water birds. In the autumn, thousands of snow geese descend upon the island during their migration south. There is also a forest with magnificent spruce trees, blueberry and cranberry bushes, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries.
Fishing is one of the island’s main industries, as cod and lobster are extremely plentiful in the area.
Spirit Lighthouse
The Turtle Island lighthouse, where Laura Bainbridge lives with her father, is known as Spirit Lighthouse, in honor of Helena Bodewell, whose spirit roams the island on stormy nights, calling for her lost love. Its characteristic is a white light that blinks three times in quick succession, pauses, then blinks twice and repeats the pattern. It is a white stone lighthouse, with red and green stripes. Its fog signal is a heavy bell. The bell tower is a wooden pyramidal building, and its beacon is powered by whale oil.
The light keeper’s house is attached to the tower, which rises from the front of the building. The windows of the house face the tower, so Stephen Bainbridge can easily check that the light is still burning.
Before electricity, navigational beacons were produced by oil or kerosene lamps, most of which had wicks that required constant care and trimming. Keepers referred to themselves as “wickies.” Stephen Bainbridge calls himself “Stephen Wickie.”
A boat is kept for rescue in a simple shed with gabled roof and wooden rails to help pull the boat out of the water and into the shed. Many shipwrecked sailors owe their lives to Stephen and Laura Bainbridge.

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