Saving the Past -- Canada's Greatest Summer Job

Uploaded by ParksCanadaAgency on 19.04.2011

The Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada sits on the coast of
Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia and holds a unique record.
It is the largest reconstruction of an 18th century fortified
French town in North America.
Yet, only one-fifth of it stands uncovered,
leaving significant historical information and an
abundance of artifacts buried beneath its soil.
So now archaeologists are working to uncover three sites,
two of which will provide insight into the presence of both French and English colonies
at the Fortress of Louisbourg nearly 300 years ago.
We are excavating two powder magazines,
one a New Englander and one a French powder magazine.
And we're trying to figure out the construction techniques
and how they're different and if the New Englander one was
used as a church at some point in time after the second seige.
Now, originally it would also have been surrounded, it was like a big, masonry structure;
the walls were about three metres thick.
Big buttresses extending out so should there have been an explosion,
inside, the buttresses would contain the explosion,
and keep it from blowing too far and wide.
So it had five big buttresses on either side of these massive walls,
Inside would've been a brick-arched chamber,
again keeping the implosion controlled.
Outside of that, it should've had a stone wall, maybe about
12 to 15 feet away from the wall itself.
There would've been vents in the structure; the roof would have been wood or slate,
I'm not sure. And powder magazines inside. Probably had a wooden floor,
and racks for storing the barrels, but no metal.
You would'nt have found nails, everything would've been like pegs and other sort of wooden fasteners
You didn't want any metal inside a powder store where you could have
any kind of spark ignition.
But often times, crews will find unexpected and interesting discoveries
which provide answers for the archaeologists.
From a small piece of glass to a rusty nail, artifacts can show up
in places they shouldn't be.
We found a lot of pieces of glass over behind me in the New Englander
powder magazine and that is probably an indication that it was multi-use.
It was used for something else after it was used for a powder magazine
because a powder magazine wouldn't have had any windows in it.
So, the fact that we're finding window glass and a pipe stem fragment
says that it was probably used for something else because no one
would've been smoking around the gun powder.
As well as the nails, they wouldn't have used nails in it's construction either.
So, we have some indication it was multi-use, whether or not as a church,
we don't know yet.
But it's not only shovels that are uncovering these unexpected artifacts.
Environmental changes are threatening the ruins at this site,
and crews have to move quickly.
Yes, especially when you're dealing with coastal erosion
because the coastline recedes erratically.
A storm can do a lot of damage in one area all of a sudden, very quickly
or it could happen very slowly in sort of incremental recession and regression.
Yeah, it's difficult to anticipate sometimes
what you're going to stumble across, and in the past,
I think it was difficult to get an understanding of just how much erosion had happened
since the 18th century but now we have the technology to do these
overlays using GIS and we can get a better picture of what might be coming up.
And by harnessing the power of this technology and even
traditional archaeological research, studies have proven that sea level
has risen at least 85 centimeters since the 18th century,
leading to the loss of 50 to 60 feet of land.
So to prevent the loss of any valuable information, Parks Canada must uncover
the sites they can to gather and preserve the history and artifacts still available
before ocean waves drag them into the sea.
So what we want to do is get an understanding of this structure in its entirety,
before it's overtaken by this cobble beach and by the waves and such.
Once the cobble beach moves in, you're not going to see this feature again.
Erosion will happen, you just won't see it as much because it will be
hidden under all this massive material; it will be lost.
We want to make sure we have it well recorded; it's dimensions,
how it was constructed, how much was left after the seige.
What other functions of the building; whether it was used for anything else -
modified into anything else after it wasn't used as a powder magazine.
So while they can, these crews will work toward uncovering
the wealth of information hidden beneath the sod, carefully recording
and preserving everything that they find.
And while these sites may soon be swallowed by the sea, the archaeologists
can rest easy knowing the information that they find
will be uesd to enlighten and educate people for generations to come
and to add to the every growing history of the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada