Sunday, February 25, 2018
I've been reading Jared Diamond's book Collapse for a while now. With kids I don't get to read as much as I used to and thus books take me longer to get through. It is a very interesting read.
I read Diamond's book Guns, Germs, and Steel a number of years ago and really enjoyed it. Instead of dealing with the rise and spread of societies, Collapse concerns itself with the collapse of societies. One of the groups covered in the book are the Viking societies of the Northern Atlantic.
It is fascinating to read how the Viking societies from Scandinavia adapted to the different islands they voyaged to and settled, including the Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands, Faeroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, and Vineland. As I was reading I came across a mention of a unique product called skyr.
Wikipedia to discover exactly what skyr was. Apparently it died out in Scandanavia, but has been made in Iceland for hundreds of years and may have been made in Greenland as well during the 450 years the Vikings colonized the island.
I've always enjoyed yogurt and a number of other dairy products so I figured it was worth checking out. Once there I discovered that skyr was still being made today and was available commercially. Apparently the American brand siggi's, made by Icelander Siggi Hilmarsson who immigrated to the United States. According to siggi's website:
Skyr is the traditional yogurt of Iceland that has been made for over 1,000 years. It is a strained non-fat yogurt. It is made by incubating skim milk with live active cultures. Then the whey, the water naturally found in milk, is strained away to make for a much thicker, creamier and concentrated yogurt. It takes four times the milk to make one cup of siggi’s compared to regular yogurt.
The next time I went to our local Kroger store I decided to see if I could find any siggi's skyr.
The labeling was also quite interesting. In order to make it more easily recyclable each cup has a removable paper liner--but this also provides more space for text, so you can see a short history of the company on the inside of each liner.
As I said above I didn't get paid anything for this post, I just happened to really enjoy this product and wanted to write about it.
As I was researching this post I also happened to find a TED talk by Jared Diamond that covers the topic of his book Collapse, so if you're interested but don't want to read the book you can check out this video.
PS And if you want to try your own siggi's I found a coupon on their website.
Saturday, February 24, 2018
However, during our visit in 2014 a storm was rolling in and so the ferry from the visitor center to the fort wasn't running.
In 2018 it was a more serious and long-term issue that kept the ferry from running. When Hurricane Irma swept through the area in the fall of 2017 it caused quite a bit of damage. The website explains that "Hurricane Irma caused significant damage to the visitor center ferry dock making it unsafe for visitors. Repairs to the dock will take some time. Both ferry boats are still afloat, but also received some damage. Park staff are patiently working with contractors to arrange a time to finish repairs and resume tours to Fort Matanzas."
Fort Caroline were massacred around this spot, leading to its naming of Matanzas, which is Spanish for massacre or slaughter.
All of the rest of the pictures from our brief stop can be found in this album.
Friday, February 23, 2018
Historic demonstrations are always interesting, and especially when gunpowder is involved. The events happen quite regularly at the Castillo and both times I've seen it quite a crowd is present--apparently I'm not the only one that enjoys it.
We first thought that the demonstration would be after the time we planned to be gone, but then I discovered that this was in error and we would have time to watch. Therefore while Amy stayed on ground level with the baby I took the girls up the stairs to find a good place to watch, though in the meantime we explored the ramparts.
exhibit signage in 1740 a sentry rang the bell "whenever he saw a puff of smoke from enemy cannon across the bay. It was the signal for prayer. Only two men in the fort were killed during the 27-day bombardment."
The sign explains that this bastion was found to be three feet too low by a new engineer inspecting the construction in 1682, but thankfully the error was corrected over the next few years. The entire construction period lasted from 1672 through 1696.
During Queen Anne's War (1702) English siege trenches came 'within a pistol shot' of this point. English ships blockaded the harbor and 500 soldiers and Indians took the town. The Castillo offered the only safety, so 200 Spanish soldiers and 1300 civilians crowded into its protective walls. On Christmas the English were reinforced, but when Spanish ships from [Havana] arrived the next day, the English burned the town and marched back to Charleston."
~from exhibit signage
a document listing all of the guns and their provenance.
After the instructions the actual demonstration began--all conducted in old Spanish of course.
the sign these date from when the Americans took control of the Castillo and renamed it Fort Marion (after the Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox" from the Revolution). They filled in a portion of the moat and installed "modern" artillery.
All of the pictures in these two blog posts (and many more) can be found in this album.
Thursday, February 22, 2018
"The Castillo de San Marcos is unique in North American architecture. As the only extant 17th century military construction in the country and the oldest masonry fortress in the United States it is a prime example of the "bastion system" of fortification, the culmination of hundreds of years of military defense engineering.
It is also unique for the material used in its construction. The Castillo is one of only two fortifications in the world built out of a semi-rare form of limestone called coquina (The other is Fort Matanzas National Monument 14 miles south)
The fortress itself is both a product of and evidence to the multitude of forces both political and technological that created the competition for empire during the colonial era. But above all the Castillo is an enduring legacy of the craftsmanship and skill of the engineers, artisans and labourers who built it."
~from Castillo de San Marcos website, Architecture & Construction
This is an overhead view of the ravelin.
Here is a better view of the temporary walkway from atop the walls.
coat of arms of Castille-León, a country subsumed into a unified Spain under Isabella and Ferdinand, who completed the Reconquista in 1492.
The walls of the fort are made out of coquina, a rare limestone found on nearby islands. The word is Spanish and means "tiny shell" and is a quite apt description of the stone's composition. Over 150 million pounds were quarried for the fortifications. Interestingly enough while the porous stone appears to be weak it is actually stronger versus canon fire as it absorbs cannon balls instead of splintering. This block was available for people to touch.
Large amounts of food were a vital necessity to the Castillo. Enough had to be kept on hand to survive a siege, which could last up to three months. Dried supplies stored here, such as rice, cassava, beans, flour, oil, and salted beef were added to fresh local foods such as fish, game, vegetables, and fruit to feed the soldiers and townspeople."
~from exhibit signage
After I heard that the cannon firing would start before too long I headed up the stairs with the girls to explore the upper level of the fortification--but more about that in the next post.