Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Search Challenge (10/21/15): What are these signs and symbols?

Cape Breton... 

... is a beautiful place on the northeastern end of Nova Scotia.  I was visiting there last week, driving around enjoying the local music and the fall colors.

But as usual, there were things there that puzzled me--can you help me understand what I was seeing and hearing?  

1.  I kept seeing telephone poles that look like this.  Why?  What's up with this design?  What does it signify?  (And... for the curious folks, why does this make me think of Louisiana?)  

2. More than once I heard a local say "..I'm going down to the north..."  This struck me as funny because I thought the convention was that north was up.  What could a Cape Bretoner mean by this phrase, "I'm going down to the north..."? 
3. I visited a few small fishing villages and noticed that they have a particular kind of fishing boat.  I wondered if this was particular to Cape Breton, or if it's more broadly distributed.  So... what's a typical Cape Breton fishing boat design?  

These Challenges can be a little tricky, so I'm really curious about what you do to answer these Challenges.  Be sure to let us know HOW you solved these!  

Search on! 


  1. Good Morning, Dr. Russell and everyone.


    Your photo with ["nova scotia" pole gold star blue red white stripes]

    Flag of Acadia

    Your photo with [nova scotia pole acadia flag ] Acadia flag painted in many sites.

    [acadia flag nova Scotia]

    Acadian Flag meaning

    [Cape Breton fishing boats]

    [Nova Scotia unknown facts intext:"Cape Breton"]

    Answers part of q1. (a)

  2. 1. I searched for "yellow star on blue white red" which brought me to this Wikipedia article which shows the design on the pole to be based on the Acadian flag. Cape Breton Island was part of Acadia, and many Acadians emigrated to Louisiana either from France, having been deported their by the British during the French and Indian War, or voluntarily from now British Canada after the Treaty of Paris in 1763, where they became known as Cajuns. The modern flag of Acadiana bears some resemblance to the Acadian flag.

    2. I couldn't find a good reference for this but, I suspect it is similar to the usage "down east" in Maine, and relates to prevailing winds or currents, making north be either downwind or downstream or both.

    3. Doing an image search on "cape Breton fishing boat" turns up lots of boats that look like this[ocean%20predator%20II]%20&%20rock%20breakwater.jpg which looks to me like a lobster boat, but with high gunwales in the bow.

  3. 1 - I image searched blue white red flag with yellow star and ended up with this page

    Thant's the Arcadian flag and here is why it reminds you of Louisiana per Wikipedia:

    Many Acadians migrated to Spanish colonial Luisiana, present day Louisiana state, where they developed what became known as Cajun culture."

    2- In Cape Breton's Wikipedia's page I looked up north and here you go:

    "Its landmass slopes upward from south to north" so it makes sense the people will be going do down -the hill- to the north.

    3- Image searched "fishing boat cape breton:

  4. searching broadly…
    eh, hoser? in CB,NS? no way way
    the 77th
    enjoy the lists… but I digress (Vauxhall & Battersea/Pimlico)
    "The name of the parish is derived from the former French colony of Acadia in Canada (which consisted of the modern provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and much of Maine) many of whose French-speaking inhabitants were deported to France and then migrated to Louisiana in the Great Upheaval (see Cajuns)." (via Wikipedia)

    Great Upheaval
    not just on poles - like the image & bonus explanation
    similar pole example
    the Cajun version
    CBC timeline
    260th anniversary now - Canadian-American Center, U of Maine
    the poetic:
    wistful Evangeline (see: not the Dolores del Río LA. version )

    Google books - headed west (down north), across the Canso Causeway, to the mainland
    coming back from 'down north' - can be a rough go… similar time of year, 4 years ago
    visual 1955 - no scissors - courtesy of the CBC

    looked at lobster/crab boats, even a spidsgatter - Danish for double-ender - (Pax - pretty vessel)
    but settled on a dory type - specifically a V-Dory
    in red
    Cape Breton examples
    many variants
    Mira Bay

    art examples:
    Homer 1
    Homer 2
    Mystic example
    tuneful -
    The Squid Jiggin Ground (there's squid footage)
    who knew - Hank Snow
    LA tie

    fwiw, another Nova Scotia 'ship'…
    AEA Silver Dart

  5. So, Jeffrey's Xif Viewer and the subsequent Google map with streetview shows 4 poles like the one shown all at the L"Ardoise Seniors Jolly Club on Chapel Cove Road. So I have dropped them a line to ask about the banding and the star.

    We'll see what happens next.


    jon tU

    1. What happened next was Nothing.

      But I totally missed the notion of the flag, which is obviously correct.

      Down North--Its just a convention, as in Canada we say down east or out west (meaning a place 2000 miles east of me. Some old references:

      "Down North": A Historiographical Overview of Newfoundland Labrador

      ...Residents of the Island of Newfoundland have regarded travel to Labrador as "going down north to Labrador" (or, more precisely, "the Labrador") rather than the usual geographical convention of regarding north as being "up". To Newfoundlanders the north has almost always been perceived as the Labrador portion of the province. Down north has been regarded alternately as a land of backwardness and poverty and as the Newfoundland "frontier", described by Smallwood in The New Newfoundland (1931) as "Newfoundland's high auxiliary" because of its resource potential. (5)

      Dictionary of Newfoundland English

      'down north' : page 149 quotes from 1870: "But as down seems to be the direction settled upon in common parlance.". . ."have always said Down to any place north of where they are at the moment..or up to St John's' or up to New York when they were really going in a southerly direction.

    2. [nova scotia fishing boat designs] finds which has lots of material.

      One distinctive feature is: A distinct feature of wooden Nova Scotian boats was the hollow or built-down skeg; elsewhere builders made a solid wood deadwood. It was a lighter more buoyant hull and always a feature of "Novi" boats

  6. …you were near the edge of the earth - if you had just proceeded over water, up north, Newfoundland way
    Fogo Island
    Fogo & Change Islands
    a trail worth running - to one of the corners of the mudball… ummm I mean the flat earth…
    Brimstone Head
    a more brisk time of year…
    see the FES/Fogo?Brimstone discussion
    the man that fell over the edge…
    in search…
    video clip
    led to a search tutorial… tied to a flat algorithm?
    search sniper

  7. supplemental: building on initial results to access some additional examples/applications
    image search using your sRs image + acadian flag
    re-purposed vessel

  8. Hi, I've been a longtime reader but haven't posted before. This post made me want to go to Cape Breton!

    1. I searched [blue white red "yellow star"] and the second link was to this information about the Acadian flag, a version of the French flag with a yellow star, used by the Francophone community in Canada which also settled Louisiana.

    Acadian flag

    2. I searched [breton down north] and found links to a book called Down North about Nova Scotia, but also the website of the North Highlands Museum. In the snippet I saw "Down North* " and thought the asterisk might give a definition, and it does, mentioning prevailing winds and sailors and the fact that going north is easier, almost like going downhill.

    North Highlands Museum

    3. I searched ["cape breton" fishing boat style] and came across this interesting article about a boatbuilder:

    Dying art loses another craftsman as Cape Breton boatbuilder retires

    It mentioned Northumberland-style boats so I searched ["cape breton" Northumberland fishing boat] and found this article which gave information about the history of the boats, from Cape Islander to Northumberland.

    Fishing boat industry still afloat across N.S.

    Thanks for an interesting search!

  9. Query [cape breton flag red white blue with gold star] Result "This is the emblem that represents our Acadian heritage, ancestors and the original lands of Acadia, established in Canada in the mid 1600"

    [Down North] First I found this book
    Then using same query found this explanation which refers to wind [prevailing southwest] and sailing [down wind was down north].

    Query [cape breton lobster fishing boats] Known for their lobsters.

  10. Another challenge that makes me think about how prior knowledge/life experiences color our search expectations--maybe a subset of bias? When I looked at the painted pole, I immediately assumed it was some sort of separatist flag, so I searched images for "Cape Breton flag." One of the images from a travel blog had a flag pole with the Canadian flag and this flag. The caption reads: "The Canadian and Acadian flag fly together."

    I haven't had time to read the rest of the post--8th graders are here in my library to do, yes, some research!

    Thanks as always for making me think!

  11. FINALLY!!! A Search Research assignment for which I have a geohistorical advantage ;-)
    My family & I lived in Nova Scotia for almost 20 years & spent lots of time in Cape Breton. So I can contribute a bit of research from first-hand experience.

    The Acadian flag is an easy one to uncover... What some people might not know is that the Acadians form a sub-group of Francophones in Canada, quite distinct from the (majority of Francophone Canadian) Quebecois people. Quebec & Acadia were geographically separate & their 2 dialects evolved quite separately. Acadian French sounds quite different & includes some much older words than you might hear in Quebec.

    I wanted to check out the style of fish boat used in Cape Breton so I did a search of Google images: first 'harbour cheticamp', then 'harbour l'ardoise' 'harbour arichat' then 'harbour fourchu' (picking small harbour communities along the coast). In every image collection, if you see a smallish fish boat (not a pleasure boat or sailboat or whatever) it is almost certainly going to be some variation of the Cape Islander (try a google image search of cape islander boats to be sure). This is an almost ubiquitous fish boat style throughout Nova Scotia, even though the original design comes from Cape Sable Island, at the opposite end of the province.

    I had to look harder to find the reference to 'going down to the north' but when I shortened my search to 'going down north cape breton' it wasn't hard to find good hints. I found several references in RootsWeb (people tracing their roots to Cape Breton; e.g. but this one from a NS tourist guide sounds maybe a tad more authoritative: ( "You can tell a true Cape Bretoner because they'll always refer to Ingonish and the Highlands as down north, rather than up north. This curious expression likely dates back to when it was easier to get around the island by sea than by land: if you were travelling north by boat, the wind and currents would carry you there swiftly, but heading south, upstream and into the wind, you'd have a harder time of it. This theory is supported by another local saying, "to go UP to Halifax" — Halifax, of course, being several hours south of here."

    Too bad Dan Russell didn't run into the Cape Breton Liberation Army - would have been another cool search destination ;-)

    1. NICE ANSWER! Well done, Gina. (Of course, you had a local's advantage.) Still, I didn't find the RootsWeb resource -- what a great place to find.

      And I didn't find the Cape Breton Liberation Army, although I would have loved doing so!

  12. 1. I searched Google Images with the description [flag on phone pole “Cape Breton”] and found an image of a power pole very similar to Dr. Russell's image. Visiting the page for the image, I found a description saying the photo was of an Acadian flag on the pole. “The Acadian flag painted on a power pole with Chapel Cove in the background.” It may remind you of Louisiana because of the Acadian or "Cajun" culture in Louisiana, sometimes called Acadiana. Acadiana has a flag that is similar to the Acadian flag used in Nova Scotia.

    2. I found an email archive and a forum thread discussing the use of directional terms in Canada. and . As near as I can tell, saying "going down north" is similar to Maine being called "down east", and is peculiar to that part of Canada. It can refer to going to different parts of Nova Scotia or New Brunswick.

    3. I searched on Google for [design of “Cape Breton” boat] and found a link to a book passage in "Confessions of a Boat Builder" about designs of boats in Nova Scotia being called Cape Island boats. The passage said the these boats were called snapper boats in Cape Breton. Then I searched [Cape Island boat design] and found several links to articles about this type of boat. The Wikipedia link is

  13. ran across something on wikipedia that reminded me of a past sRs… "Peale produced a coin depicting a Liberty cap"
    worth 3¢+ these days
    a blast from the past - A Phyrgian cap

    1. That's excellent... I'd almost forgotten about the Phyrgian cap. Nice find!