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Published: September 18th 2019
Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site
Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, Baddeck, Nova Scotia.
We booked a Princess shore excursion from Sydney, Nova Scotia, to the town of Baddeck. Our guide this time was a Sydney native and he had much history and information to relay. We were now in the Cape Breton Island area of Nova Scotia. The region resembles Scotland in its glacial lakes, mountainous terrain and climate. It reminded Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) so much of his native Scotland that he purchased an estate at Baddeck, on Lake Bras d'Or in 1885. (Lake Bras d'Or is actually a long saltwater fjord.) Bell used Baddeck as his summer retreat and base for research and development until his death in 1922. Thus, the principle destination of our tour was the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site.
The displays at the historic site trace Bell's career as a teacher of the deaf led to his research into sound and mechanical and electrical hearing devices. Bell is, of course, most renown for his invention of the telephone, a spinoff of his aids to hearing research. His wife, Mabel Hubbard, had been one of his deaf students. Displays detail their relationship and the support Mabel provided to his research activities. Displays show the wide ranging interests
of Bell, from underwater sound to transmission of sound by light.
A major part of the exhibit space is devoted to Bell's involvement with aviation and hydrofoils. Bell experimented with kites at his Beinn Bhreagh estate and encouraged developments in powered flight. The Silver Dart was the first powered aircraft flow in in Canada, in February 1909. After this success, Bell turned his attention to hydrofoil watercraft. He saw them as a marine analogy to aircraft and Bras d'Or Lake provided a lot of room for experimentation. Bell called the experimental boats "hydrodomes". Three craft were constructed and tested between 1911 and 1914. In 1917, Bell returned to the idea with the HD-4. The HD-4 was his most successful hydrofoil, attaining a speed of 70.8 mph (114 km/h) in 1919. Bell had hoped there would be military applications, but there was lack of interest in the post-World War I era. The HD-4 was abandoned on the beach. The original wooden hull is on display in the museum, with a view of the interior. A full-size replica of the craft is also on display.
After our visit to the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, we spent a bit
of time seeing the town of Baddeck. It is still a quaint locale. The Telegraph House Hotel is an inn where the Bells stayed in 1885. It is still in operation. The Victorian court house has a monument to the flight of the Silver Dart out in front. At the lakefront, one finds sculpture of Alexander and Mabel Bell seated on a bench. They are looking over tot heir retreat, Beinn Bhreagh.
Returning to Sydney, we drove once again over the Seal Island Bridge across Great Bras d'Or, the northern inlet of Bras d'Or Lake from the Atlantic.
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