Commentary: The Mushrow Astrolabe - Think About It
By Claudine J. Neil at The Gulf News
1998 Port aux Basques, Newfoundland
It's tourism season again. They'll soon be flocking to the island from all around the world, not only to enjoy the rugged beauty of our coast-line, but to witness an historical find - the Mushrow Astrolabe.
More than 10 years ago, local resident Wayne Mushrow discovered the ancient artifact in the waters off Isle aux Morts, NL. Last year in October he thought it would be a nice gesture to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the event by turning over a second astrolabe to the town.
There were a few conditions that had to be complied with first. The astrolabes were to be named Mushrow Astrolabes and they were to be made the centrepiece of the Gulf Museum (in Port aux Basques). Mr. Mushrow also requested the town council hold a social event to mark the occasion. The deadline was October 30th, 1997. That deadline came and went and there was still no acknowledgment of Mr. Mushrow's accomplishment. The one thing he did get a lot of was harassment.
Wayne Mushrow has not known much support. He has not received a pat on the back from the town; a thank you from the historical society; no acknowledgment from the provincial government; and very few encouraging words from the average individual on the street. He has only known the agony of a fight he has struggled to win on his own. He has battled the slander of his family name, suffered emotional persecution since he found the first astrolabe and now faces double trouble for failing to turn over the second.
Each day he keeps the priceless artifact in his possession, he could get as much as a $50,000 fine and one-year imprisonment. The sad part about it all is that all Wayne Mushrow wants is some recognition for his town; to provide an attraction that will lure tourists to the area and boost the town's sagging economy. The town gives him silence.
He often talks about Cobden, Ontario, where an astrolabe was discovered, but isn't even on display. Residents have built an Astrolabe Arena and go all out for Astrolabe Day in addition to the other events they have centred around the historical discovery.
The significance of finding two astrolabes is astronomical, but for some strange reason its importance is being clouded by personal judgement in the town of Port aux Basques. Undoubtedly, if there was something in it for Wayne Mushrow he would have been rich a long time ago. Nobody had to know, he could easily have slipped out of the province and sold it anywhere for a price that exceeds $100,000. But he didn't. Wayne Mushrow has fought to preserve the historical significance of his find for more than 10 years. He insists he is innocent of the charges against him. Unless other facts are presented, who are we to doubt him?
Mr. Mushrow learned a hard lesson the first time, one he won't soon forget. But because we are trapped with a compassionless government that refuses to budge on this issue, young Canadians are being denied a piece of history. Mr. Mushrow feels justified in holding out. Maybe if there were more voices lobbying with him, pushing for the recognition he deserves, the government would be more apt to listen. A letter of support, an encouraging word, anything to indicate there is still some compassion left in Newfoundlanders could go a long way to realizing this very worthwhile cause. As he often says, if he was anywhere else he would have been awarded the Order of Canada, but because he's in Newfoundland they want to put him in jail. Whatever happened to democracy? Has communist dictatorship shifted from the Soviet Union to this little island in the Atlantic Ocean? Give it some thought -It may be quite chilling.