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Researchers unravelling the mysteries behind one of Canada’s oldest cemeteries

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It’s been a century since Fort Anne became Canada’s first administered national historic site, but much of the history surrounding the once hotly contested grounds in Annapolis Royal, N.S., is still shrouded in mystery.

On Monday, a team of researchers hopes to use new technology to unlock some of the old secrets buried within Fort Anne’s Garrison Graveyard, which is one of the oldest English cemeteries in Canada.

“To understand where we’re going, we need to understand where we’ve been,” said Ted Dolan, Parks Canada’s site and visitor experience manager for historic sites in southwestern Nova Scotia.

“Any additional information that we have as to what happened on our landscape in the past is really going to inform us as to who we are and where we come from.”

‘Most fought-over piece of land in Canadian history’

Dolan describes Fort Anne as “the most fought-over piece of land in Canadian history since European colonization.” Originally fortified by the Scots as early as 1629, the site was later taken over by the French, before it fell to British troops in 1710. It would remain a regular battle scene for another 50 years.

While over 200 British headstones still stand in the Garrison Graveyard, Dolan said researchers believe there could be more than 2,000 people buried at the site whose wooden markers have since decayed over time.

In addition, prior to 1710, Dolan said French soldiers and Acadians from the region were buried at the nearby St. Jean-Baptiste parish, which had a cemetery located close to the fort.

While researchers aren’t completely sure where the French and Acadian cemetery is, he said they have a “pretty good idea.”

“When the British came, they were Protestant and the Acadians and French were Catholic, so they didn’t want to be buried in the same area. So there’s a big open area by the existing cemetery that we think is where the Acadian cemetery is,” said Dolan.

Ground-penetrating radar

He said the technology that will be used to assess the sites is less invasive than extensive archeological digs.

Boreas Heritage Consulting, a Halifax-based archeological and heritage research company, will use ground-penetrating radar to scan beneath the surface and collect 3D data, which will help map out and identify historic infrastructure and unmarked graves.

Meanwhile, a group of researchers from the Nova Scotia Community College in Middleton will fly drones overhead to capture high-resolution aerial photographs of the cemetery and generate a digital model of the site.

The data will be passed along to Mapannapolis, a volunteer organization that creates web-based maps of heritage sites in the historical community.

‘Like putting a puzzle together’

Heather LeBlanc, the project designer for Mapannapolis, said it’s “like putting a puzzle together: the puzzle of where are the Acadians, and what information is out there.”

Parks Canada and Mapannapolis are expecting to get the results of the survey by mid-December, and they hope to create an interactive way for people to learn more about the site.

The Annapolis Royal area is steeped in history, with nearby Port Royal said to have been the location of Canada’s first permanent European settlement.

In March 2017, the CBC program “Canada: The Story of Us” came under fire from both Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil and Annapolis Royal Mayor Bill MacDonald after an episode asserted that the country’s first permanent European settlement was established in 1608 near what is now Quebec City.

At the time, the premier said the history of Canada started three years earlier, when French explorer Samuel de Champlain founded a settlement at Port Royal, now a national historic site in his riding.

CBC responded that the two-hour show focused on the Quebec City area because it has maintained a permanent population without interruption from 1608 onward — unlike Port Royal, which went briefly unoccupied during its early history.

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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