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The legend of Erik the Red 

Bidding a fond farewell to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic’s chief rodent control officer.

In his career, Erik earned more love “than most felines could likely fathom.” - MARITIME MUSEUM OF THE ATLANTIC
  • In his career, Erik earned more love “than most felines could likely fathom.”
  • Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

"An agile, natural athlete and rarified salt, fully possessed of his sea legs from the beginning, Erik would make his way from scantling to fiddley grate to bilge, deck to deck, stem to stern with a diligence unrivalled. His career legacy is one of service to ship and company that was, quite simply, flawless."

So writes CSS Acadia shipkeeper Stephen Read for the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic about the life of beloved "rodent control officer" Erik the Red. The orange tabby served aboard the floating National Historic Site for over 15 years before retiring in 2015. He passed away this past August, after a brief illness.

"Erik was the last of the four rodent control officers who so proudly served aboard ship," reads a statement from the museum announcing his passing. "Well done, good and faithful servant and God speed."

erikthered-1.jpg

The original RCO, Nannie, a coal black tabby, vanished during the Atlantic Bowl College Football Championships. Bertram Q. Bilgewater (or Bert) took over from Nannie and proved a formidable presence on the waterfront—fighting rats, gulls, mink and even dogs. Calico cat Clara, a rescue from Bide-a-While animal shelter, succeeded Bert but never had much interest in the rat-catching game.

"At best, she might snag a mouse or small rat from the wharves and bring it aboard ship where, before actually dispensing the poor cowerin' beastie, she would lose interest and allow it to stroll on its merry way," writes Read.

Erik was a different story. Once upon a time he had been a stray, who followed Read home one evening in 1998 down Gottingen Street. Sensing his potential, Read brought the svelte orange tabby aboard the Acadia.

He quickly became a familiar site on the boardwalk, patrolling the area from Purdy's Wharf down to Pier 21, and visiting nearby shops and restaurants looking for a quick ear scritch or stray treat. His kind, intelligent eyes and approachable demeanour earned him many friends, writes Read.

A fixture at Summit Place, Erik would regularly visit the offices of the Daily News—a print publication the cat would outlive by almost a decade. Employees closing up at Tim Hortons would oblige his feline hunger with a spare scrap of chicken. He even wandered away to The Dome one night, catting around with the rest of Halifax's club kids.

"He enjoyed a secure berth and base from which he could come and go at will, while claiming the entire waterfront as his personal domain," writes Read. "The waterfront offered more head strokes, chin scratches, treats and more abject love and adoration than most felines could likely fathom."

Befitting his naval service, and in the tradition of prior rodent control officers, Erik was buried at sea. There are, unfortunately, no plans as of yet for a permanent monument to his memory. But Halifax will not soon forget all you've done for us, Erik.

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