This is the fourth episode in a series of posts by Blue Ocean co-founder Bob Frerck, telling of the experiences of his family’s vacation combined with Blue Ocean research traveling through Canada’s Atlantic Maritime Provinces –
Unfortunately, we had to leave Prince Edward Island, it’s been great, we met some terrific people, sampled some tasty seafood (sustainable), walked some beautiful beaches and climbed some historic lighthouses. Plus, we learned a lot about important ocean issues including the sustainability of the Western Atlantic Blue Fin Tuna population, lobsters (lots of lobsters) and oysters and the effects that ocean warming might be having on all of this. PEI certainly packs above its weight in delivering memorable experiences. (photo – Blue Ocean Network)
On to Nova Scotia
After PEI, we moved on to Halifax in Nova Scotia. Halifax is a beautiful city of bays and hills and is brimming over with cultural activities. A wide boardwalk rims its historic harbor and connects restaurants, cafes and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, our next stop. Near the Museum we discovered the information kiosk of the Canadian Sea Turtle Network.
Tracking Leatherback Sea Turtles
Yolana Wassersug, the Assistant Director of Communications gave us an intro into how the network, working with commercial fishermen, scientists and coastal communities tracks the migration routes of the Leatherback sea turtles.
About 50% of the Atlantic Leatherbacks that eventually appear in Canadian waters nest on beaches in Trinidad, off the shores of South America. After laying their eggs the females travel north to waters off Nova Scotia where they rejoin males and feed on jellyfish during the summer.
Leatherbacks are the world’s largest sea turtle species and can grow up to 2 meters in length and weigh in at 900 kilos. Their preferred food is jellyfish, of which they consume an enormous number. Without a healthy Leatherback sea turtle population jellyfish numbers would quickly get out of control. Since Leatherbacks have been swimming the oceans for over 90 million years it might it is easy to assume that they are impregnable, however that is far from true, their populations are dwindling and they are now endangered.
The Canadian Sea Turtle Network collects vital data along the migration route that will help preserve these fantastic, marine mammals. The Canadian Sea Turtle Network won the 2007 Gold Canadian Environment Award for Conservation. Read about a recent Canadian Sea Turtle Network field trip to Trinidad here.
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
As we continued our stroll along Halifax’s boardwalk we could not miss the CSS Acadia, a 180-foot steam-powered hydrographic survey ship launched in 1913 and the HMCS Sackville, a World War II corvette, both are tied up at the wharf adjacent to the museum.
The Sinking of the Titanic
Among the museum’s many exhibits are three that speak of the hazards inherent in crossing the North Atlantic. One documents the sinking of RMS Titanic and the role Nova Scotia played in recovering the bodies of Titanic’s victims. On April 15, 1912 on its maiden voyage between Southhampton and New York the Titanic hit an iceberg about 375 miles south of Newfoundland. Of the estimated 2,224 passengers and crew aboard fewer than a third survived, making the sinking of the Titanic the deadliest peacetime, disaster in maritime history.
Upon hearing of the disaster four Canadian ships embarked from Halifax to search for the dead. Of the more than 1500 victims only 328 bodies were found and brought back to Halifax for identification. Eventually 121 victims were buried in Fairview Cemetery in Halifax. One grave marked “J. Dawson” became a pilgrimage destination after the release of the film Titanic in 1997 with movie-goers leaving flowers in memory of Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Jack Dawson. However, James Cameron, the film’s director says his character’s name was not inspired by the tombstone.
The Halifax Explosion
Less than six years after the sinking of the Titanic, Halifax experienced a second tragedy with even greater loss of life. The Halifax Explosion. On the morning of December 6, 1917 the SS Imo, a Norwegian vessel and the SS Mont-Blanc, a French cargo ship packed with munitions destined for the European killing fields, collided in Halifax harbor.
The resulting explosion devastated much of downtown Halifax, killing 2,000 and injuring over 9,000 others. More than one in five of the city’s inhabitants were killed or injured and over 1600 homes were destroyed.
It is estimated that the blast was the largest man-made explosion before the age of nuclear weapons. Windows up to 60 miles away were shattered and a 45′ (15 meters) high tsunami created by the blast swept into Halifax and Dartmouth.
Sable Island, Graveyard of the Atlantic
A third exhibit Sable Island – Graveyard of the Atlantic takes us to a bleak sand bank in the North Atlantic 300km east of Halifax. Since Sable island was first charted 500 years ago, it is estimated that more than 500 vessels have run aground on its treacherous shores, drowning as many as ten thousand mariners.
Sable Island lies at the confluence of the Labrador current and the warm gulf stream creating fogs which make the island the world’s most dangerous sand bank.
After being immersed in loads of tragic maritime history we decided to lighten it up and head along the southeastern coast of Nova Scotia to one of Canada’s iconic landscapes, Peggy’s Cove. Nova Scotia boasts over 160 lighthouses but none are as beloved and visited as Peggy’s Point Lighthouse. Built in 1915 and still in operation it sits atop a jumble of enormous white rocks overlooking the cove below. Lobster boats still seek its welcoming light as they head into the small, and very picturesque harbor of Peggy’s Cove. (photo – Nova Scotia tourism)
Lunenbourg, UNESCO World Heritage Site
A bit further west, we came to the equally historic and picturesque town of Lunenburg. Considered to be the best surviving example of a planned British colonial town it is also one of only two communities in North America designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Lunenburg is famous for its ship building heritage and as the home to the Blue Nose II, a replica of the original world famous racing schooner. (photo – Nova Scotia tourism)
See more in Part 5 of News from the Maritimes
After a brief return to Halifax we turned northeast toward the famous, French fortress and reconstructed walled seaport of Louisbourg. Then we experimented at the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck and drove the famous Cabot Trail around the Cape Breton Highlands of northern Nova Scotia. Join with us on these adventures in Part 5 of News from the Maritimes coming your way soon.
By Bob Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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