I grew up near St. John's, where I am taller than the range from low to high tide. Combine this with my fascination with the ocean, and the fact that I am currently posted within an hour's drive of some of the highest tides in the world. It would then be understandable that I would visit the area and see whether or not the tides actually go over my head.
Lesson number zero: Find out where the strangest and most interesting formations are. Some personal favourites in Nova Scotia are
- Five Islands Provincial Park (check that it is open, and see below)
- Cape d'Or (cliffs that are sometimes gold and major tide races)
- Cape Split (pleasant 90 minute hike and then interesting rock formations and tide races)
- Hall's Harbour (see below)
- Burntcoat Head (holds the tide "record")
Lesson number one: Look at tide tables when planning a trip.
- It is worth owning a copy in case you have to modify plans
- Use the online tables at home
Lesson number two: Looks at a map and figure out where the sun is going to be when you are there.
Lesson number three: Check the weather, especially satellite pictures of clouds.
- For weather, including radar and satellite pictures
I started with Hall's Harbour, where there is a nice little wharf where you can see the postcard pictures of boats on the bottom of the harbour. I thought it would be a bit boring, but when you can walk out of the harbour and continue "downhill" for over 300 metres, and you end up looking upwards at the base of the dock pilings, it really hits home.
However, the scenery there is a rocky beach leading up to trees. So after Hall's Harbour (which named after the pirate Sam Hall) I visited some areas within the Minas Basin, which is the part of Fundy with the highest tides. It is also surrounded by sedimentary geology, with a lot of reddish clays, sands, sandstones, siltstones, and a fair bit of mud. Combine this with extremely strong tidal currents and you have constantly changing scenery. There's also extremely old fossils, especially on the north shore near Parrsboro and Five Islands Provincial Park. The scenery got a bit better.
Red Head Trail, Five Islands Park
Red Head Trail from the beach: The white bad marks the boundary between the Triassic and Jurassic periods.
Five Islands Sunset
Then I went to Blomidon and the Provincial Park, and saw how far offshore the bottom could be exposed. There are also sections near Parrsboro where the water goes out for 3-4 km at low tide.
After all this, I thought the site with the world record tides would be anti-climactic. First, I had heard nothing about the scenery, so I assumed there wasn't much. Second, to appreciate the tidal range you really need a convenient vertical length scale, like the wharves at Hall's Harbour, and then it is necessary to be there at both the high and low tide times.
Another thing that you quickly realise is that being there during high tide is often boring. Everything is underwater, and to you it is like any other picture of coastline. I've found that the best time to get there is at low tide, if you can't be there both times. At least you see how low it gets, and you can see high tide lines to get an idea of the range.
The first time I went was before I had learned much about Fundy, so I went near high tide to say I had seen the highest tides. It turned out that the site was nicer than I had thought.
The Island just offshore: there is a ripple where the current is running out.
So the scenery was very pleasant, and the little island offshore, and the plug of rock sticking out along the coast looked nice, and the colours looked nice, especially in the sun. I went back a number of times, including low tide, but it always turned out that the tide extremes were near mid-day when I was free to go. It was great looking around but the glaring sun washed out the red tones of the rock and soil. Some of the nicer things that happened included deer running from the island to shore when the tide went out, often being there when no one else was there, listening to the tidal current as the water drained from the strait between the shore and the island, and the total misty calmness of the Minas Basin.
Finally, on Monday after work I scooted up to the Head. Low tide was 6:08 pm, and sundown was 8:08 pm. I got there at 6:45 pm and wandered around until sundown. Then I had to leave as they close the site at dusk. But the light was wonderful, I was alone, it was serene, and even the sunset was okay.
Here is a little of what I saw:
To the right is land and the park. The upper centre is an island near high tide. I'm below the island and about 200 metres from it. The normal tidal range here is about 15 metres or 50 feet. The record is 17.0 metres or 56 feet. Leaf Basin in Ungava Bay, Quebec, is the only other site in the world with similar numbers. The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans has determined that neither is clearly the winner, and they need to make measurements over an 18 year period to come to a definitive answer. Since I couldn't get to Ungava Bay, and the scenery here is better, I settled for Nova Scotia and the Bay of Fundy.
I guess I have an overactive imagination. Land side of the island about 30 minutes from high tide.
Burntcoat Head Lighthouse. During the day.
Just across the Minas Basin is Five Islands Provincial Park. For some reason the Basin is usually misty. I think it is due to cold water being tidally mixed to the surface, cooling the air until mist forms. Legend credits Glooscap for creating the Five Islands in the Minas Basin. These were formed when he threw giant handfuls of mud at the disrespectful beaver who had built a large dam and flooded Glooscap's garden. Glooscap smashed the beaver's dam and allowed the water to pour in, thus creating the Bay of Fundy tides.
a quickr pickr post