A Tidal Pulse: Life along the Bay of Fundy
We live in a very special country. Canada's vast territory, with
all its natural splendours, offers limitless opportunities to
explore and be amazed. The Bay of Fundy, one of the most unique
hydrographical phenomena of our country, draws tourists from around
the world, just like Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Italy's
Vesuvius, the Amazon in South America and Kilimanjaro,
A vast bay in
Atlantic Canada bounded by New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the Bay
of Fundy's coastline is 1,200 km and the Bay itself is 270 km long.
Twice a day, the tidal pulse of the Atlantic Ocean funnels a large
quantity of water into the bay causing the world's largest tides -
the highest, sometimes measuring over 16 meters (about 5
storeys), are recorded at Minas Basin, Nova Scotia at the head of
the bay. The tide cycle occurs twice as day, about every twelve
hours, meaning you will have to wait just over 6 hours to observe
the difference between high and low tides. The amount of water
flowing in and out of Fundy during a tide cycle is mind-boggling:
about 100 billion tonnes - that's enough to fill another wonder of
nature, the Grand Canyon!
The energy generated by the ebb and flow action of the tides is
harnessed by a small tidal energy generating station on the
Annapolis River. There is even more potential for
environmentally-sustainable tidal power generation in the future.
The turbine operates on the principle that the force of water
surging into the bay is strong enough to generate electrical power.
The same action is repeated as the tides reverse creating a
continuous energy-producing cycle.
Along Fundy's shoreline, nature and culture have coexisted for
thousands of years with the tides shaping the coast and people's
lives. The geological history of the area is revealed at Joggins Fossil Cliffs, Nova Scotia, a UNESCO World Heritage site containing
outstanding fossil records of the Carboniferous (Coal) Age of about
300 million years ago. The exposed rock uncovers vegetation and
animal life from this period of Earth's history, including the
earliest reptiles to emerge from the sea onto land, and which
eventually evolved into dinosaurs and birds.
The Bay of Fundy's natural wonder also shaped the lives of First
Nations groups who fished from the Bay and lived along the
coastline. Early European settlements were established in the
region by 1605 when French colonists under Samuel de Champlain
founded Port-Royal, later known as Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia.
The Bay did not escape colonial conflicts. The territory changed
hands between France and Great Britain, including the momentous
expulsion of the Acadians in 1755. Bay of Fundy communities
endured many wars, naval battles and coastal raids during such
global events as the Seven Years War (1756-63), American War of
Independence (1775-83) and the War of 1812 (1812-1815).
The Acadians - early settlers from France - quickly
adapted to life along the bay and developed technology to take
advantage of the tidal salt marshes. The action of the tides
deposit rich layers of silt onto the marshes providing fertile soil
and consequently one of the most productive ecosystems in the
world. The interaction of land and sea is still visible at the
Acadian settlement Grand Pré, Nova Scotia. Here along the
marshlands bordering the tidal flats of Fundy, dykes were
constructed to drain the muddy marshes for agricultural purposes.
These dykes featured clapper valves which allowed a one-way water
flow; fresh water which irrigated the fields flowed freely into the
bay while rising seawater was prevented from entering. From the
1630s to 1755, an estimated 13,000 acres (52 km²) of salt
marches were dyked by the Acadians.
Shipping and shipbuilding have long been significant maritime
industries in the region. Success of this economy has always
relied on safe passages around the bay, up tributaries and along
Fundy's treacherous shoreline. The bay's hazardous waters have
claimed numerous vessels like HMS Plumper which sank in 1812 after
striking cliffs along the New Brunswick coast. One of the oldest
navigational aids in Canada is found at Wilsons Beach, New
Brunswick. Accessible by foot during low tide, Head Harbour Light Station was the province's
second lighthouse when it was built in 1829. Several
improvements to the site were made over the years and its
arrangement now represents a typical navigation station
incorporating elements such as a keeper's residence, fog alarm and
Together with shipping, the Bay of
Fundy also supports important commercial fisheries. For
generations, the tides have actually been used to catch fish.
Special heart-shaped traps of polls and nets, called weirs, funnel
and confine fish at high tide, stranding them when the waters
recede. Fundy yields a rich bounty of fish, its world-renown
scallops and the bay's most important catch, lobster. From 1921 to
1948, Edwin Conley, a middleman in the lobster industry, operated
Conley's Lobster Factory (known today as Cottage Craft) in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.
He bought and shipped lobster to such far away ports as Boston,
Massachusetts. In the early days of shipping live lobster, many of
these creatures perished as a result of the long trip so Conley
patented a novel shipping container which separated the lobster
from the melting ice. From this innovation, the entire industry was
It is unthinkable to speak of the Bay of Fundy without
mentioning the incredible recreational appeal provided by the
tides. Tourists from around the world flock to the bay for a chance
to spot different species of whales or go rafting on a tidal bore
or experience walking on the ocean floor at low tide. National and
provincial parks are located along the coast offering breathtaking
opportunities to experience the Bay by land or sea. The functional
design of one of the first recreational facilities constructed at
Fundy National Park actually makes use of the
natural tidal cycle. In fact, the Saltwater Pool and Bathhouse, built adjacent to
the Bay of Fundy in 1950, uses the tides to
supply fresh seawater straight from the bay - now that's
The Bay of Fundy is an important ecological and cultural
resource for the planet. It supports biodiversity, agriculture,
shipping and fishing, and a healthy tourism industry. The tidal
pulse is a way of life which shapes Fundy and its inhabitants.
Unrivalled in the world, the tides will continue to provide a
source of energy for all life it touches.