Friday, June 1, 2012

The nineteenth luminous thing... the tide.

Tides (from low-German "tiet," meaning "time") are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun and the rotation of the Earth.

That's from Wikipedia, and if you go to the Tide page of Wikipedia you'll see photos of the tides on the Bay of Fundy, where we are now.

I'm really not sure what all the astronomical stuff means or how it works. I do know that there are two high tides and two low tides each day here, each set about 12 hours apart (high tide at noon means another high tide at midnight). But tides aren't normal here on the Bay of Fundy. Not only that, but tides have influenced just about everything even remotely close to this coast.

The facts:

-One billion tons of water—more than the combined total of all the freshwater rivers in the world—flows in and out of the Bay in one 12.5 hour tide cycle every day

-The Bay's incoming tide is so extreme that it temporarily reverses the flow of several rivers that empty into the Bay.

-Typical tides along the world's coastlines are less than three feet high. In the Bay of Fundy, the tidal swells range from 15 feet at the mouth of the Bay to 45 feet at its farthest end.

We wanted to see a little of this ourselves. At low tide, 4:17pm, we walked out to the beach here in Smith's Cove—nearer the Bay's mouth than it's furthest point in from the ocean—to look at Bear Island, which turns from an island into a peninsula twice each day. The Bay looked partially drained. Wide mudflats lay exposed, covered with heaps of seaweed, seagulls, some Canada geese, and clammers—guys with odd-shaped tools like a cross between spades and mini-pitchforks, buckets, high boots, and a sort of sled—and a small fleet of pickup trucks and 4-wheelers. The 4-wheelers were mostly out on the "island," now connected to the beach by a very long, very narrow bridge of sand.

At about 4:20pm, we noticed the water was now flowing left to right—back into the Bay. The 4-wheelers raced back across the sand bridge, and the clammers dragged their hauls to their trucks and drove across the mud flats as, behind them, the water flowed back in. By quarter to five the sand bridge was gone, and the exposed beach was empty except for the seagulls, and us, and a lot of relieved clams.


We were the only ones here at the B&B for breakfast, french toast and blueberries and goldfinches out the window (plus chipmunks and a vole). We drove through Bear River over to Annapolis Royal, founded in 1605 by the French (who were kicked out by the British in 1755). The French realized the importance of the tides, and built dykes to drain the salt marshes and use their deep, muddy soils for agriculture (after letting the salt drain out of them over a couple of decades). Remnants of these dykes remain, and new ones have been built, unfortunately removing most of what was once the world's most extensive network of salt marshes (important sources of food and nutrients for animals and plants). The Historic Gardens at Annapolis Royal have preserved some of the original Acadian dykes, and farm the created agricultural land for hay. The gardens are a small but lovely gem in this odd little remnant of a town. We walked through it, looking at preserved buildings from the 1800s and the earthworks of the old fort and cannons and lighthouses and galleries and watching the tide slowly drain out of the river. And we had lunch at—of all places—a Viennese restaurant. Who knew? And who knew that a lobster club sandwich (yes, with bacon) would be so good?

Some photos from today:

Breakfast room at B&B, Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia

"Adam and Eve in the Garden," sculpture, Annapolis Royal Historic Garden

Path along remnants of the old Acadian dykes, Annapolis Royal Historic Garden

Allain River

Replica of an Acadian cottage and garden (below)

"The Founder" garden sculpture, Annapolis Royal Historic Garden

Walking through Annapolis Royal, including a lobster club and amber ale for lunch and a visit with the owner of a wonderful folk art gallery:

Some before and after photos of the Bay of Fundy, outside our bed and breakfast:

The Digby Harbor this evening, after dinner of clams and chips and scallops, and home made coconut cream and blueberry pie, at the Mariner's Landing:

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