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Posts Tagged ‘ocean’

“Stop the car!” my passenger shouted from the back seat as we neared the turnoff to Martinique Beach.  My friend Sybil had caught sight of her first seal and there it was, lying in the sea grass to the side of the road:  an adult harp seal.

Most of us can quickly recognize baby harp seals.  They’re the ones with the big dark eyes and completely white fur.  Once they become adults however, they acquire a silver coat with a black head and markings, looking very little like the photogenic youngsters they once were.

Harp seals are mammals that spend most of their time eating fish in the ocean.  This one seemed to be enjoying the brief interlude of sunshine in the sea grass. 

I’m not sure how frequently harp seals visit our local shores.  They are usually found in the waters off Greenland and Newfoundland.  Apparently when they are seen here in Nova Scotia, they are solitary.  This one certainly seemed to be alone.

Last April I spotted a lone harbor seal in the salt marsh.  Though some people claim to see seals regularly on our shores or in our waters, this is only the third time I’ve seen one.     

The sighting was the highlight of the afternoon for not just me and Sybil of Eastern Passage Passage, but also our accompanying friend and blogger Lynne of Five Good Things who is visiting from England.  Today’s scenic trip along the Eastern Shore certainly managed to get our collective seal of approval.

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And part of the soil is called to wash away
In storms and streams shave close and gnaw the rocks.
Besides, whatever the earth feeds and grows
Is restored to earth. And since she surely is
The womb of all things and their common grave,
Earth must dwindle, you see and take on growth again.
~ Titus Lucretius – On the Nature of Things (1st century BC)

When Captain James Cook charted Cole Harbour on a map of Nova Scotia in the mid-1700s, it was wide and deep enough for tall ships to sail in and out.  Though not as large as Halifax Harbour, it still saw its share of commercial vessels and privateers.

But over the centuries, shifting sands have narrowed the entrance to Cole Harbour.  The harbour seems more like a marsh these days, leaving many residents to wonder about the exact whereabouts of Cole Harbour.  Passage through the entrance is seldom undertaken by vessels of any size due to the strong currents.  Though we might bemoan the recent evidence of erosion along Rainbow Haven Beach,  in Cook’s time, this spit of land didn’t even exist.

Part of a Nova Scotia map by James Cook showing Cole Harbour at far right

In A Tale Of Two Dykes – the Story of Cole Harbour (1979), Margaret Kuhn Campbell explained:

A coast line so irregular seems to fling a challenge to the great energy of the ocean.  It hurls itself at the indentations to remove them – tearing down headlands, filling in bays.  Hartlen Point west of Cow Bay and Osborne Head on its east are two drumlins presently being eroded by the sea.  At the mouth of a bay, it seeks to build a fishhook shaped spit anchored on the curved shore with its point reaching toward the other, constantly growing, until in time it may close the gap.  Then the bay becomes a protected lagoon which catches silt from streams, grows grasses, and thus traps more silt to eventually become marshy to dry land.  Through centuries of toil, the powerful waves compounded such a barrier part way across the mouth of Cole Harbour.

Erosion at Rainbow Haven Beach

The increased frequency of severe storms in our area means we will see more rapid changes to our shorelines in the years ahead.  While some beaches will suffer erosion, others will widen.  The extent to which man can halt or alter these transformations is questionable.  What is inevitable is that these changes will surely affect wildlife as well as residential, recreational and business developments along our coast.

On February 17th, HRM will be hosting a Climate Change Workshop for Eastern Passage and Cow Bay residents.  Details of the event can be found at Eastern Passage Online. 

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Waves can pull you in without getting you wet. One moment you’re looking at them from your vantage point on the shore and the next you’re tangled in their frothy curls.

With mist on your face and the roar of the sea numbing your ear drums, you’re soon set adrift.  As each wave rolls forward, you’re taken under into the mysterious deep.  Long forgotten memories are churned up and float on the surface like sea foam.  

Let your heart look on white sea spray
And be lonely…
~ Carl Sandburg


It’s a wonder how some of Nature’s most sensory experiences can take you so far away from the present moment.  You might recall long forgotten days at the beach, swimming or surfing.  Or your thoughts might drift farther away from the shore, re-examining what was and what might have been at any point along life’s journey. You might even surprise yourself by applying new solutions to old problems.

…  a mind forever voyaging through strange seas of thought… alone.
~ William Wordsworth

You needn’t go far or stay away long.  And herein lies the greatest gift the sea can offer.  Wherever you go when you look at the sea, as with all the best voyages, you’re always more in tune with yourself upon your return.  

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As much as we enjoy wildlife, it’s seldom that we have an opportunity to hold live specimens in our hands.  Most wild creatures want to put as much distance between us and them as possible, and that’s how it should be.   However, opportunities to get up close and personal with wildlife are possible along Nova Scotia’s seashore in the intertidal zone.  Marine animals such as crabs and starfish are easily caught and respond well to gentle handling.

The starfish at left was found in the salt marsh.  Its underside reveals gel-like feelers that glisten in the sunlight as they move.  Live, juicy starfish are enjoyed by seagulls who can spot them underwater clinging to rocks.

Though a bit more difficult to catch, live crabs are very animated and deeper in color than the dried ones found higher up the beach.  Up close they look like little aliens.  They too are eaten by seagulls.

To those who are willing to get really up close, offshore waters offer even more wonders.

Live sand dollars are nothing like the bone dry tests we may sometimes find on the beach.  Their five point star design is just barely discernible beneath their deep purple fur-like covering of cilia.  Beds of these can be found by scuba divers in the subtidal zone, a wonder hidden from the view of beachcombers.  Sand dollars are preyed upon by starfish, snails and skates.

After handling these delicate marine creatures, it’s best to quickly place them back where they were found as they are unable to survive out of the water for long.  Such close encounters should be kept as brief as possible, unless of course you’re a seagull looking for a meal.

I’m hungry Dolores. Should we get fast food or see what’s slow in the marsh?

Photo credits:  Julie Perry

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There’s no better place to enjoy Midsummer than along the shoreline.  With the sounds of stones rolling under the wash of the waves in the background, willets forage in the waters at Silver Sands Beach.  Once a beautiful sand beach, the shore is now mostly stones.  Sand was trucked away decades ago to make cement for buildings and a runway, under the premise that the sands would return with the waves.  They never did.

Beach peas grow in profusion among the stones above the strandlines.  Their purple and green are a refreshing sight among the greys of the rocks.

A green crab, dried orange by the sun, lays in a tangle of seaweed in the sand.  Eventually, the sun will turn its carcass white.

Periwinkles covered with elaborate apparel are also present in great number. 

Dried pink amphipods are washed ashore.  They too will turn lighter in the sunlight.

Though you can’t tell by the image, the stones are warm to the touch.  To me, Midsummer means feeling the warmth of the sun in a way that touches you to your core.  There’s no better place to feel this than on the beach.  What does Midsummer mean to you?

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Like a golden eye, the sun rises above the horizon.  Summer is still almost a month away, but already the warm sunshine is drawing crowds to the beach to bask in its glow at midday.   Victoria Day traffic near Rainbow Haven Provincial Park was crazy enough.  What will it be like by Canada Day? 

Places where the sea meets the sky refresh the spirit and provide an escape from the worries of the world.  The appeal is universal.  Some of us just prefer to avoid the crowds and take our refreshment earlier in the day than others. 

Whether on the sea, a lake or in the marsh, sparkling waters make it easy to forget the busy world that’s left behind.  The sound of waves lapping on the shore quenches our thirst for calm.

Last year, summer in Nova Scotia was dismal and short.  Could this year’s beautiful spring be a promise of a splendid summer ahead?  For now, it’s enough to enjoy the days just one by one, making the most of each opportunity to feel the warmth of the sun on one’s face and happily squint one’s eyes while gazing at sparkling waters.

There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart.
~ Celia Thaxter

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