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Posts Tagged ‘sand’

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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beyond the beachThere’s more to the beach than the sandy shore.  At Rainbow Haven park in Cow Bay, boardwalks and gravel trails offer an opportunity to explore the coastal ecosystem beyond the sand and surf.

Coastal erosion is a worldwide problem.  Over time, tidal action and storms can eat into the beach, wear down rocks and eventually draw the sand out to sea.  This is less a problem at Rainbow Haven than at nearby Silver Sands beach.

Increasing human activity during the summer months has made this popular beach less friendly to birds like piping plovers and sandpipers that nested in the dune grasses in years past.  Year round, walkers often ignore signs to leash dogs, which also contributes to the problem. 

sand dune grasses

Just beyond the beach lie rolling fields of tall grass growing in the sand dunes.  Foxes make their homes in the small hills.  They survive by hunting small mammals and birds in the local area.  I’ve often seen hare and seagull carcasses in the dunes surrounding their holes.  Sparrows make their nests in the bushy areas surrounding the spruce trees.

asters at rainbow haven

Purple asters can be found at this time of year, growing among the grasses.  Strawberries thrive in some sandier spots in the early summer. 

rainbow haven fields

Many of the spruce trees gave up the ghost in recent years, likely due to trauma experienced during Hurricane Juan’s visit in 2003.  Their grey skeletons remain erect on the landscape.

spruce at rainbow haven

The top branches of some of the surviving spruce trees are heavily laden with cones this year.  White spruce are especially tolerant of salt spray and are not uncommon in coastal areas. 

cormorants congregating

Farther beyond the grassed area, across the road that leads into the park, a body of salt water is frequently visited by ducks, gulls and herons.  Cormorants can usually be found congregating on a dock in a spot visited by seals last winter.  Canada geese will sometimes stop here during migration.  Rising and falling with the tides, this water is connected to the salt marsh  where many of the shore birds now make their home.  

Autumn’s quieter days are a good time to explore the ecosystem beyond the shore.  Just be sure to stay on the trails.

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caterpillar traffic

Traffic along the boardwalks and pathways leading to and from the seashore is slow enough for caterpillar crossings these days.

beckoning waters

It may be October, but the beach is still open to visitors despite the absence of tourists and high temperatures.  Sparkling waters beckon beyond the sand dunes.

rainbow haven beach

On such a quiet morning, it’s hard to imagine this beach covered with human flesh baking in the summer sun just a couple of months ago.  The scene is peaceful and quiet, except for the roar of the waves.

sand sea and sky

The sand, sea and sky all work together to create a vista that’s refreshing and uplifting.  The sea breezes still feel soothing on the face and the sand is still warm on the feet.    

warm feet

irish moss at rainbow haven beach

Waves continue to make their deliveries of Irish moss onto the shore.  Also known as carrageenan, this sea moss is raked along some beaches in Nova Scotia.  It’s used as a thickening agent in many foods, including coffee cream and ice cream.

playing in the sand

Hot temperatures aren’t a prerequisite for children to enjoy playing in the sand.  Their needs are simpler than ours.  Wherever did we get the notion that beaches are only to be enjoyed in the summer time?

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sunrise

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze.
Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears.

~ Sheldon Harnick, Zorba

sun flower

 Seagulls seemed oblivious to the last hours of summer trickling away yesterday afternoon.  While a few people walked along  the shore at Rainbow Haven Beach, some were laid out on blankets, looking to catch the last few rays of summer sunshine.  Summer always seems too short, but this one was especially brief.  

As my grandson threw pebbles into the waves and we collected shells in the strandlines, it seemed like I had just engaged in the same activities with his father a moment ago.  Seasons change and generations pass in the blink of an eye.  The natural world carries on.

gulls on beach

The sunshine and warm breezes wait for nobody.  Sparkling waters and sand can only be enjoyed in the moment.  I doubt if anyone who had been on the beach yesterday afternoon regretted having made time in their day for just one more walk on the summer sand.

waves on beach

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Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refugees of a long war… Mostly the animals understand their roles, but man, by comparison, seems troubled by a message that, it is often said, he cannot quite remember or has gotten wrong… Bereft of instinct, he must search continually for meanings… Man was a reader before he became a writer, a reader of what Coleridge once called the mighty alphabet of the universe.
~ from The Unexpected Universe by Loren Eiseley

 

Rainbow Haven at low tide

Rainbow Haven at Low Tide

Despite differences in sand colour and texture, the presence of pebbles, stones or rocks, all of the earth’s beaches have a similar effect on humans.  Times converge where water meets the shore.  These are places where long buried ideas and memories are dug up and future dreams loom on the horizon.  

Even people unaccustomed to spending time in nature warm quickly to the outdoor experience offered by the shore. Whether the day is bright and sunny or misty and overcast, a walk along the beach puts one into a detached frame of mind that is above and beyond the day’s weather forecast. 

Some days we might look at what’s drifted ashore with the tide or pick up a shell to examine more closely.  Tidepools are full of interesting creatures.  The Blue Mussel bed at Rainbow Haven beach is always a great place to find rock crabs, whelks, starfish and moon shells at low tide.   Much in nature (and life) can be taken for granted unless we patiently give it a more careful look.   

On other days we might look out at the seascape that encompasses the shore, sea and sky.  When searching for new meanings to life’s events and purposes it’s often helpful to step back from the details and take a good, long look at the big picture.  Few experiences put a sparkle on the day as much as witnessing a sunrise or sunset at the beach. 

Each stage of life seems to present us with a quest for new meanings and purposes.  Though these may be hard sought and won, they can also easily be washed away by the tides of time.   It’s best to not leave too much space in between visits to the shore. 

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