Cape Split, Nova Scotia – Natural wonder or mythical creation?
Some day I would like to be able to claim that I have seen and experienced all 7 natural wonders of the world. Until that day comes I will just have to spend a great deal of time exploring one of Canada’s most notable natural wonders – The Bay of Fundy. Home to the highest tides anywhere on earth is quite the title and we here in Nova Scotia share this natural wonder with our next door neighbors in New Brunswick. The Bay of Fundy makes its way past New Brunswick and funnels across Nova Scotia, almost cutting the province in half, leaving us with the Cobequid Hills on the bays northern shore and the North Mountain Range on the southern shore of the bay.
An imposing feature dominates the bay – jetting out like a giant fish-hook, separating the bay into two distinct eco-systems, the main portion of the bay with its charcoal grey basalt cliffs and towering sea stacks. The other portion being the arrowhead shaped Minas Basin, made up of fine red sandstone and rock formations sculpted and shaped in a peculiar manner. This giant fish-hook is known as Cape Split.
Many local Nova Scotians have hiked the well-groomed 16km round trip trail to the grassy meadow overlooking the changing tides in the bay and the impressive views down some 3ooft below to the volcanic sea stacks known as the 3 sisters. Not to be confused with the other 3 sisters which lie at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy at Cape Chignecto Provincial Park. From this vantage point one can see the ripple of the sea for as far as the eye can see as Mother Nature puts on a show.
A much smaller number of people have had the chance to see this remarkable sight from below. One major reason being the tides themselves. If not timed right your weekend outing could be your last. The tides in the Bay of Fundy come in at a tremendous rate and are not to be underestimated. On a number of occasions parties of hikers have had to be rescued by helicopter, talked about an expensive hike. Those who know the trail leading down to the rocky beach will speak about Cape Split and the up close and personal experience of the changing of the worlds highest tides with great enthusiasm and excitement. The adrenaline felt knowing you are witnessing 100 billion tons of water being sucked out to sea is hard to grasp with mere words alone. The 3 sisters appear to grow taller and taller as the water vanishes and reveals a landscape which in less than 12 hours will be completely swallowed and submerged under water once again.
Down on the ocean floor the sun warms your face while standing in the shadows of these towering 300 ft cliffs the air is cool and haunting. One can only imagine the frightening forces that must have occurred to thrust these volcanic rock columns up from the open cracks in the ocean floor. Magma spewing out so hot that it bubbled even in the cool frigid waters of the Bay of Fundy being feed by the Atlantic Ocean. Before the magma could cool and claim its new territory, the Bay of Fundy had plans of her own. The tides began to recede and pull with great force like a giant tug-o-war, pulling apart a mass of land that would dwarf most high-rises in downtown Halifax.
Was this what really occurred? Or was it the work of the great Mi’kmaq god – Glooscap? His arch-enemy Beaver was said to have built a massive dam that clogged up the Bay of Fundy causing the tides to flood the land and carve out the Annapolis Valley. The red sandstone top soil was then washed into the sea creating the Minas Basin and its sandy ocean floor. Glooscap did not take well to this and struck down with a thunderous bolt of lightning – breaking apart the dam and slicing off a chunk of land resembling a sliver of cake.
During the summer months when the sun is high in the sky, onlookers can see the profile of a man’s face being cast upon the Bay of Fundy from the near vertical sea cliffs. Could it be that Clooscap is still watching over the tides, making sure the land, sea and sky are in perfect harmony? You’ll just have to make the trek to truly find out for yourself.