Friday, August 26, 2011

Great white shark appreciation day!

Hey! Did you know it's Great White Shark Appreciation Day in the Bay of Fundy today?

Further to my last post, I've decided to declare the Great White Shark our official fish mascot for the Bay of Fundy in the New7Wonders of Nature campaign!

You may have heard that a few great whites have been working diligently in our bay in recent weeks, promoting votes for Bay of Fundy... sooooo adorable! see pic --->

If you'd like to start your own "Great White Shark Appreciation Day" I've gather a few facts that you may find helpful in countering the Jaws-silly-movie-goer factor:

1) Sharks, in general, date from 420 million years ago (about 2x older than the world's oldest dinosaurs, ergo, waaaaay older than humans) and have diversified, world-wide, into over 400 species.

2) They possess amazing problem-solving skills, social skills, curiosity and playfulness.

3) Sharks grow replacement teeth as needed many times in their lives (this is exceedingly interesting to me as I pass through middle age)

4) They have a complex dermal corset (outer skin) made of flexible collagenous fibres and arranged as a helical network surrounding their bodies (I have no idea what this means but it, too, appeals to my middle-aged self!)

5) Their survival is under serious threat from over-fishing and other human activities (geez, did we do that again...?)

6) They rely on their livers, not bladders like other fish, for buoyancy and their livers make up 30% of their body size (no comment from the beer fridge on the appeal of that one)

7) True, they are color-blind, but they can see underwater and in the dark (James Bond would love this!)

8) They have the best electrical sensitivity of any animal. They find their prey (even those hidden in sand) by the electrical fields they produce. (Bond again...just sayin')

9) Great whites are among many species of sharks found in the Bay of Fundy: also sighted here are Sharpnose, Basking, Blue, Porbeagles, Whitetips, Makos, etc. (Repeat after me: "Aren't we lucky to have one of the world's most diverse marine ecosystems that hosts such a variety of fascinating creatures")

10) Great white sharks don't eat people: they prefer tuna, rays, other sharks, dolphins, porpoise, whales, seals, sea turtles, sea birds. When humans are involved (try these low stats: 31 human interactions in the Mediterranean in the past 2 centuries, most non-fatal) it's generally a case of mistaken identity: thinking a person's silhouette is a seal's. One bite = taste test, the kinda thing that happens in nature.

11) The last great white shark sighting in Bay of Fundy (until a couple weeks ago) was 6 years ago.

12) And, finally, Jaws author, Peter Benchley, and Jaws film director, Steven Spielburg, later worked diligently to dispel the image they created of great whites as man-eating monsters. (a bit late there lads but still a nice gesture ~ thank ye very much!).

Dangerous critters lurk in our bay! haha

There've been a few sightings of great white sharks in our bay in the past few weeks (yes, they are the JAWS movie sharks).

These sightings would be rather ho-hum if it wasn't for the overzealous, uninformed, fear-mongering media reports of them. Reporters using terms like 'fierce predator' 'man-eating monsters' 'massive killer fish' to describe this extraordinary fish. Really? I mean really......

So let's set the record straight: sub-surface the Bay of Fundy is full of all kinds of dangerous and s-c-a-r-y critters, isn't it?

1) Lobster: these crustaceans could take your fingers off with their grabber claws if our deft fishermen didn't immediately pop those blue elastic bands on them, and, even still, they could choke you if you tried to eat their claw meat too fast.

2) Sea cucumbers: coolest thing ever to look at (related to a star fish but kinda inside-out, see image in this post) but if you pick one up it will pee on you - ewwwww - as it deflates and tries to defend itself.

3) Jelly-fish: oh so delicate and innocent-looking to see but did you know they sting? ouch

4) Sea weed: will reach up and WRAP AROUND people's legs when they are swimming in the bay. (The locals, btw, have tamed some of it and harvest it and eat it!)

Tourists: visit at your peril! hahah

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Recipe for sun-dried starfish

Take two (or more) starfish washed up on a Bay of Fundy beach after a wild & windy tide.

Lay out starfish "sunny side up" on your patio table or deck.
Place on newsprint initially if they are gooey.

Bake in full sun for 8 hours, flipping to the other side about half way through.

Lightly brush to remove seaweed or loose rocks.
To lighten, leave in sun an extra couple days.
Once dry, bring inside for decoration.

P.S. Do not eat - bleck!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bay of Fundy starfish tide

If you're lucky on a Bay of Fundy beach after a particularly turbulant tide you can catch a rare deposit of starfish high & dry. Such was my luck this weekend on West Advocate Beach, Nova Scotia. I discovered several 10-in starfish caught up in the wrack line after the tide receded. They are dry, if a bit briny-smelling. Being the beachcomber that I am, I scooped this one up with the intention of giving it a new home on my bookshelf!

If you think I'm being insensitive to the plight of the starfish you need to know that life is tough for our marine creatures in the intertidal zone. At high tide, cold water smothers plants and sea creatures at high tide; sun cooks them at low tide in summer & ice encases them in winter. So, yes, we do get some casualties - it's just part of life around the world's biggest tide bay...

Saturday, August 20, 2011


I was visiting Joggins Fossil Cliffs UNESCO World Heritage Site today when I crossed over this tidal river and remembered that I had a photo of it buried in my archives somewhere.

Sure enough there it was! My Ontario colleague, Colin, snapped this pic when we were attending some meetings around the Bay of Fundy a few years ago.

Many of Fundy's tidal rivers (or estuaries, if you want to be fancy!) show interesting sights at low tide when the sea water recedes and the fresh water river lingers beneath.

Every time I see such mud-flanked rivers my mouth waters...their edges look for all the world like creamy chocolate! So be warned: travels around the Bay of Fundy may be hazardous to your waistline.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tide by timelapse

One of the best, though possibly slightly confuzzling, ways to 'see the tides' before a visit to Bay of Fundy is to check out one of our many time lapse videos. Here's a first: a new 24-hour time lapse prepped by Nova Scotia's provincial photographer, Len Wagg, from about 7000 still images. It's phenomenal...(oh and the reason it's confuzzling is that visitors sometimes think the tide actually comes in this quickly....oooops! it's actually 6 hrs 13 min from high to low folks)

Monday, August 01, 2011

Fundy beach fire etiquette

In case you find yourself around the beautiful Bay of Fundy this summer, I thought I'd pass along a few tips for hosting a proper bonfire.

Tip #1 - arrive before dusk to gather driftwood. Look well above the normal high tide line (e.g. in the marsh grasses) for wood because the usual to-fro of the tides will have drawn back most driftwood from the regular tide line. (Note that by the end of the summer you may have to bring some of your own woodstove wood because the driftwood might be quite picked over.)

Tip #2 - look for a couple of large driftwood trees to use as benches. At commonly frequented beaches, these will often already be set in a V or U around a makeshift pit. (BTW it is considered a major faux pas to use driftwood tree trunks as fire wood!!)

Tip #3 - it is not necessary to build one of those cute oval fire pits surrounded by large rocks; this will immediately give you away as a city camper. You are on a stone beach - there is nothing nearby to catch fire! (Exception: if you have little kids with you, you may want to put some sort of visual barrier around the pit).

Tip #4 - determine if the tide is coming in or out. If it's on its way in and you build your fire half way down the beach you may not have time to roast a marshmallow. Instead, I'd suggest building your fire just below the anticipated high tide line. If the tide is in or just heading out when you build your fire, build it on the high side of tide line or you'll end up sitting on wet sand.

Here's a photo of our first beach fire of the season (last night), which leads me to my final tip:

Tip #5 - train your dog to fetch more driftwood while you cook your s'mores. You can see our yellow lab in action just behind the blaze.