Saturday, January 31, 2009

Let us consider the jellyfish

I'm not much of a swimmer so I've never quite taken a fancy to scuba diving but I've always been fascinated by 'life below the surface', especially here in Bay of Fundy. Perhaps that explains why I love walking on the ocean floor at low tide, but, alas, that's cheating because there are many creatures - like the jellyfish - that are truly at their best while floating, not while flumped on the beach at low tide.

There is an awesome floor-to-ceiling blacklit jellyfish tank at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta that absolutely took my breath away this week. My photo here certainly does not do it justice. Seeing these jellyfish made me recall the first time I'd seen Scott Leslie's undersea photos of the Bay of Fundy: they took my breath away. I've never looked at Fundy's surface without a memory flash of what's below.

Take a look elsewhere on my blog or on Scott's website for more of these haunting images.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Snooping around Georgia for whales

I'm on holiday this week in the state of Georgia, USA. The North Atlantic Right whales that summer in the Bay of Fundy spend their winters here too. In fact, the only known calving grounds for Right whales is about 15 miles (24 km) off the coasts of Georgia and Florida. Later, in early Spring, they'll head up to the coast of Maine, then on to the Bay of Fundy for summer and fall feeding before coming back to Georgia.

In the United States several laws have been passed and regulations adopted to reduce threats to Right whales. Measures in effect for Georgia include designation of the coastal waters south of the Altamaha River and out to fifteen miles as a "critical habitat" for the species, ship reporting requirements, restrictions on the use of gill nets, and prohibitions on recreational right-whale watching.

The Georgians appear to appreciate our shared Right whales, having declared them as their official 'state mammal'....I'm not sure why we haven't done the same in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia....good idea!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Fundy's freezing fog

Living on the coast the way we do - especially with the influence of winds and tides - you won't be surprised to learn that we experience a variety of interesting weather phenomena. Winter weather highlights include: ice-glazed mud, cascading fog, ice pebbles and ice cakes.

My friend, Ryan, from Annapolis just sent me a photo of the Annapolis lighthouse surrounded by something we call "freezing fog or freezing mist". Crystals of frost formulate in what appears to be foggy air but then cling to everything they touch. It's probably the same concept as hoar frost but it kind of floats through the air. Anyway, I love the stuff - we don't see it that often but when we do it's fresh and magical.

P.S. Check out Ryan's Annapolis Royal Heritage blog!

Monday, January 19, 2009

"The Tides" - A poem

With plans heating up for tidal power here in the Bay of Fundy, I thought you might find this poem amusing. This was written back in the 1920s, when the only technology considered for harnessing tidal power was a barrage (full causeway - hugely damaging to the environment - across the bay!). Luckily, we've given up on that idea, but, recently, equipment used to assess tidal power potential here was destroyed in the Bay during testing!

From Grace Helen Mowat's 1928 book Funny Fables of Fundy....

A stranger once said to the tides in the Bay:
"How strange you should live in this indolent way;
You crawl up the strand then crawl down again
Why can't you be useful and helpful to men?
For the past thousand years you have been just the same,
Such an idle existence! It's really a shame!"

The tides, rather ruffled, cried "What do you wish?
We fill up the fish weirs and bring in the fish
And drift-wood and rock-weed and much else besides.
Why, everyone waits for the turn of the tides!
We've washed the shores clean and never once shirked
If you did half as much you would feel overworked!'

"I propose," said the stranger (ignoring their theme),
"To use all your strength in a practical scheme.
I studied at college before I came here,
And everyone thinks me a great engineer!
I can hardly expect you to know who I am,
But I'm seriously thinking of building a dam
To keep you in bounds, till I need you, of course,
And then I expect to control you by force.
You can turn wheels and cranks by this simple device
And greatly aid commerce. Now won't that be nice?"

The waves made no answer to what the man said;
But talking it over that evening in bed
They grumbled and murmured: "We need not fear him;
Beside our great strength his adventure looks slim.
If he built up this, it is perfectly plain,
We must all push together and break it again.
And, if this arrangement should fail to survive,
We can wash in a shark that will eat him alive!"

The engineer tactfully waited awhile
Then, appearing next morning, he said with a smile:
"Dear tides, I am taking a trip up to town,
I hope you need something that I can bring down?"

They haughtily said: "You may bring, if you wish,
Some good gelatine for the young jelly-fish."

The item he added at once to his list,
And spoke of returning before he was missed;
And just as he promised, came home the next night,
His pockets all bulging with plans, blue and white,
The gelatine too he remembered to bring
(For jelly-fish need it so much in the spring!)
"These plans," he explained, "will be gold to your shore
By giving employment to men by the score."

But the tides in a voice that was hollow and cold,
Said: "Our fishes are silver; we don't care for gold."

"How hopelessly dull," cried the great engineer.
"My college diploma is little use here!
"I cannot express how this talk makes me feel!",
And appearing quite angry, he turned on his heel.

The sea-gulls brought word that a numerous band
Of workmen were filling the channel with sand,
And talked or erecting a barrier so high,
That no tides could cross over unless they could fly.

"Very well," said the tides, "let him do as he will,
And we for a time will keep perfectly still
And wait for the Equinox gales in the Fall -
And they you will see what becomes of this wall!"

The sea-gulls that Autumn all gathered in flocks,
To await the return of the fall Equinox.
They were fighting for seats with the plovers and crows,
When all of a sudden the Equinox rose!

With rushing and roaring the tides came apace -
And dealt the great structure a slap in the face!

The engineer, viewing the frantic attack,
Admonished hte tides that they better keep back!
But they cried, "We are holding our annual ball,
When the Equinox comes for a dance in the fall."

Then the tides with fantastic grimaces upreared,
And the engineer groaned, "It is just as I feared!"
Down, down, went the dam and the sea-wall besides,
And the engineer fell with the wreck of the tides.
And the waves washed his pockets as clean as could be
And carried his plan and his gold out to sea.

He may have survived, for i know he could swim,
But the tides never more have been bothered with him.

These facts tell us plainly to look on all sides
Before we are tempted to tamper with tides;
And when we are strangers, wherever we go,
There's always a side that we still do not know;
And if we too suddenly start to reform
Our plans and our gold may be lost in the storm!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Right whale takes big trip to the Azores

The endangered North Atlantic Right whale, which lives in Fundy for several months thru summer and fall, goes south for its winter feeding grounds. Generally, these whales are spotted feeding in the warmer coastal waters off Georgia and North Carolina during our winter months. This week, however, for the first time since 1888, a Right whale has been spotted as far south as Faial Island in the Azores.

Using the Right whale's callosites (hard patches of skin, light in colour, usually on face - see photo) and distinctive fluke (tail) markings, whale researchers were able to identify this whale as one last spotted here in the Bay of Fundy a few months ago - on September 24, 2008.

The North Atlantic Right whale is one of the world's most endangered whales, with only about 300 remaining in the Atlantic. One thing that's quite neat about whale watching here in Fundy is that all of our whale operators voluntarily adhere to a strict whale watching code of ethics which enables them to allow visitors to view our 12 species of whales but also encourages them to participate in whale research and cataloguing. Hence, a contribution to the wealth of accurate and detailed information known about our whales in their summer and winter habitats, and in between.

Photo borrowed from Whale Watch Azores, in case you happen to be in the Azores this week and want to go whale watching!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Fundy ice & snow = great photo ops

Although we tend to grumble a bit about the onset of winter here in this part of Canada, I actually have a suspicion that many of us welcome winter for its complete change of pace from the rest of the year.

Personally, I look forward to the way snow & ice transform the land and seascapes. If you are inclined toward photography then the Bay of Fundy is just as enticing to your camera now as it is in summer.

We had a relatively mild December so ice only started to form at the edge of the tide and in our rivers and streams within the past few weeks. I snapped this photo down at the inner harbour just a few hundred feet from my all time favourite winter photo of Fundy ice cakes. The camera, by the way, was set on full colour, not black & white - cool, huh?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Speaking of second...the 7Wonders results

The Bay of Fundy has been participating in a contest to declare the New7Wonders of Nature since June of 2008. The top Canadian site was announced this morning and it was Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta.

Big thanks to EVERYONE who rallied so enthusiastically to support Fundy in this initiative!!

Bay of Fundy benefited greatly from participation in this contest:

- we were accepted as one of only 5 Canadian sites into this prestigious contest. In order to even be considered, we had to make a case for why Fundy qualified to compete internationally and this was easily made.

- our region got international exposure on the New7Wonders website for 8 months while we participated

- when the votes closed last week we were sitting in the top 1/4 of all international nature tourism sites

- we raised awareness of the significance of the Bay of Fundy as one of Canada's top nature tourism destinations

- we've calculated about $300,000 in free media coverage of Fundy

- we've witnessed a 400% increase in visitation to our website

- we had a good time doing it !!

HUGE thanks to everyone who supported Fundy in this bid. Easy to see why the folks in our region have a reputation for being friendly, determined, clever and enthusiastic!!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Bay of Fundy & the leap second connection

Many of us were perhaps too busy celebrating on New Year's Eve to notice the countdown lasting one full second longer than normal. In addition to our calendar picking up the odd spare day in a leap year, it seems that every couple of years we need to pick up a leap second and this is the year!

The thing is: it's all Bay of Fundy's fault. The current time interval that we call a second was developed about a hundred years ago but since then the earth's rotation has slowed ever so slightly. This slow down is due to the moon's effects on the earth's tides; most specifically the 'friction' caused by the Bay of Fundy's tides.

Check out this interesting article, in which a professor at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics explains Fundy's culpability in this phenomenon.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Polar dip Fundy-style

Bay of Fundy folk are a pretty hardy bunch so the idea of taking a frigid dip in icy waters, known as 'polar dipping' doesn't intimidate us one bit! There are assorted polars dips in lakes around the region but I say 'go for the big freeze in the Bay of Fundy itself' like those who take the plunge every New Year's day at Mispec Beach.

If you are near Mispec Beach this morning (east of Saint John, New Brunswick) this morning, why not pop on by to cheer on the 200 polar dippers expected to take the plunge! I found this video of last year's Mispec dip on's will be a bit more exciting: there is a blizzard blowing.

And me? well, I'll be enjoying the health benefits from the sidelines down at our harbour...crazeee people!