The icy retreat of winter in Cape Breton
Travelling around this last month, I couldn’t help but notice the unusual amount of sea ice that found its way underneath the Seal Island Bridge and into the Bras d’Or Lake as far as Baddeck Inlet.
Dr. Bruce Hatcher, Chair in Marine Ecosystem Research at CBU, as well as director of the Bras d’Or Institute and an associate professor of biology says three days of gale force winds pushed the sea ice into the Great Bras d’Or Channel, and the lack of lake ice gave it a clear path all the way to Baddeck Inlet. He agrees that this was an “unusual” event, which has only taken place a couple of times before in the last 30 years. However, he notes that the unusual is becoming more usual with climate change. He also says this is something to watch in the future because sea ice, being larger and tougher than lake ice, has the potential to do more damage to wharves and shorelines.
Ken Oakes is also with CBU. He is industrial chair in environmental remediation and assistant professor of biology with the School of Science and Technology, Verschuren Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment. He says the sea ice is staying around longer, on average, and weather systems are more variable than they once were. That means disruptions in wind patterns and storms of greater frequency and intensity.
Nyanza Bay’s ice fishing fixture
April in Cape Breton is less about welcoming spring and more about giving a disgruntled old man winter his walking papers. For me, it is a chance to watch the ice leave Nyanza Bay. The bay is pretty well the first place to freeze every winter and the last to lose the ice in the spring. That means for about three months of the year it is basically an extension of my backyard, and an ice fishing hot spot for people from all over the island.
If Nyanza Bay is an ice fishing mecca, then Ronnie MacLellan is perhaps its most faithful pilgrim. He bides his time between the area across from MacGregor’s Pond, a stone’s throw from The Red Barn, and a spot further west, halfway closer to Wagmatcook. A lifelong lover of the sport (except for the eight years he spent in Ontario) he says it’s a great pastime: “I just love it. I don’t even care if I get anything.” His only disappointment is the amount of garbage some people leave behind on the ice. “I don’t want to see garbage in The Bras d’Or Lake,” he says, after cleaning up the main spot five times this winter (DNR cleaned it up twice as well). Although the fishing routine is usually the same, MacLellan says you never know who might show up. One day in March, a carload of students from Holland stopped and asked him to explain what he was doing. They were going to school on the mainland and had just driven
down for the day to see some of the province. “They had never seen a smelt before,” he says. “They really enjoyed themselves.”
Vimy Ridge: mission accomplished for local historian
Local author and historian
Jim MacDonald of Baddeck reports a successful and enjoyable trip to France for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. He presented a poster to the local mayor, which tells the story of Capt. Percival William Anderson of Big Baddeck, the man who led the charge up Hill 145. The poster will be encapsulated in plastic and mounted in the village square, which has been renamed in honour of the 85th Battalion, Nova Scotia Highlanders.
Big chunks of sea ice litter the shoreline along the Bras d’Or Lake in Baddeck Inlet on a sunny but cold mid-April day.
Pierre Senechal, left, Mayor of Givenchy-en-Goelle, accepts a poster from Jim MacDonald of Baddeck at a ceremony in the French village on April 8. The poster outlines the role played by Capt. Percival William Anderson of Big Baddeck in the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
Ronnie MacLellan of St. Patrick’s Channel hauls in a late-season smelt, just a few metres from open water on Nyanza Bay, in mid-April.