In peril again
Wood Islands Lighthouse continuing to face erosion issues at rapid pace
The sun may be shining on the southeastern shore, but the wind steals the words from Bev Stewart’s lips like a skilled pickpocket.
Dressed in double layers of clothes and heavy boots, Stewart braces against the spray and tries to explain the rapid erosion being witnessed at the Wood Islands Lighthouse.
But even raised voices can’t be heard and hand signals call for a return to the protection of a nearby car. The wind is so vigourous only one door at a time can be opened to allow entry into the vehicle.
“You can see how much is gone,” she says pulling off her hood and catching a breath.
The pace of erosion is relentless in some parts of the province, and the Wood Islands lighthouse is one prime example.
Just seven years ago, the sentinel of the sea was barely 10 feet from the cliff edge when funding was sought and it was lifted and moved inland by more than 40 meters (130 feet).
But since 2009, the lack of ice to protect the shore from the pounding winter waves of the Northumberland Strait has chewed away another five metres or more (15 feet).
At that rate, the lighthouse could once again be clinging to the edge in little more than a decade.
Stewart is the manager of the lighthouse that features a gift shop and museum tours during the warm and breezy summer months. When it was built in 1876, the lighthouse was 500 feet from the shore.
The 25-metre beacon sits on a promontory, but even the inside of the bay has been struck. The protected shoreline across from the Northumberland Ferries terminal has been eaten away severely in the past two years.
“We suggested seven years ago when they moved it that we might be better off dragging the light back even further from the shore,’’ she recalls. “But that idea was considered too great a distance by those handling the relocation.” Not anymore. Stewart can’t help but worry that the 25-metre light will once again be on the brink of the precipice for its upcoming 150th birthday in 2026.