In peril again

Wood Is­lands Light­house con­tin­u­ing to face ero­sion is­sues at rapid pace

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - THE PROVINCE - THE GUARDIAN

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.

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