Book Re­view

NOT a travel guide but 'A Ca­sual Ref­er­ence'

The Victoria Standard - - Arts / Literature - MONA AN­DER­SON

AQUA: Wa­ter­ways of Cape Bre­ton is a newly minted pub­li­ca­tion from Boularderie Is­land Press. It's the sort of book that makes you want to seek out the near­est arm­chair and sit down for a good long read. AQUA is a col­lab­o­ra­tion among au­thors Pat O'neil, Jim Foulds, and Ken Dono­van, with pho­to­graphs by Barry Mor­ri­son. It is not a travel guide. They re­fer to it in­stead as A Ca­sual Ref­er­ence. In a gen­er­ous sweep around the is­land, AQUA cov­ers 19 ma­jor wa­ter­ways of Cape Bre­ton. Part of the book's charm comes from the in­ge­nious layout which saves the reader a great deal of to­ing and fro­ing look­ing for in­for­ma­tion. Each sec­tion be­gins with a map of the im­me­di­ate area of the topic wa­ter­way with an inset map of Cape Bre­ton pin­point­ing the lo­ca­tion fol­lowed by a fact page giv- ing the ori­gin of the name, river source, length, el­e­va­tion, and tidal ac­tiv­ity. Spe­cial fea­tures of the area are in­cluded in this sec­tion, like the mead­ows of the Bad­deck River, where Alexan­der Gra­ham Bell and his col­leagues car­ried out their aero­nau­ti­cal ex­per­i­ments, and the Bad­deck River which is the guardian of the sa­cred Uisge Ban Falls. Most of the wa­ter­ways make their begin­nings in High­lands, then tum­ble down ei­ther to the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the north, or the At­lantic Ocean to the south. The Cheti­camp River, for ex­am­ple, orig­i­nates in the bogs and small lakes that pop­u­late the Cape Bre­ton Plateau at el­e­va­tions of over 487 me­tres. The river flows over some 35 k and emp­ties into the Gulf of St. Lawrence at Petit Etang. On the plateau of the Ev­er­last­ing Bar­rens where the Cheti­camp River be­gins lies a 4 km wide lake which was en­larged in the 1970s when the river was dammed to di­vert wa­ter to the Wreck Cove Hy­dro­elec­tric project. Ex­cerpts of his­tory and nat­u­ral her­itage in each sec­tion give us a broad un­der­stand­ing of each wa­ter­way with­out drown­ing us in facts and statis­tics. The pho­to­graphs pro­vide gor­geous images from un­ex­pected van­tage points. The His­tory sec­tions in­clude folk­lore and leg­end as well, and the au­thors re­gale the reader with tales of ship­wrecks, great beasts that live in the depths of Lake Ainslie, and mer­maids pur­ported to have been sighted in Gabarus. The Nat­u­ral Her­itage sec­tions share in­ter­est­ing facts about each area in an en­gag­ing man­ner. We learn, for ex­am­ple, that the high­est wa­ter­fall in Nova Sco­tia is found on the North River. The wa­ter­fall drops over 32 m and, while the trail is a chal­leng­ing hike at 18k (re­turn), the sight of the falls is well worth the ef­fort. We’re in­tro­duced to the tiny Wood Tur­tle - one of the many charm­ing crea­tures to be found along the path of dis­cov­ery. A semi-aquatic an­i­mal barely eight inches long, he hi­ber­nates in the win­ter months sub­merged in the river bot­tom among dead­wood and rocks. In spring he sur­faces to bask in the May sun­shine. Au­thor Pat O'neill has been in the writ­ing/pub­lish­ing in­dus­try for more than 30 years. She was man­ag­ing ed­i­tor of the Cape Bre­toner Mag­a­zine, and has been pub­lished in many other Cana­dian magazines and news­pa­pers in ad­di­tion to be­ing a copy­writer and pro­ducer for both ra­dio and TV. Jim Foulds is an aquatic ecol­o­gist who spe­cial­izes in fresh wa­ter and ma­rine ecosys­tems. He was pro­fes­sor of bi­ol­ogy at Cape Bre­ton Univer­sity and was in­stru­men­tal in the estab­lish­ment of the UNESCO des­ig­na­tion of the Bras d'or Lake wa­ter­shed as a bio­sphere re­serve. Ken Dono­van has edited and co-au­thored seven books on Cape Bre­ton his­tory and pub­lished 70 his­tor­i­cal pub­li­ca­tions. Barry Mor­ri­son, who pro­vided the glo­ri­ous pic­tures for this beau­ti­ful book, was for many years a reporter for lo­cal broad­cast out­lets, later join­ing CBC Syd­ney where he was pro­ducer of In­for­ma­tion Morn­ing and Mar­itime Noon in Hal­i­fax.

AQUA: Wa­ter­ways of Cape Bre­ton

Boularderie Is­land Press

Au­thored by Pat O'neil, Jim Foulds and Ken Dono­van

Pho­to­graphs by Barry Mor­ri­son

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