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Oceanography involves describing the physical and the biological aspects of the ocean. It is an Earth science covering a wide range of topics "including ecosystem dynamics; ocean currents, waves, and geophysical fluid dynamics; plate tectonics and the geology of the sea floor;  fluxes of various chemical substances and physical properties within the ocean and across its boundaries."

When I worked with Fisheries our children played with David and Priscilla Ross's kids, whole lived directly across Creichton Park Road in Dartmouth. They were New Zealanders and he was a physicist who worked for the Bedford Institute of Oceanography.  I created punch cards on an early "desktop computer", which took up an entire desktop, and periodically took them  to the Institute for analysis by a Cray computer, which occupied a large room there. He traveled the Arctic and Atlantic on the research ship, CCGS Hudson, which was new and launched at Saint John in 1963, Here she is seen at home near the Mackay Bridge.  An ice-breaker she was the first ship to circumnavigate both North and South America. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is now embraced by Environment Canada, and both formerly separate divisions have a presence in BIO.

Still a workhorse after 47 years
. Seen at her long wharf in front of the Mackay Bridge between Dartmouth and Halifax. The lobby displayed a model of the underwater profile of Bedford Basin and Halifax Harbour constructed of layers of jigsawed Masonite panels. This and the massive slow-acting computer were, I think, housed in the building closest the road.

In those days providing information with those primitive computers was not even at the floppy disk stage.  These IBM punchcard machines were sometimes mislabeled as computers, but they had no ability to compute although the cards could be attuned to "speak" a number of computer languages including FORTRAN.  Although both Ruth and I routinely used these information entry card machines, neither of us remember the process. This technology dates to 1725 when Jacquard weaving looms were mechanically programmed by punchcards to turn out fancy geometric cloth patterns without human intervention.

The seminal event in the founding of the modern science of oceanography was the 1872-76 Challenger expedition. Leased from the British Royal Navy, this ship was modified for scientific work and equipped with separate laboratories for natural history and chemistry. Circumnavigating the globe  she took 492 deep sea soundings, 133 bottom dredges, 151 open water trawls and 263 serial water temperature observations and discovered 4,700 new species of marine life. However it was the following century before Nova Scotian oceanographers began to get a reliable picture of undersea topography. Ocean currents were only scientifically studied after 1882, and GeoStat mapping of the ocean floor is very incomplete and dates from 1995.

ESBAs date back to 2006, and refer to Ecologically Sensitive Areas of the inshore of Nova Scotia. These are the equivalent of areas on land which may be under threat of damage. The La Have River and Islands, Mahone Bay and Islands and St. Margarets Bay are mapped for consideration.The Bedford Institute of Oceanography is a major Government of Canada ocean research facility located is the largest ocean research station in Canada, but its work is supplemented by that of Dalhousie University's Faculty of Physical Oceanography.


Thanks to earlier research,  we have a fairly accurate picture of the location and configuration of the hills and valleys on the continental shelf and offshore in the abyss. It is now a matter of filling in the details. Until the last century almost all we knew was that a lot of the Atlantic Ocean was really, really deep, while shelves here broad and relatively shallow, even where there were down warped basins. For a bit, it looked as if the Bay of Fundy was pulling apart to form an ocean, but the final rift was at the continental slope. Out there the crust is thinner than on the continent and its shelves.

The first mission which the Hudson made was to Hudsons Bay in the Canadian arctic in 1965.  Then came that circumnavigation feat in 1969.  However, in 1971. Hudson hosted scientists on the first joint geological and geophysical cruise in the Gulf of Maine and Bay of Fundy. "The survey assessed the bedrock and basin structure of the region. Results of the mission led to the publication of significant maps of the seabed and subsurface. Some of these maps formed the basis for the later discussions on the boundary dispute between Canada and the United States in the Georges Bank region, assisting in the determination of the boundary by the World Court in The Hague in 1984." - All following quotes are Bedford Institute.

Oceanography intrudes upon many other geographic sciences including physiography.  The massive Gulf of Maine has a surface area of about 60,000 square kilometres and his hundreds of kilometres in length and width but is only a few hundred metres deep at its most extreme. 

It is mostly enclosed by land and influenced by both warm and cold oceanic currents, "a sea within the sea" which shows many unique characteristics including a high tidal range where it merges with the Bay of Fundy.

All current nautical charts are now based on a bit more than physical depth soundings.  The buck for financing hydrography stops at mineralology.  "In early 1980, the Hudson conducted the first geological survey of the Eastern Grand Banks. This occurred shortly after the discovery of significant hydrocarbon reserves at the Hibernia well site. Results of the survey delineated the distribution of iceberg furrows across the Grand Banks and identified thin sediment over the tertiary bedrock. Over the next twenty years, intensive surveys were conducted to assess the risk to hydrocarbon production by icebergs and foundation conditions for both gravity platforms and pipelines."

"During 1983-1984, Hudson was host to the testing and final delivery of the "Seabed 2 Deep Ocean Mapping System". The Seabed 2 System was a joint government/industry technological development project with Huntec 70 Ltd. The project aim was to build and deliver a deep ocean seabed mapping system and extend the tools designed for continental shelf depths for use in the deepest parts of the ocean. During the 1984 cruise, with Gordon Fader as the Chief Scientist, the system performed flawlessly and was towed to its design depth of 2000 meters. Components of the system were later used during the search for the Titanic shipwreck."

"In 1998 and 1999, the ship was used to conduct research around the new Hibernia platform off Newfoundland and at various sites on Sable Island Bank (upper right, red prospect blocks) to determine the biological effects of drilling and production wastes released during normal oil drilling operations." The ship worked in collaboration with the Alfred Needler (1998) of Huntsman Marine Laboratories in St. Andrews, N.B.
Those energy-resource explorations led to a natural gas find in 1979, at the Venture D-23 well  located a few miles off the east end of Sable Island on the Scotian Shelf in 12-20 m of water. Production platform Alma came on stream in late 2003, while gas from South Venture, the second field began  to be piped ashore late in 2004. The Sable Offshore Energy Project produces between 400 and 500 million cubic feet of natural gas and 20,000 barrels of natural gas liquids every day. A spur pipe line takes gas to Halifax but most is shipped into the United States, and most of the province has seen no advantage from the discover since the time of the first shipments in the year 2000.  These wells are expected to run by by 2025. The company which sells the product in Halifax is known as Heritage Gas, which seems appropriate.

Some inadvertent collateral geology was revealed in the scramble for petroleum products.  The So-called "Ancient Sackville River" bed was a part of a watershed which once carried freshwater from the uplands through Bedford Basin and Halifax harbour areas, dumping it into the salt water at the edge of the shelf.

Those channels represent other ancient watersheds of now submerged marine banks which were formerly on land. The old Sackville River would have debouched at the edge about mid-way between these two broad undersea channels.  The Gully is another interesting feature of this undersea kingdom, a bit further east of Sable Island.


The Hudson should not be thought driven entirely by commercial prospects. In the 1990s, their scientists conducted research to investigate the short and long-term effects of otter trawling on the seabed habitat on Western Bank. In 1998, the Hudson was involved in a field experiment to determine the immediate and long-term effects of hydraulic clam dredging on the seabed habitat of Banquereau Bank.  Their sidescans created some of the first views from the banks down to the abyssal plain.  In this case the Northeast channel and fan standing at the Atlantic where it meets the Gulf of Maine.


Computer driven colour makes depth perception easier.  This view is just east of Sable Island. From 1999 to 2001, the Hudson continued to conduct benthic surveys of the eastern area of The Gully where remains of deep-water corals had been found. In 2000, live coral specimens were collected from The Gully for the first time. Over 65 kilometres long and 15 kilometres wide, the Gully is one of the most prominent undersea features on the east coast of Canada. Notice the difference in depth from the Sable Bank down to the Abyss. Early observations using a remote undersea observation deice found 15 different species of coral at the 500 metre depth in 2004. When they went down to the depths two years later they discovered 11 more species and counted about 18,000 individual corals.

It has been thirteen years since the Gully was declared a "Marine Protected Area."

It is not the only canyon plunging from shallow water down to the 3,500 kilometre mark. These two banks are west of Sable off the coast of Southeastern Nova Scotia.   Back in the heady year 2003, when petroleum products started to flow, exploration of the continental slope was commenced and claims staked through public auction. Exploration licenses had been granted in all these canyon areas, and permits issued for some of the most lucrative banks. In September of 2016 it seemed less certain that deep-water finds would come on line when those shallow wells stopped pumping.

Actually this Shell Oil rental drilling ship had gone back to its home port after a conglomerate came to the conclusion that nearly 7,500 metres of work had given them a dry hole. The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board says there have been 127 exploration wells drilled offshore Nova Scotia since the first well was drilled in 1967.  Roughly one in five exploration wells have encountered a significant accumulation of oil and/or natural gas, usually the latter.  "Shell said it will now move to a second planned exploration well called Monterey Jack about 120 kilometres away from Cheshire in the Shelburne Basin."  That basin is near the top of the continental shelf near the North East Channel.

This should help locate some of the underwater features already mentioned: NEF: North Eastern Channel; EB; Emerald Bank; WB: Western Bank; LF: Laurentian Fan of debris at the foot of the Laurentian Channel. Notice the heavy areas of conflict between drilling exploration interests, fishermen and conservation groups in the southwest in are areas of Georges Bank and Browns Bank. Fishermen feared an oil spill during drilling in that harsh winter place would destroy their fisheries.

In the interest of simplicity. Shell did relocate the Stena IceMax but terminated drilling in July 2017. Wade Locke, a resource economist at Memorial University said that higher oil prices would be needed to encourage deep water offshore projects, with long-term prices of $80 to $90 per barrel as a realistic benchmark for offshore developments, rather than current prices of about $55. However that price has slipped since then.

"The distances from shore of more than 200 kilometres and the technical challenges of drilling in waters over two kilometres deep raise the costs and complexities of the projects as well," he added. "If there was commercial potential, they wouldn't have stopped [drilling]." Locke said plans in Nova Scotia to offer up a parcel of land in offshore areas off Cape Breton known as the Sydney Basin and Orpheus-Graben will be an important sign on whether confidence is returning. However, nobody took up those options.

Locke recalled there were major federal incentives in that era and worries about oil security and the age of concerns about climate change and the imposition of carbon taxes was far in the future. "We had gone through the oil price crisis of 1973-74, and Newfoundland was a potential source of oil ... and the federal government covered a huge chunk of the drilling costs because we wanted Canada to have a secure supply."

This ship in not a jonah but has not always seen smooth waters. . In 1976, Hudson rescued the crew of the fishery patrol vessel Cape Freels, which had been abandoned on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland after catching fire. She was involved with recovery operations after the offshore drilling unit Ocean Ranger sank off Newfoundland in1982 and saved all 24 crew members of MV Skipper 1 in the North Atlantic on 29 April 1987. In the next year
they found the tanker Athenian Venture on fire and in two pieces. Hudson recovered only one body from among the wreckage. The ship participated in recovery operations of Swissair Flight 111 in the waters off of Peggy's Cove in 1998. The ship rescued the seven-man crew of the fishing vessel Ocean Commander which burned and sank on 6 July 2009. She had one accident at sea, but it was deteriorating plates that led a decision to retire her in 2012. Hudson underwent a $4 million refit beginning in December 2016. That replacement was never contracted.

 "The refit was performed by Heddle Marine at their shipyard in Hamilton, Ontario.The vessel's refit, scheduled to be finished in May 2017 was unfinished at the time of the ship's removal. Hudson returned to the East Coast on 14 November 2017 to ensure that the ship was out of the Saint Lawrence Seaway before it closed (due to winter ice)." It is scheduled to return to service in 2018. Heddle does have marine facilities in Nova Scotia. The Federal government never explained the cause of that "unfinished business" but did pay the full $4 million cost. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans spent $2.5 million in 2017 chartering private vessels for scientific cruises because the Hudson was not available. Nominally, the ship is under the control of the coast guard and bears her colours.

"More than 300 companies are doing oceans-sector business in Nova Scotia, including more than 60 innovators of new, high-tech products and services."

These include: offshore oil and gas, tourism, oceans technology, fisheries and aquaculture, shipbuilding, marine transportation, defense and security, the life sciences, and energy production.

There was a time when Mahone Bay's economy was rooted in oceanic trade and offshore fishing, but that was in a long ago, far away time. The transition to building wooden and fibreglass pleasure craft commenced at the end or World War II.

A decade ago there was plenty of parking and easy berthing at the Civic Marina.

Nevertheless, the village does have a "working waterfront" which is somewhat dependent on oceanic factors.  This aerial photo is borrowed from Mahone Bay Civic Marina's website, which suggests an uncrowded harbour and and work areas along South Main Street.  This view looks to the south west and dates from a decade in the past before a massive two waterfront lots underwent development.

In those idyllic times this was the situation, moving from south to north: 1. Breakwater with gravel top; 2. Small Boat Tender Floating Dock; 3. Civic Marina, alternately referred to as the Public Wharf, with two buildings, a wharfinger office and public wahrooms; 4. Empty Lot rented out for parking by the Kiwanis Club during public parades and festivals which are now defunct. Mailman & Kelley owned property had a landing and conducted business at the right of this stretch. They purchased the property. 5. Mug & Anchor Pub parking and landing. 6. The Shipyard Marina, named after the MacLean Shipyard, located here a century ago.

 The most recent Google map shows a much busier tradition compass-oriented view in summer. L = Paid Launching Slip ($10). T. Floating Tender Mooring and Landing Area. Those condos have been abuilding over the past couple of years. When the vacant lot was purchased it was represented as a potential resort area. For a while housing was proposed and currently it has became an industrialized marine business oriented area. The Civic Marina no longer allows public parking, but reserved that use to those who moor pleasure craft in the harbour. This map does not tell one much about what is happening at ground zero just shy of the high-water mark.

The Mahone Bay Coast Guard back in 2009. The Inshore Rescue Boat Service was initially established in the mid 1970's as part of the Government's Career Oriented Summer Employment Program. The Canadian Coast Guard hires and trains candidates in the summer usually staffing each station with two teams of three persons, one Coxswain in charge and two crew members. In 2013 the CCG partnered with the Royal Canadian Navy allowing reserve-force Naval personnel to be assigned to the IRB Service, as part of their career training. Most of their work involved becalmed sailboats or pleasure craft which have run short of fuel.

"Posted July 22, 2013 14:09 PM:  Two men are safe after a power boat capsized this afternoon off the coast of Mahone Bay. The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax issued a mayday call around 1:45pm after the 20-foot vessel overturned. The incident happened roughly 40 metres from shore. JRCC spokesperson Mike Bonin says the two men appear to be in good shape."

2016. "IRB crews are tasked to respond and provide assistance to mariners in distress or need of assistance... Some of these types of incidents may include:

Vessel on fire; Vessel aground; Vessel disabled and broken down; Vessel taking on water; Vessel capsized; Vessel lost in the fog; Person overboard; and Medical emergencies.

In addition to responding to distress calls, IRB crews also provide public education on boating safety.


The Coast Guard Breakwater saw storm damage to its breakwater, and was rebuilt and given an asphalt walkway. This scene looks shoreward from their wooden floating dock.

These small open boats are tied up at the floating long dock west of the Coast Guard location (far right).  The main breakwater and crib work comprising the Civic Marina docking areas are at right. Smaller yachts and motor craft can put in at the floating dock seen there. Rental space here is shared by locals and visitors.

The marina tender is tied up at the far end of that last dock.  This open services ships at moorings on demand. Dinghy docking in season is $300. Marina tender is $2 per person per outbound trip; $80 per boat for the season.

2016: These days it is impossible to get an unobstructed view of the two Civic Marina buildings in high season. In the foreground the public "bathrooms". At right the wharfinger's hangout, from which he monitors radio signals and responds to requests for information or assistance.   The full range of marina services with an attendant on duty is offered from July 1 through the Labour Day weekend. Mooring and marina berths are available from the mid-May launch thru mid-October Haulout. By the way, while you cannot take a bath in this building you can shower at $3 per person. Seasonal access for a boat crew is $75.

Boaters can deposit their garbage and compostibles in that black bin at the attendant's hut.  Ice is $3 a bag.  Internet access is free.  On site parking for boaters is available for no more than two consecutive days.

The fee here is $80 per boat per season.  Commercial use of the ram is $250. An electrical hookup for boats in off-season storage is $5 per day. Wharf berth is $1.25 per linear foot per night.  Daily moorings are rented at $30 and prorated up to $800 by the season. The Mahone Bay Civic Marina has 50 moorings and several berths available for seasonal, monthly or overnight rental. based on the footprint of the vessel (LOA x beam in sq. ft.) multiplied by the appropriate fee per square foot.

Off season storage on the wharf has its own cost "based on the footprint of the vessel (LOA x beam in sq. ft.) multiplied by the appropriate fee per square foot." In the winter of 2018 this craft was toppled in a windstorm and lost its mast. It was not emplaced on a traditional wooden cradle.

Yachting is not for the faint of financial heart.  The annual boat launch is scheduled on or about mid-May. Haulout is scheduled to occur in mid-October. In both cases, crane availability and tides are the determining factors for the scheduled date. A storage fee and a $100 crane deposit is payable at registration. The cost of using the crane for a day is divided among boat owners.

Boats loaded onto trailers and removed from the marina are assessed a $35.00 administration fee.

The masts of larger sailing ships are often removed during the hauling out process and replaced when they go back in the water.

This sailing ship has been stored there through several off-seasons, but the wind lifted her this winter.

This commercial vessel berths at the dock south of the main wharf. It does offer "deep sea fishing" on charter, but bread and butter comes from seasonal cruises starting June 1 and ending in mid-October. Their Oak Island Tour lasts two-and-a-half hours and costs $60. One-and-a-half hour forays among the island cost $45 for adults and $25 per child.

Because Peggys Cove is in an exposed situation where it is difficult to ramp a boat for the winter, the tour ship for that region is often seen here parked near the washrooms. Quite often repairs were made on site before the tourist season opened.

That motorized craft is the closest a visitor will come to anything approaching a fishing boat.  Lobsters boats do not mix well with pleasure craft, and are based more remotely out in the county.

Here is another source of income for the marina, anchoring and hauling houseboats.  Three in the current year.  It you are neither prone to claustrophobia nor seasickness, this can be a fairly inexpensive cottage.

This old Chris Craft Cruiser seen in 2010 would be our preference since it has island-hopping capabilities. But then this is another poor use of increasingly depleted natural resources?  This view is from the pub parking lot, overlooking the Mailman & Kelley industrial marine property with the marina in the background.

That was before the harbour became crowded with fifty moored vessels.  Even so the scene can have beauty when it is viewed in small portions. This was south of the marina in 2017.

There are several inland possibilities for storing motorized boats.  Hundreds of them go under plastic for the winter out of town at this business on the road to Western Shore.

If one lacks deep pockets and a long life expectancy, a kayak may be a better investment. It promises less physical exertion if you understand the prerogatives of time and tide. Wading through mud at low tide is not recommended unless you are physically able.

Most pubs offer nothing beyond arm-lifting exercise but owners of the Mug & Anchor rent ground floor space to The Hub, an interesting if somewhat strange feel good business promotion agency. Space on the second floor is held by Cape La Have Adventures whose location is the Dublin Shore. They started business giving tours of the La Have islands but moved into this location in 2016. Note their kayak below the larger Christmas wreath?

"Cape LaHave Adventures offers half-day, full-day and multi-day guided sea-kayak adventures in the renowned LaHave Islands Archipelago on Nova Scotia's South Shore. Paddle among the islands and experience pristine beaches, narrow inlets, coastal wildlife, and signature maritime fishing settlements."
That is their photo.

"We also offer extended multi-day expeditions in other exceptional locations in the province including the Bay of Fundy, and other areas along the South Shore."  Their self-guided  two-hour tour of Mahone Bay starts at $35. Their sunset tour of the bay is $55.  A four-hour Island Hopper tour , $79.99. this is my photo. Larger kayaks cost more.

My snapshot of two kayakers who attempted to explore the Anney River.

Loosely based in Lunenburg, Pleasant Paddling is now at Blue Rocks and its paddlers travel a bit further out than suggested by the La Have people. "Our fleet is made up of  true sea kayaks; they are comfortable, stable, fast and seaworthy. The kayaks have two bulkheads and a rudder to aid in steering."  They insist that renters bring along a charged cell phone (they provide a weatherproof container for it). Rates are competitive but they warn that clients may have a "wet experience". It is also foggy out there!

If you are not that keen on adventure, and can't afford deep sea or shark fishing, this is an alternative. I'd opt for catch and release!

Everything can be attractive, if not beautiful. Miss Jenna is the former tugboat Hercules, Cavalier and originally, Listerville, the workhorse of Mailman & Kelley who are in the wharf crib work and breakwater construction business.

She replaced Miss Katherine was built in 1959 as the Department of Public Works tug Enmore. In retirement she is within framework for a proposed museum shelter. My photo from about 1908.

Boulder alley on the Mailman & Kelley property can be noisy between 7 and 8 am in the morning. The racket comes from dumping boulders and later transferring them from the ground to trucks to be loaded on Jenna's barge (see above with a backhoe aboard).

Here we have a digger dumper loading boulders on the barge in mid picture.  In winter this field is filled with heavy equipment and stored pleasure craft. That "Mahone Bay Resort" business seems to have been shelved.

Like a lot of other marine-based businesses, this school is actually across not in Mahone Bay.  In this case it is across the harbour at Hirtles Cove in Oakland. You have to have time and money to acquire and show off a yacht. Those who have the money are short on time unless completely retired, and that's why very few of those pleasure craft taste the waves on weekends in summer. Essentially the well-to-do turn out to participate in, or observe, annual sea races, proving their impoverishment in terms of recreational time.

Now that the Mahone Bay Boat Festival and Regatta are no more, the wind is in the sails of the Indian Point Yacht Club, with a mailing address here in Mahone Bay, but a virtual rather than a real presence.  It that a first? This is a fast growing club, but even R&R could afford a family membership.

The bottom line? The Municipality of the District of Lunenburg is more ocean-oriented since it does includes Highliner Foods, just outside the Town of Lunenburg. That plant brings in a lot of cash crop from the offshore. Mahone Bay is neither cutting edge nor bleeding edge when it comes to Oceanography.

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