In the first of my Jack Hollister novels, Newfound Freedom, the Royal Navy frigate HMS Buzzard takes up refuge off Grand Manan Island to wait out a weeklong fog event. Though I had seen the island from the coast of Maine—it is four to five miles away—at the time of writing this novel I had never visited it. From my perspective, I could see that the entire length of the island’s 25 mile western shore, from north to south, rose vertically from 100 to 200 feet from sea level to its forested summit. There appeared to be little evidence of protected coves or bays or any human habitation along this shore. Where could an 18th Century warship take sanctuary? A map downloaded from the internet suggested that the rugged western cliff-barrier gradually descended eastward to sea level.
About a month ago I finally visited Grand Manan Island (GMI), the largest island in New Brunswick, Canada and located in the Bay of Fundy. Indeed the one and half hour ferry ride from Black’s Harbor, NB, Canada terminates on the east side of GMI at North Head, the picturesque community that developed along the rise where the coastal precipice rounds the north end of the island and declines to the Atlantic Ocean. From here the shoreline remain at or near sea level to just south of the community of Seal Cove, where it again uplifts rapidly to the maximum height of the spectacular western plateau.
Grand Manan Island is of volcanic origin with coves, bays, inlets, outlets, and marshlands along the eastern shore and a high-rise, ragged, tumultuous western shoreline. With its northern end lying in the Bay of Fundy and its southern toe in the Atlantic Ocean, the economy of GMI is centered in the fishing industry, Atlantic salmon aquaculture, lobster, herring and scallop fishing, clam and sea urchin dragging, whale watching (humpbacks, finbacks, porpoises, seals, and a variety of other larger marine vertebrates frequent the water around GMI).
Though politically GMI operates as a single unit, its population is divided into six major commercial centers (communities), North Head, Castalia, Woodwards Cove, Grand Harbor, Ingalls Head, and Seal Cove. Each of these quaint, bucolic communities has its specialty: North Head, tourism; Castalia, bird watching; Woodwards Cove, grocery store and gas station; Grand Harbor, entertainment, museum; Ingalls Head, ship building and large vessel repair, bird watching, and free ferry to White Head Island; and Seal Cove, picturesque remnants of early 20th Century herring processing industry. One minor enclave, the only community on the western shore, but of major economic importance is Dark Harbor. Access to this little ragtag fishing community is a drive down the 200-foot cliff to the beach. It is the center of lobstering and herring fishing in the gray zone, the body of water between Canada and the USA called Grand Manan Channel. But most important is the collecting of dulse, a nutritious red algae that is purported to be of the best quality in the world. And It is. I’ve tasted it. Great in salads, as a spice in soups, sauces, and seafood dishes, and when lightly fried, is the best tasting vegetarian bacon I’ve ever tasted. (More of the fascinating, poorly known dulse fishing industry in a later blog.)
By the way, I haven’t forgotten, the HMS Buzzard anchored in the bay at Grand Harbor.
Newfound Freedom and Modlin’s other books are available from Amazon.com.
© Copyright 2016 Richard Modlin