10 Fundy facts

Learn more about the Bay of Fundy's famous tides
  • Jun 30, 2015
  • 636 words
  • 3 minutes
A huge flowerpot made from rocks and trees at Hopewell Rocks Provincial park during low tide. (Photo: Jean-Charles Thouin/CG Photo Club)
A huge flowerpot made from rocks and trees at Hopewell Rocks Provincial park during low tide. (Photo: Jean-Charles Thouin/Can Geo Photo Club)
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1. River reversal
There’s enough power and volume in the Bay of Fundy’s tides to temporarily reverse the flow of several rivers that empty into the bay. This is called a tidal bore, and can be viewed most easily, and twice daily, from the shores of the Petitcodiac River in Moncton, N.B., or along the Hébert, Maccan, Salmon and Shubenacadie rivers in Nova Scotia.

2. Spring tides
The highest tides in the Bay of Fundy are called “spring tides,” but have nothing to do with the season. Spring tides occur twice each month, when the sun and moon align and reinforce one another’s gravitational pull. Every 206 days, when a spring tide occurs while the moon is also in it perigee (at its closest to Earth), the swell can reach that famous 16-metre mark.

3. Strong currents
At high tide, the eastward flow of water into the Minas Basin through the Minas Passage — where the Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy has its tidal energy berths — is about 40 times greater than the flow of fresh water from the St. Lawrence River into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

4. Tidal power
In 2009, the world’s first one-megawatt in-stream turbine was anchored to the sea floor in the Minas Passage. It took less than three weeks for the currents to tear out the turbine’s six-metre rotor blades, which were recovered about a year later. The new machine is larger and more robust — built to withstand the 18km/h tidal currents.

5. Energy history
For decades after it opened in 1984, the barrage-style Annapolis Royal tidal generating station, at the mouth of the Annapolis River off the Bay of Fundy, was North America’s only functioning tidal power project. The dam produces enough electricity to power about 4,500 homes.

6. More tidal records
Canada also claims the world’s second-highest tides. In northeast Quebec’s Ungava Bay, the highest vertical tide yet recorded was 16.2 metres (compared to 16.3 metres in Fundy’s Minas Basin).

7. Massive whirlpool
At 75 metres wide, Fundy’s Old Sow Whirlpool is the largest whirlpool in the Western Hemisphere, and the second largest in the world.

8. Picky mudshrimp
The red mudflats of the upper Bay of Fundy, up to five kilometres wide, are exposed with each low tide. The accumulated sediments and muck here support an abundance of life, such as mudshrimp, which only thrive in this consistency of mud.

9. Migrating sandpipers
Between July and October each year, more than two million semipalmated sandpipers (75 to 95 per cent of the world’s population) migrate through the Bay of Fundy’s mudflats. They spend about two weeks gorging themselves on mudshrimp, often doubling their weight before flying roughly 4,000 kilometres non-stop to their wintering grounds in South America.

10. Fossil hunter’s paradise
Along 15 kilometres of cliffs at Joggins, N.S., the relentless beating of the Fundy tides has exposed the world’s richest deposits of Carboniferous fossils (from about 359 to 299 million years ago). Among these are ancient forests and Earth’s first reptiles. Joggins was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.

Red-necked phalaropes flee a breaching humpback whale on the Bay of Fundy near Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick. (Photo: Allan McDonald/CG Photo Club)
The Bay of Fundy (Photo: Jessica-Ann Turner/CG Photo Club)
Harbour seals and grey seals rest on a rock. (Photo: John Leggitt/CG Photo Club)
A lighthouse near the Huntsman Marine Science Centre in St. Andrews, N.B. (Photo: Norm Horner/CG Photo Club)
At low tide, the Bay of Fundy exposes caves that were almost completely submerged just hours earlier. (Photo: Shawn McInnes/CG Photo Club)
A fishing boat sits at low tide on the Bay of Fundy near Sackville, N.B. (Photo: Stephen Reebs/CG Photo Club)
The Best of Wood Buffalo National Park

This story is from the July/August 2015 Issue

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